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Planning for the Return of the College Grads

May brings college graduations and the big migration back to the family home since many in the class of 2012 will join the ranks the underemployed and unemployed. In anticipation, an array of experts have offered advice on how to handle this home invasion. We have compiled a list of the best of these offerings and present them, with a few comments of our own, of course (in italics).

We begin with Dr. Jeffrey Bernstein, a psychologist in Philadelphia, who writes in a Psychology Today blog:

  • Try not to be adversarial as you encourage your child to become more independent. The goal is to be supportive and understanding with a collaborative mindset. Be calm and firm in your demeanor. (The honeymoon period can end very quickly when your adult child is constantly underfoot; try to arrange to be home at different times.)
  • If you can afford it, offer to help pay starting costs of rent on an apartment. (This will cost less in the long term than your shopping sprees or family therapy visits.)
  • Make an agreement for decreasing contributions to rent until the child is fully responsible. (In writing so there’s no misunderstanding!)
  • Remember that you always have the right to say, “I changed my mind” about a previous promise. (Your own circumstances may change. Be honest about why you are modifying the deal.)
  • Remember you are not in a popularity contest. Be prepared for your child to reject you. He or she will most likely come around later. (Tough love is a lot easier to practice with a 13-year-old than a 23-year-old but sometimes the situation calls for it.)

In “7 Ways to straighten out your adult child” at Foxbusiness.com, the suggestions include:

  • Change rooms. If feasible, put young adults who return home somewhere other than the rooms they grew up in. This will help send the signal that this is not a second childhood. (Perhaps not a first choice but certainly a novel approach, especially if you’ve already converted the childhood bedroom to a study.)
  • Monitor job application activity…Chances are, mommy and daddy didn’t start out in their dream jobs, and young adults need to understand that they can’t be too choosy in a tough economy. (The dream job likely doesn’t exist out the gate; we need to remind them of that. The goal is a get-your-foot-in-the-door job, preferably paid. )
  • Make volunteering a substitute for work. If your adult child can’t find a job, have them volunteer for a regular set of hours instead. (Establishing a routine is essential for all concerned to survive this limbo period.)
  • Discuss all these expectations explicitly and up front…If they protest against “being treated like a child,” point out that you would lay down formal terms for any adult who sought to rent a room for you. (By discussing these points in a business-like manner, you are actually treating them as adults.)

From consultants Eileen and Jon Gallo who suggest in “Rules for When Your Child Moves Home” that before children move back in parents need to clarify with them:

  • What is your role in the house? Nonpaying guest or member of the family? What chores are you going to do? Grocery shopping? Cooking? (It may be necessary to re-institute a “chores list” posted on the fridge so they remember that Tuesday means take-out-the-garbage and other assigned duties.)
  • What are you going to do to earn money in the short term if you can’t get a job in your desired career? Flip hamburgers? Walk dogs? (It may seem like a step backwards but responsible babysitters are always in demand, especially in the summer for working moms, and the hours are often flexible.)
  • When are you going to leave? It’s good to set a time limit — three months, six months, a year…It can always be renegotiated. (It’s often hard to quesstimate on this; set a reasonable goal, not next week!)

And from Forbes comes the advice to treat your adult children like you would an investment, to “create practical and profitable results instead of a doomed buy-and hold-strategy wherein your child never leaves the garage or basement.”

  • Establish A Buy & Sell Price: By establishing what has to happen before they move back out on their own…the likelihood of a successful transition (investment) greatly improves. (Before they move out to their own place: How much money do they need to have saved? How much do they need to be earning? What can they afford for rent?)
  • Monthly or Quarterly Review: Don’t assume they are looking for a job, saving money to move out or in order to return to grad school…or robbing your retirement blind. Set up a regular meeting to discuss progress and expectations. (If these meetings are scheduled in advance to occur on a specific date then it seems a lot less arbitrary on your part.)

These are all points to think about BEFORE they move back in. When they actually take up residence, rest assured they’ll be other issues that were not foreseen. To be continued…..

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