During the pandemic, more than a third of young adults moved back with their parents – for multiple reasons. And many have remained – the empty nests are suddenly not empty anymore and it can get quite crowded with all the grown up birds.
As parents it can be difficult to adjust to the changing dynamics of relationships with our children as they grow older and become more independent. They are not usually open to listening to our advice – and we are not usually good at holding back our judgment and observations. Communication can get even more difficult than during their teenage years.
Out of sight – can mean less worry
The advantage of them flying the nest is distance – and the old saying “out of sight, out of mind” starts holding true. Of course we are not forgetting our children! But we can have an easier time not needing to constantly monitor them. We are happy to hear from them (on a mostly irregular basis) and always look forward to seeing them for major holidays. And then we are equally happy to see them back off to school or work when the holidays are over.
And then they finish school, don’t know what to do next, lose a job or they decide to go back to school but do it online – and before you know it, they’re back under your roof.
How do you balance their changed needs and your own boundaries?
This means that the kid who years ago left for college has now had a good 4 or more years experience of living by him or herself. When they move back home there is no more buffer of distance, no more “out of sight” – so the “out of mind” part can not happen. You SEE everything, hear everything and experience everything they do.
It can be quite difficult to strike a balance between respecting their independence, providing guidance and support and protecting our own boundaries as parents.
When Anke’s eldest son was offered a job in his hometown after college it was a no brainer that they offered him a move back home.
The rental market has always been difficult in their city, his sisters were happy, and all assumed this to be a transitional solution until he landed a permanent job. Well, 2 years later he was still living with them, having decided that he wanted to start his own company, and he did not having the funds to support himself during the launch phase.
Having lived on his own in a different city for 4 years, being a young adult and not a teenager anymore, trying to get his company off the ground – Anke found herself struggling with keeping that balance of respecting his independence and her boundaries at the same time.
What was also challenging was that his sisters were still teens at the time and it was difficult to not just go back to default “Mom” mode and treat them all the same.
It’s that balance that is so hard to find. Respect works both ways too – as parents, we have also had some ‘independence’ that we want to keep!
Living with adult kids in lockdown
Julia found it really hard to live by new rules – especially as she is a ‘pleaser’ – she has a strong drive for people to like her – which makes it hard to set down boundaries and be consistent in maintaining them.
(You can check if you are also a ‘pleaser’ by completing the Positive Intelligence Test here https://assessment.positiveintelligence.com/saboteur/overview).
Julia’s family quickly realised during lockdown that things had to change.
Like Anke and many of you, she had children returning from university having lived independently and Julia was very conscious of not stepping on all those amazing life skills that our kids get when they first leave home.
Her family took the approach that they were all housemates living together and the rules were pretty basic – keep your own space tidy, do your own laundry and if you didn’t want to be present for dinner, let housemate Julia know in advance!
This worked pretty well although they did have a few emergency meetings when the code had been broken! It boiled down to how each of them interpreted “Respect” which was most important to all.
Other peoples family might have different priorities – Fun, Learning, Adventure for example and interpret the new code accordingly
We both believe that it is safe to say that any child returning to their parental home, whatever their age (30, 40 or 50) in some way revert back to their teenage behaviour. Anke experienced this every summer when she took her kids back to her parents in Germany and was struggling with being a Mom and a daughter at the same time.
So how do we make this work?
Firstly understand what’s important to you – what can you fundamentally not live without and what can you let go of.This includes pragmatic decisions like
- charging them rent
- having them contribute to the household budget
- use of cars
- use of space
- curfews for having friends over with the music blaring and doors slamming
- laundry arrangements and so on.
And it also includes those less tangible areas that are harder to spell out but need to be addressed as well. Those include being respectful and considerate and pro-active.
Look at what’s getting in your way of sticking to it
Are you a pleaser or more hyper rational (two polar opposites).
Translate what that means into actions – Respect for example, not being taken for granted and not doing all of the heavy lifting was important to Julia.. Ask the rest of the family what their non-negotiables are too – when someone gets angry or frustrated its much easier to break down if you have the language in place.
If everything starts to degenerate, what’s your plan?
Quick family meeting? Whats App messages?
Think about how you problem solve in other areas of your life and use the same successful method. The days of telling the children what to do might be over but it doesn’t mean that you can’t live in harmony with each other!
Retaining independence for parents and children whilst living under the same roof can be challenging but by working out your family non- negotiables and how to stick to them can help you all live together in harmony.