When adult children move back home

| Kate Soucheray | August 6, 2020 | 0 Comments


When young people return home for a period of time following college graduation, their Baby Boomer or Gen X parents are often surprised by the disruption this causes to their newly-established routine. Becoming an empty-nester couple is not an easy transition, because so many couples become comfortable with the relationship that is formed through parenting their children. Bouncing back into an old routine is not as simple as it might seem.

Helping adult children achieve maturity is not the straightforward task it used to be, according to Jeffrey Jensen Arnett, research professor at Clark University in Worcester, Massachusetts, and author of “Emerging Adulthood.” Many young adults spend the decade of their 20s completing school, establishing a solid career path and figuring out what they will do with their life. Returning to the nest is often seen as part of this transition.

In fact, nearly 48% of young people find that moving back in with their parents during this time is a necessity, due to the expense of renting an apartment, getting after college debt and managing the demands of adult life. I sometimes say to young people they are creating the map in their 20s they will follow in the coming decades, and learning to manage the demands of adult life is a key component to happiness for the remainder of their lives.

Arnett explains that the three most important tasks young people must master in their 20s — known as the “Big Three” — include accepting responsibility for themselves, making independent decisions and becoming financially independent. He states that the attainment of these skills is incremental and gradual, not an all-at-once endeavor.


  • If you have a young adult who will be living at home this fall, talk about the expectations you would like to put in place with him or her. Doing so before things become heated can prevent difficulties later.
  • If you find yourself in this situation, be sure to make time with your spouse that recaptures your empty nest to some degree. A situation like this can create hardships for couples, and setting aside special time with your spouse is critical.

The fact that adulthood is not achieved by the age of 18 seems all too obvious to parents of today. According to Arnett, full adult maturity occurs at about the age of 29, nearly a full decade later than in previous generations. And that process requires much more assistance from the parents in the young adult’s life.

Rejecting a young person who needs the security of returning home can create anxiety, frustration and personal disruption that may never be resolved. In addition, there should be some sort of plan in place for how long the young person intends to live at home, as well as an established system of contribution to the family by way of paying rent and perhaps contributing to the food budget.

Young adults must be expected to find a job and go to work, and pay the bills for which they are responsible, which include the aforementioned college debt. If they purchase a car, they must be expected to pay for gas, maintenance and all costs related to this purchase. There should be rules in place about guests in your home and the behavior you expect with regard to those guests. It must be conveyed that this is not a college dorm, with the hours of the day reversed and all behavior deemed acceptable.

Adult children are now visitors in your home, as you graciously provide a place for them to live temporarily until they are ready to move on to the next phase of their life. Establishing clear boundaries and expectations from the beginning of this arrangement provides clear guidelines for everyone. Providing well-defined expectations for this arrangement will benefit everyone involved.

Soucheray is a licensed marriage and family therapist and a member of Guardian Angels in Oakdale. She holds a master’s degree in theology from The St. Paul Seminary School of Divinity in St. Paul and a doctorate in educational leadership from St. Mary’s University of Minnesota.

Tags: , , , , , , ,

Category: Simple Holiness