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What to Expect When an Adult Child Moves Back Home

Reading time: 4 minutes

It’s an increasingly common situation: Your child graduates from college ready to enter the workforce but has trouble finding a job. While temporarily unemployed, they begin to feel the weight of their student loan debt and, in an effort to cut down expenses, decide to move back in with you.

Particularly during the Coronavirus/Covid-19 pandemic, your adult child’s post-graduation plans may have rapidly changed through no fault of their own. With no one certain how long it will take the economy to recover from this massive economic upheaval, job opportunities may be harder to find and more competitive.

Try to be as understanding as possible toward your child if their post-grad life isn’t what they expected it to be, including living with their parents again.

It’s probably your natural inclination as a parent to offer your child help if they are struggling, but adding an extra body to the household will affect everyone involved. Here’s how you can prepare yourself and your family to make sure the transition goes smoothly.

It’s normal to have concerns

Despite an increased number of adult children living at home, there are still stigmas and concerns associated with such arrangements. You may worry that your child will grow accustomed to living rent-free and won’t be diligent in looking for a job or that the unexpected living arrangement will cause conflicts between family members used to more space and privacy.

These are legitimate concerns, and you shouldn’t feel guilty about acknowledging them and voicing them to your child. If you communicate clearly, it will be easier to avoid a situation where your child takes advantage of your hospitality or overstays their welcome. Setting appropriate boundaries will help both you and your child in the long term.

Decide what you want out of your new living situation

Work with your adult child to identify what they want to achieve by moving back home and how long they intend to stay — even if they plan to live with you indefinitely. While it may be hard to plan for the future during the Covid-19 pandemic, try to have your child devise a rough strategy so they can work toward something. Try not to think of the new arrangement as a step back, but rather as a thrifty solution that could help save your child from future debt.

Use your child’s goals for the future to plan their next steps. If the main reason for living at home is to achieve financial stability, consider working together on a plan — with steps such as finding a job — to advance that goal.

If your child is moving back home with the sole purpose of paying off their student loans sooner, then you should make sure your child is prioritizing loan repayment in their budget. Identify how much they can afford to pay toward their loans based on their income and the savings they’re able to acquire while living with you.

You should also decide whether your child will be contributing to the monthly household bills and, if so, how much they’ll pay and when they’ll get you the money. Will they help pay for groceries and utilities, or will they earn their keep by helping around the house with cleaning and other odd jobs?

If, once they move in, you worry your child is slipping by not keeping up with the shared agreement, talk to them about your expectations for their new living situation. Remember, they’ve moved back home for a reason, and you’re supporting them for the same reason. If they lose sight of their goal, you need to be able to approach them about it constructively.

Set ground rules and stick with them

It may be helpful to think of your adult child as a new roommate as opposed to a dependent who's lived with you before. Your child may be back home to save money, but if they’re used to living on their own, they may feel suddenly claustrophobic spending 24/7 with mom and dad.

You should expect your child to maintain a social life, but don’t be afraid to set some ground rules for your living arrangement. If you have an early work schedule and don’t want your child’s friends in the house after a certain time or if you feel uncomfortable with your child’s significant other spending the night, be open about your concerns. It’s best to discuss what everyone is comfortable with and determine how your schedules can work together.

Be patient and flexible

Expect to see an impact on your finances and familial relationships throughout this process. Since you’ll have a bigger household for the time being, you’ll see changes to your budget, especially if your child isn’t contributing to the monthly expenses.

Have patience with one another throughout the transition. There’s a good chance that living at home wasn’t part of your child’s postgraduate plans and may temporarily derail their career ambitions. Especially in light of the Covid-19 pandemic, many recent graduates may face difficulties finding well-paying work. A challenging job market, combined with heavy student loan debt, can damage your adult child’s optimism about the future and their career. As a parent, you can help them get on their feet by preparing for these hurdles and being flexible as you and the rest of your household adapt.

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