4 Ways to Calm the Storm
So your adult kids have moved back in with you. How’s that going? No doubt they’re doing their own laundry and keeping their personal space neat and tidy. Perhaps they’re making dinner for the fam, emptying the dishwasher without being asked, and offering to do the grocery shopping. Certainly they’re spending lots of time hanging out and engaging in quality, bonding conversations with you. Sorry, please excuse me. I need a moment to compose myself after laughing my ass off. Yup, that’s me and my fam in that photo. So as you can plainly see—I am completely smothered with adult children in my home. In other words, I get you.
If your relationship with your kids actually does resemble the previous description then you are a rare parental breed. Please close your laptop and back away slowly as to not disrupt the cosmic Karma. However, if you are experiencing tension, disrespect and walking on eggshells around your grown babies, like the millions of parents whose kids have returned back to the nest, I invite you to read on.
Over the past decade there has been no shortage of 20-somethings returning home to live with their parents. This is a phenomenon that has grown exponentially with Millennials and Gen-Z-ers. Their deep desire to live alone, after sharing space during college, often boomerangs young people back into the nest of their parents’ home. Once they graduate and begin to recognize the enormous price tag that comes with living on their own, many resign themselves to living with the parentals until they’re able to get a foothold on their new career. There are also many K-adults (prn. kay-dults—my contraction for kid adult) that are home due to college closures, not to mention the group of 2020 graduates, whose anti-climactic graduation ceremonies, due to Coronavirus, have forced them back home earlier than they planned.
Lay-offs, closures and stay-at-home orders, along with peak numbers of mental health issues including, anxiety and depression—and all the crap that comes along with it, have played enormous roles in forcing our K-Adults right back into the loving arms (and pockets) of mom and dad. For the most part we are welcoming them with open arms. Make no mistake, your decision to permit your k-adult back into your home is most definitely AOK. During the late 1970’s the average age for a young person to be living on their own was 19. Our culture is in the minority, by leaps and bounds, when it comes to young adults moving out and living on their own. In fact there are many cultures, a few within the USA, where multiple generations live within the same home, and often forever. These families live peacefully and respectfully, if not always harmoniously. After all, no one does. But no one should be expecting perfection. If your current household situation resembles your son’s Frat house, and he graduated 6 years ago, know that you can do something about this right now. There is also no better time then now to set up a new system. Especially If your recent grad is moving back in for the first time in a long time. The benefit is for everyone.
We must first discuss the B-Word. I’m not referring to that B-Word. This B-Word is Boundaries. As parents of youngsters we did a good job of maintaining boundaries for our kids. We kept them away from the road and oncoming cars. We made sure they didn’t pet strange dogs, nor talk to strange people. But as they’ve grown, and our trust in them grew, our reliance on boundary setting has lessened.
I had a client, Anna, whose been happily married for 15 years. They have 3 amazing kids, a ton of love in their home, and a ton of love for their extended families. Anna’s mother-in-law came to visit, and she would offer to watch the kids so Anna could get errands done. When Anna returned home she found her kitchen cupboards all rearranged, and a very proud MIL. After all, she was only helping Anna by making things better and easier for her. But Anna felt this as an enormous imposition and insulting. This, and several similar circumstances led us to designing a process to implement boundaries for when MIL came to visit. We did this in a loving and kind way, that was heart-centered and good for everyone. The biggest take away from this story is that BOUNDARIES=LOVE.
Research over the last decade has shown a staggering number of young adults living with their parents well into their late twenties. This phenomena, which mimics what’s been occurring in many European countries for decades, is really not much of a surprise at all. The 2008 financial crisis launched the American multi-generational home, and its been on the rise since. The crash made it increasingly more difficult to get a good paying job. This trend is not resistant to race, gender (although there is a slight increase in the percentage of young women launching sooner), education, nor geographical location. There are many factors that play a role in this. The Covid-19 Pandemic has been the most recent element, leading to a mass exodus of young people retreating home to mom and dad. Prior to this, financial constraints were at the top of the list, followed by fewer people coupling up in their twenties. The average salary for a recent college grad is $50,000. The take home after taxes is around $3,000. While the average 1-bedroom apartment in the US at $1500 is doable, at half the average take-home pay, it is far more appealing to not pay those expenses and stay with mom and dad.
So what do we do? As adults, with different attitudes; thoughts on what is and isn’t acceptable, and fundamentally limited hot water; how are we expected to harmoniously live under the same roof? I know what you’re thinking. “My house, my rules.” And you’re right. Kind of. We have our rules, and we deserve and expect to be respected. After all, it’s our home and our grown kids are our guests, right? Well, not really. They are our children, and for most—for the lucky, “HOME” is what you made for them. It’s the place where they’re at peace and feel the most comfortable. You made it that way for them. Mind you, this is not a story on how to launch your children. This is a story about how to maintain your relationship with them, and perhaps even thrive, under the same roof. Keeping your boundaries in mind, here is what I have for you.
Discuss Your Non-Negotiables
Prior to you and your K-Adult sitting down and discussing how things will move forward, I recommend that each of you come up with your non-negotiables. These are things that you each feel very deeply about, that if crossed would really piss you off. I highly recommend you not exceed three non-negotiables. People just get too defensive with more. Parental non-negotiables may include: No over-indulging in alcohol ; No overnight guests without my knowledge; No taking my car without my permission. K-Adult non-negotiables may include: No entering my room when I’m not home; No inserting yourself in my business without being asked; No hanging out with me and my friends when they come over, unless we discuss it first. It’s wise to review these rules once in a while. New ones can be added as needed, to replace ones that are no longer an issue.
Expect Your K-Adult To Contribute
Whether your new roomie is fresh out of college, or just fresh out of places to live, I strongly urge you both to brainstorm on ways for them to contribute. Of course this contribution can come in the form of cold, hard cash, or other ways to be a part of this new home-life you’re building. Sharing the workload when it comes to cooking, cleaning and maintaining community space will create appreciation for everyone involved. They can make a schedule for this, or just figure it out as you go along. As long as everyone knows they’re expected to contribute it doesn’t have to be a thing.
You Do You, They Do Them
Once your child moves back home, for whatever the reason, it is very easy to fall back into old patterns. This is an especially vulnerable trap for moms, but dads are not exempt. As protectors of our sweet little cubs we want to take care and nurture them. We forget (and ignore) that they are fully-formed, grown-up people with the ability to take care of themselves. They are resourceful humans (though some don’t know it yet) with the ability to figure it out for themselves. They can do their own laundry. They can clean their own rooms. They can feed themselves when you’re not around (and when you are around they can even feed YOU). They can get a job without your help. Whether we give them credit for it or not. They may not do things the way you would, but to be clear, it’s no longer our business. If you ask him to mow the lawn, and then spend twenty minutes critiquing HOW he mowed the With trust and time you may one day be shocked when your son actually asks you for advice on how to answer questions at a job interview, help with a job application, or get oil out of his favorite shirt. Until then, unless they ask you for help, stay in your lane.
This is not an easy time for anyone. The idea that your K-Adult is ever so excited to be moving back in with mom and dad is highly unlikely. Equally so, the concept of you going from empty-nester (or similar) to baby back home is a huge thrill. You’re going to disagree about things. You’re going to argue. Here’s the key; listen to HEAR, not to respond. If your conversations are turning into a match of who can get pissed-off and defensive first, you’ve lost from the get-go. And more than just the argument. You’ve immediately lost the other person’s respect. If you think that you’ve “won” because you had the last word, the only thing you’ve won for sure is first prize for not hearing what the other person’s saying. The next time you’re engaged in a conversation that’s beginning to go south, stop talking. Yup, shut-it, even though I know you are absolutely certain that you are absolutely right. Ssshhhh. Just hear what your child has to say. Actually listen, because his perspective is equally as legitimate as yours; his perspective is equally as truthful. It doesn’t matter if the argument is about forgetting to empty the dishwasher or crashing your car. Hear him out, and then respond by saying, “I hadn’t considered that (point of view). Let me take a minute.” See how that lands on your child. Mine nearly fell over the first time I said it. Then take a break. Once you have given yourself a few minutes of processing, or thinking, or just being alone, you can return to the conversation. Resolutions don’t occur from a place of anger or rage. Ever. When’s the last time you had a screaming match with someone and the two of you yelled, “Okay, you’re right, I’m sorry,” at the top of your lungs? Resolution occurs from a place of creativity—when two adults are able to have mutual give and take conversation and respect.
Living, creating and loving under the same roof brings many expectations to the table. Learning to navigate this new normal is essential to a life-long, heart-centered relationship with your family. Who knows? It may even launch them sooner.