Emily is dreading going home for the summer after her first year in college. It’s not that she doesn’t want to be with her family, it’s that she doesn’t want to give up the independence and freedom she had while at college. Specifically, she doesn’t want to go back to having to always check in with her parents when she goes out with her friends and she DOES NOT want to have to be home at midnight!
Seriously, Mom and Dad, listen up! Once your child enters that young-adult-zone, and they have had a taste of getting to set their own rules, there’s no going back. But, you are still the parents, so you may be wanting or needing a new guide-map for parenting, one that allows your college age child to thrive and grow toward independent adulthood.
Having an adult child move back home for a period of time poses unique challenges. Word is that 75 percent of college graduates move back home for various reasons: they run out of money, they can’t find a job, maybe they flunked out of college or got into legal or financial trouble. Sometimes they move back home with a child, or romantic partner in tow. Whatever the reasons, now is the time to re-evaluate the family rules.
As adults living in your home, it might help to reframe your notion of them not as your children but more as roommates. They need to pull their own weight and take responsibility for themselves. You wouldn’t do a roommates laundry or pick up after them. You wouldn’t let a roommate lie around the house all day then not help pay the rent. You wouldn’t put gas in their car or pay their cell phone bill. This is not to say that your children who park themselves back at your house again, after what you thought was leaving home for good, can’t be given financial support until they find a job, but guidelines need to be set.
Coming to the rescue with a plan for new house rules is Dr. Gary Chapman who co-authored the book, How to Really Love Your Adult Child, with Dr. Ross Campbell. He says that conversation is key. Sit your adult child down when they move back home and ask them what their goals for the future are? What are their needs and desires? If they want to just hang out, or travel the world for a year, bring them back to reality with the question, “who’s going to pay your bills?” Let them know that being an adult means taking responsibility for themselves and their actions.
This all sounds like a good plan to me, but what if the couch has a new lump in it and that lump is your non-working, irresponsible adult child? As Dr. Chapman says, when they don’t make any progress, there is a time to say that this relationships is not working for you. Let them know that they are either going to have to start taking steps toward meeting goals or they are going to have to find another couch to park their butts on…(of course the good Doctor didn’t say that! I did!).
What he did say was that all this needs to be done not in anger or frustration, but from a place of love. Hence, the title of the book, How to Really Love Your Adult Child. Notice the title says “Really”, not just “Sometimes” or “Sort-of”. Isn’t that “Really” love the ultimate goal?
Listen to my podcast on Parenting Adult Children and listen to Emily tell her story, and then post your comments. We learn from each other!
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