I’m on BBC Radio 4 on Woman’s Hour discussing the 3.3 million adults who have returned home to live with their parents.
- Have a family fiscal meeting. It is definitely time to stop feeling resentful and frustrated. You’re kids are adults and they can take the hard facts. Explain to them the costs involved in keeping them, ranging from food, electricity, gas, maintenance of the home, clothing, cooking services, cleaning to providing a rent-free room. If you have been offering these things free-of-charge, it may well be that your kids just don’t see the harsh reality of the costs involved and protecting them is not teaching them to take responsibility and become independent.
- Ask for rent contributions. Make a family agreement that everyone living in your home is responsible for its upkeep and that includes financial upkeep, as well as regular cleaning and maintenance. Set a weekly rent that covers approximately a % of their pay, whatever feels right to you. Instead of feeling guilty see this as teaching them to understand what it costs and how it feels to have to depart with a set amount of pay “just to have a roof over your head”. Put all of this down in writing so you appear to mean what you say and everyone understands what’s been agreed and draw up a budget if you need to.
- Ask for all-family household duties. No single person is responsible in a household for taking on all the jobs. Expect everyone who is living in your home to pull their weight and to help keep the house tidy and clean. Allocate cleaning, gardening, shopping, down to feeding and walking the dog. Work as a team. It’s not OK for your adult child to come home and act like a teenager all over again ! It is probably also a good idea to throw in cooking at least a meal or two a week Write all of this up as a weekly rota and pin it up where everyone can see it. I particularly tell the parents that I work with to make it clear that getting out of a task means negotiating with another family member rather than just not doing it !
- Expect some resistance and respond with good, hard facts. They have been having an easy time of it, so they might complain. Be ready for this, armed with visual evidence of the costs for living away from home. Don’t get angry or cross – see this as just another step in teaching them about Life. This takes step one a little further; rather than just explaining, demonstrate clearly where the costs come from. Show them how much average rents are in your area, show them your weekly food bills for an average shopping trip, the electricity costs for your home, and the costs of things such as fuel for the car, oil for the heating, mortgage payments and interest rates. Their awareness will soon increase, and even if they still feel resentful, they will realise that their situation is a good one. This is about fairness and life skills.
- Over Come Guilt. Perhaps if one or more of your adult children is living with you, it’s probably because you want to help them; perhaps they’ve hit a difficult patch, need financial help in saving up for their own property to rent or buy, and more than likely, you enjoy having them nearby. You might feel guilty when you demand contributions, especially if you see your child as being in a difficult position. When this happens, keep the following in mind:
- Sheltering them from the harsh reality of life isn’t helping them. Your job as a parent is to teach them how to become independent adults who can survive and thrive on their own. Having them pull their own weight in your home will teach them that there’s no such thing as a free lunch. It’s better for them to learn responsibility from you, than from a boss firing them or a spouse divorcing them.
- You’re not the only one struggling with these issues. Children who come back home as adults are called “mammoni”, or “mama’s boys” in Italy; “parasaito shinguru”, or “parasite singles” in Japan; “boomerangs” or “twixters” in the US; “KIPPERS” (short for “kids in parents’ pockets eroding retirement savings”) in the UK; and “Hotel Mama” in Germany. There are parents across the world who will identify with your struggle to give tough love.
- Be Grateful. When your adult child contributes be grateful and thank them for their contribution. Being appreciative is gracious.
Of course your adult child may be back for different reasons and you need to be mindful of their circumstances and of course you may wish to support and help them through their challenging times but if your kids just arrive home and revert back to being their lazy, messy teenage self I hope I have given you some ideas of how to cope !