More and more young people are returning home after college—or simply staying around when high school is done. Reasons include the economy, lack of jobs, deep family connectedness, finances, poor preparation for adulthood, insecurities, an unwillingness to take responsibility, an unwillingness to “let-go,” a sense of entitlement, and many other explanations—both reasonable and not so reasonable.
As parents, who are in the business of raising our children to be well equipped for life, it’s important that we address the change that happens when children turn 18 and become legal adults. This isn’t about pulling the rug out from under them, walking away from our role as nurturing providers, or suddenly abandoning the parent-child dynamic—but about offering our offspring the opportunity to grow up.
The best way for young adults to become engaged with their new life (and begin contributing to the world) is for parents to demonstrate love and care by being up-front about expectations, communicating clearly, and recognizing that moving on is good for everyone involved.
Here are 10 guidelines All Pro Dad recommends when you’re trying to figure out just what that looks like:
Respect their adulthood and don’t try to re-establish “the good-old days:”
The kids didn’t come home because they wanted to re-create the idyllic, blissful days of yore! It’s important to remember that time only moves forward—so plan accordingly.
Write a contract:
Such a contract should honor both your values and the fact that your child is now an adult. The contract should be a realistic agreement about what it means to live at home, and one that makes sure everyone is on the same page.
The contract should be drawn up together:
Meaning the adult child helps to set the terms. This is a critically important step, because a contract that is agreed upon has more strength than a contract that is imposed.
The contract should include specifics regarding what can or cannot occur on the property, and should address but not be limited to:
Drugs and alcohol
Number(s) of guests and appropriate visiting times
Messing with the settings on the air-conditioning
What responsibilities are now shared? Yard work, routine maintenance, cleaning the kitchen, care of pets… Best to define these ahead of time and not to assume that "it's just understood."
What are the expectations regarding meals together? Attending church as a family? This needs to be clear to avoid drama.
As a young adult, the returning child should contribute to family income. Will they pay rent? Who covers insurance (health and liability)? Are their belongings covered under your homeowners’ policy? All these issues must be clear and reviewable on a regular basis.
Contracts only work if enforceable provisions are actually enforced. It needs to be clear exactly what—and how—consequences come into play for violations. If you are unwilling to ask your young adult child to leave your home in the event that the contract is violated, then you should not let them move back in the first place.
It’s important not to welcome adult children home carte blanche (with no provisions or plans). Initial contracts should be reviewable after, say, three months, then at regular intervals thereafter. Such an arrangement must begin with the end in mind—getting them to finally leave.
Remember, this is still your house:
Adult children who move home are guests, or they are paying lodgers. Either way, they are in your home.
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