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Prepare Adult Children to Leave Before They Come Home

May brings flowers, Mother’s Day, college graduations and the big move back home for those new grads who can’t afford to live on their own because of low-paying entry level jobs or perhaps no job all.  Some parents welcome adult children home, happy to have them back while they launch a career or save money for their own apartment in six months or a year.  Other parents can already feel the tension rising even before the new college grad arrives home carting all the “stuff” accumulated in four years and dumping it on the living room floor.

Before you start airing out the childhood bedroom or putting up a tent in the backyard, consider the advice of marriage and family therapist Sally Connolly who, with her husband, John Turner, counsels clients in Louisville, Kentucky and online.  As someone who talks to both baby boomers and Gen Y in her practice, Sally has some advice to share:

Q. You suggest that parents, if they can afford it, might consider subsidizing an adult child’s rent while the job hunt is launched. 

You the parent share the same goal as your adult child: to become independent.  Sometimes that can be better accomplished by helping with rent for their own place rather than living at home. On their own they learn more quickly how to be self sufficient. It seems more like a positive step forward than returning home.  Sometimes your adult child may not need rent but instead needs help finding a cheaper place to live, a better idea of budgeting or even a short-term loan.

Q. What’s the best way to set up an arrangement for paying rent?

First don’t make it open-ended; set an end date for the financial help.  Don’t dictate the terms. Instead have an adult-to-adult, business-type conversation with your child.  Ask when he thinks he will be able to start paying his own way.  Negotiate the terms just like landlord-tenant.

Q. Why are deadlines good?

For the parent, deadlines take the tension out of the situation.  You know there’s an end in sight. While it doesn’t mean you can’t renegotiate a deadline at least there’s a goal that you have agreed upon and you’re not left wondering what their plans are.

Q. What sort of tensions arise when young adults move back home?

Parents can become resentful if they are working hard and don’t see their adult child exerting what they consider enough effort.  It’s easy to become judgmental.  You need to find a way to talk to your child, not as a teenager, but as another adult. 

Q. You suggest that the “business deal” be discussed before graduation.

Have that conversation before the child moves home. Say to your child, “Ideally how long do you think it will take before you can move out on your own?  What do you need in financial terms to be able to do that?”  Let the adult child come up with a plan.

Q.  Once that business deal is negotiated you suggest that parents take a step back.

 Once the agreement is made do your best not to get too involved in your child’s personal life. Convey that message to your adult child: “Help us to stay out of your life by  assuming responsibility for yourself.” Don’t be too intrusive. 

Q. You suggest charging rent if a child moves back home.

The child needs to take responsibility and find a way to earn money even part-time. Set a rent and collect it. Some parents put it in a savings account for a nest egg when the child moves out.

Q. What happens when the deadline for moving out looms?

Unless there are some other issues like depression, anxiety or mental illness, the parents should help a child meet that deadline as best as possible. I have a friend who is painting her son’s apartment and helping him pick out furnishings so he can meet the pre-set Memorial Day deadline for moving out.  Stick to your guns!

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