By Kristen Houghton
Scene 1: You’ve done a great job as a parent. Late night feedings, teething, first day at school, car-pooling, doctor and orthodontist appointments, teenage years, proms, killer college tuition, maybe a wedding; it is all behind you now. You and your spouse are empty-nesters and happy to be so. You can stay out all night if you want or pick up at a moment’s notice and go where you want. You have earned your freedom and privacy!
Scene2: Just as you’re getting into the happy groove of your new life, your adult child shows up at your door asking to return home. What do you do?
The subject of returning adult children is an ever increasing problem for the baby-boomer generation. Still young enough to enjoy being a couple again and, starting what can be the best phase of their relationship together, mom and dad greet the return of a child, now an adult, with mixed feelings.
Divorce, loss of jobs, relocation all play major roles in adults returning to the family nest. Their options may be limited as far as money and housing go, so their former “home sweet home” looks very sweet indeed.
Sometimes it’s not just your own child returning. If he or she has a spouse, and they are in need of a place to stay, you may find yourselves saddled with permanent houseguests. This is not a welcome scenario.
Even if your house is spacious enough to accommodate them, it is a difficult situation. The rules of childhood to which your own children adhered don’t apply them or their spouse.
How can you handle the problem of adult children who ask to live at home once again? There are a several ways to deal with this sticky situation.
If you are at all able to help them financially, offer to pay part of the rent on an apartment or house. Having them in a separate place that is partially subsidized by you is considerably better than having them move back home. However, if this arrangement will be a burden to you, don’t offer. Do not put yourself into debt or financial distress. You will be the one suffering.
Be very honest and open in any conversation you have about preferring that they not move back home. State the reasons why you feel this way.
Show a united front. Both parents must be on the same page. Having Mom say no but seeing Dad hesitate will not help your situation and will cause discord in your own marriage.
Don’t allow your emotions or guilt feelings to overcome good judgment. You’re not a “bad” parent simply because you want a life. Even though this person is your child, remember that you are dealing with an adult, not your little boy or girl.
Parents who are not married may seem fair game to their adult children. Their offspring use persuasive arguments to return home, one of which is that their single parent is alone and “needs” company. Another persuasive tactic is telling the parent that the child will help with household expenses. Be very careful with these promises.
One woman capitulated and allowed her daughter and son-in-law to live with her while they looked for a house. They were supposed to share expenses. No money was forthcoming, and, eventually, the financial burden forced her to go to court to get them evicted. Don’t let pressure take the place of common sense and your own comfort.
Unless there is a radical reason for an adult child to return home, such as severe illness or a dangerous, abusive relationship, you should think very carefully about how it will impact your life and weigh all options before agreeing.
You are entitled to your own life and your own nest. In nature, baby birds are encouraged to leave the family nest to build their own. Adult children may want to take a hint from nature.
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