6 House Rules You Need to Set With Adult Children
Here's how to make sure it goes smoothly, according to mental health experts.
Thanks to the pandemic, inflation, and soaring rent rates, it's not uncommon these days for adult children to live in the family home. In fact, for the first time since the Great Depression, a majority of young adults aged 18 to 29 now live with their parents, according to data from a recent Pew Research Center Survey.
If your own child is living in your house, you may find that the financial and emotional benefits of multi-generational living abound. However, you also wouldn't be alone in noticing some complicated familial dynamics as your new living arrangements clash with old habits and expectations.
Experts say that the key to alleviating some of that friction is to practice open communication and set a handful of rules that can help establish clear boundaries. Read on to learn which six rules you need to set if your adult child lives at home.
They must contribute to household expenses.
Assuming they were not expected to contribute financially to your family's expenses as children, it's important to discuss how your financial expectations may have changed now that your kids are grown up and possibly employed.
Bayu Prihandito, a certified life coach and founder of Life Architekture, says that even if your child's main reason for living at home is to save money on rent, they should still find ways to contribute to household expenses and ease their parents' overall financial burden. This may mean establishing a set monthly contribution for groceries, utilities, transportation, or other expenses.
You may also want to discuss how this expectation could change if your child gets a different job with a higher or lower income.
"It makes sense to discuss expectations of financial contribution, and especially what happens if they are unemployed," says William Schroeder, LPC, a licensed counselor and the owner of Just Mind Counseling.
Chores are part of the deal.
Regardless of whether your adult child's financial resources are limited, there are other valuable ways they can contribute to the household. Having clear expectations surrounding chores and cleanliness can help avoid frustration later down the line and will help to reduce the burden of household labor.
At a bare minimum, your child should clean up after themselves. However, experts say that ideally, they should be willing to extend their contribution to benefit the group as a whole by picking up after others, cooking family meals, taking out the trash, and performing other chores as needed.
"Sharing a space means sharing the responsibility to keep it tidy," says Prihandito. "It promotes mutual respect and ensures everyone feels at home, not just like a guest."
They must adhere to your visitor policy.
An adult's social dynamics are very different from those of a teenager, which is why it's important to openly discuss any boundaries you may have regarding visitors. The goal here is to acknowledge your child's adulthood and autonomy, while also setting expectations that allow you to feel comfortable in your own home.
For instance, you may be fine with a friend or two coming over but prefer that your child doesn't throw larger gatherings in the home. Or, you may not mind your child hosting a large gathering but prefer that there is no alcohol involved. You may understand that your adult child has an active dating life, but feel uncomfortable with them bringing dates back to your home. All of these boundaries are valid, and you should feel comfortable setting rules that allow you to use your own space freely.
"It's essential for maintaining the privacy and comfort of all household members," says Prihandito.
They must set personal development goals.
Besides the rules you set for your adult child, it can also be helpful to ask them to set some expectations for themselves. By having them identify their own personal development goals to be met during their stay in the family home, you can help ensure that you're not enabling their stagnation.
"Encourage setting short-term goals, be it job hunting, saving for a place, or pursuing further education. It ensures the move back home is a stepping stone, not a retirement place. It's all about one's growth, not regression," says Prihandito.
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They can stay as long as you say.
In some cases, adult children may be welcome to stay in the family home for as long as they need or want. However, if this is not the case, it's best to set your expectations about the length of stay up front, says Najamah Davis, MSW, LCSW, a licensed clinical social worker.
"If a parent or parents have a length of stay in mind, discuss this with your adult child," she tells Best Life. "Establishing an agreed length of stay will encourage independence, manage expectations, and promote progress."
Family meetings are mandatory.
One of the best ways to ensure a happy living arrangement is to foster open communication through family meetings. These conversations should be approached with a sense of mutual respect, team spirit, and a willingness to listen actively.
"Establish a rule that encourages regular and open communication about concerns, schedules, and shared responsibilities," suggests Benson G. Munyan, PhD, ABPP, a licensed clinical psychologist with Neurocove Behavioral Health. "This helps address any issues or conflicts early on, promoting understanding and problem-solving."