How can we make our grown child's move back home a smooth and easy transition? Just as we were looking forward to the freedom of an "empty nest," our daughter decided that she needs to come back and "get her life together" before "moving on to the next step." The problem is that we don't know exactly what this means, and as a result we have no idea how long she's planning to stay. Do you have any advice for us?
One thing that will help is to recognize that you're not alone. The latest census figures indicate that more than 80 million so-called "empty nesters" now find themselves with at least one grown child living at home. Some culture-watchers have even started calling these adult children "the boomerang generation." Whatever you label them, they're returning in record numbers. Some come back hoping to save money for school. Others return so they can take time to search for the perfect job. Still others may have personal problems; they need a refuge.
It sounds like you and your spouse are about to find out firsthand what the "boomerang" phenomenon is all about. As you step into this new and unfamiliar phase in your parenting career, just remember that there isn't necessarily anything "wrong" or "incorrect" or "abnormal" about accepting a previously "launched" child back into your home. Such a development might have been unthinkable in past generations, but nowadays it's an increasingly common feature of a shifting cultural landscape. You can take comfort in the thought that it's only a temporary situation. You can also be thankful that your daughter likes you enough to want to come back. She obviously thinks of home as a safe, accepting place to land while she regroups, and that's a positive thing. Your dream of an empty nest can wait a bit longer.
In the meantime, here are some practical measures you can implement to minimize conflict and maximize the opportunity to strengthen family bonds during the time you and your daughter have together.
- Start by discussing your terms. Before your daughter moves in, have a family pow-wow to discuss mutual expectations and establish house rules. Do this as early as possible to prevent misunderstandings and friction later on. If you don't approve of overnight guests, blaring stereos, bad language, questionable religious practices, the use of drugs or alcohol, etc., then clarify your standards up front. You might even want to spell them out in a brief "contract." Have your daughter indicate, by her signature, that she agrees to your terms. Make sure that the contract specifies consequences for infractions of the rules. At the same time, don't forget that these rules should be different than the ones you put in place when your child was a minor. For example, curfews aren't appropriate for an adult. As long as your grown child acts responsibly (holding a job, contributing financially or helping with meal preparation and household chores), she deserves the same liberty to come and go as any adult. Respect her personal boundaries and preferences.
- Don't be afraid to ask questions during the course of this conversation. Be frank and straightforward. How long does your daughter envision staying with you? What would you both consider reasonable rent? If rent is not an issue, exactly how will she contribute to the cost of food and household expenses? What chores will she be expected to carry out?
- We realize, of course, that some situations are more complicated. You didn't mention any specific problems or concerns, so we don't know exactly what you might be facing in this regard. But common sense itself suggests that you shouldn't enable a grown child who's merely looking to avoid adult responsibilities. Naturally, if your daughter is dealing with more serious issues – for example, addictions or mental and emotional illness – then you'll probably need to seek intervention or enlist the help of a Christian counselor or mental health agency. If, on the other hand, she just seems a little too comfortable at home, it might be a good idea to set a move-out deadline (and stick to it). Knowing the clock is ticking at the "Mom and Pop Hotel" may be precisely the motivation she needs to get serious about "moving on to the next step."
- During the months you'll be living together, you can maintain a healthy relationship with your adult daughter by keeping the following tips in mind:
- Trust her to make wise choices – even when she doesn't. After all, she is an adult now.
- Squelch the impulse to give advice unless it's asked for.
- Remember that communication is key. Set a regular time to discuss issues, clarify expectations, or simply clear the air. Pray together regularly.
- Practice grace – everyone. Three or more adults living in one house is a challenge whether you're related or not. So give each other some space!
If you need the help of a professional therapist, call us for a free consultation. Focus on the Family's Counseling department can provide you with referrals to specialists practicing in your area. Our staff counselors would also be more than happy to discuss your situation with you at length over the phone