When a young adult is living with parents for any reason, it’s especially important to establish expectations and guidelines. In such situations, I ask parents to be clear, in writing, the benefits available to the young adult living at home. Some parents delineate these benefits in much more specific terms than room and board. They may specify a portion of the utility bill, the phone and internet costs, or taxes, along with the more obvious items like food, lodging, and transportation. Young adults tend to take for granted the benefits they receive while living at home. Spelling these out can help be more responsive to meeting certain expectations you have. The tricky part is that they are adults and therefore the approach needs to be different than if they were fifteen. In the latter case a parent has a responsibility to provide certain benefits and to be direct about expectations and consequences if these are not met. However, the young adult wants to be treated as such – an adult – and therefore the parent approach to living with them must be different. My recommendation is to approach this living situation with a “roommate” orientation.
Setting Roommate Expectations
Some young adults have returned home from an apartment or dorm due to COVID or other factors, so they likely had a roommate and understand some basic expectations of such a living situation. A roommate perspective involves an assumption that you have another adult living in the house and that other person should be treated as such. Suppose you had a boarder move in with you or an adult relative come to stay with you. They can come and go as they please, decide how they spend their time, and choose with whom they associate. By acknowledging this with our young adult resident we acknowledge their adulthood. However, with this independence comes responsibility to the household. I think it is fair to outline expectations for the young adult after delineating the benefits they are receiving. In deciding what these expectations should be, think roommate. Here’s a suggested list:
- Full time work or school or part time work and part time school
- If working pay rent. In many cases I recommend collecting rent but banking this and returning this to the young adult when they move out to help with get them started with a security deposit or rent.
- Help with food costs and preparation. Cook one or two meals a week. Don’t know how? Teach them some simple meals that they can do when they move out. Alternatively, if they want to buy their own food or eat out all the time, that should be their choice.
- If they eat meals at home help with clearing the table and dishes.
- Do their own laundry.
- Take on their own cell phone expense.
- Assume expenses with their car or if using a family car- gas and repairs.
- Keep their rooms reasonably picked up- don’t make this a point of nagging then you are back into treating them like a fifteen-year-old.
- Maintain common areas. If eating in the family room take dishes back to kitchen and put them in the dishwasher or wash and put them away.
- Help with some home maintenance demands.
Benefits of This Approach
By treating them as a roommate versus a child you are respecting them as an adult and asking them to step up collaborate and participate as a member of the household. There are at least two additional benefits to this approach.
- It prepares them for life on their own.
- It can reinforce the belief that they can make it on their own and prompt steps in that direction.
“If I am living at home and handling all of these responsibilities, why don’t I move out where I no longer have to answer to my parents for my actions?”
For both parties a roommate orientation can offset the typical regression that occurs when young adults move back home or stay at home and parents treat them like children and the young adult regresses and acts like a child. Neither party want this to occur but it’s very difficult to resist the tendency to drop back into these old roles. I can remember prepping myself for my return home from college and the likelihood of my father making some critical remark that would trigger a teenager reaction from me. Mental preparation didn’t last long. Shortly after I arrived home from college and opened the refrigerator door to see what I could raid, my father yelled at me in a critical tone, “Don’t lean on that door.” I immediately shot back in an angry and defensive way “I’m not leaning on the door.”
Because of this tendency to regress into to parent-child roles, I suggest going out to eat someplace when you want to have an adult conversation. Meeting to discuss benefits and expectations and a roommate model would be a great conversation to have at a restaurant. It’s an opportunity to show love and backbone. The softer side of love – nurturance along with the firmer side of love – backbone represent an essential combination for a successful launch of our young adults into adulthood.
The challenge is blending, integrating and timing the move forward with a hug, back to give space and standing firm when it is important for the young adult to step up. Here is a link to a section of my website that describes different “backbone” approaches. You are encouraged to check out these specific blogs and purchase a copy of my book Parenting Our Young Adults with Love and Backbone.
NOTE: All my practice books are on sale for the next thirty days at $2 discount – $7.95.
An individual had written a really scathing review of me on google. Never heard of the person nor saw him as a client unless this person is using an anonymous name. I had two male clients, both with anger issues, leave dissatisfied with my advice. In one case of a young man who was angry at his father and complaining about his life but stating he was not depressed, I said he was suffering from PPA- Piss Poor Attitude. He wasn’t happy to hear this. I pride myself in my listening skills but also my willingness to give feedback that a client may not like.
I can’t change this review, although I replied to it, but I would welcome and appreciate and positive reviews you can give that could help to elevate my score and indicate that this specific review is a bit of an anomaly. If you are willing to write such a review- couple of sentences- please click on the following links. Thanks so much.
- Why Parents of Young Adults Should Do Their Own Report Card - January 30, 2024
- A Letter from A Grieving Mother - November 14, 2023
- Book Recommendation: Rules of Estrangement: Why Adult Children Cut Ties and How to Heal the Conflict - November 13, 2023