Dealing With a Grown Child Who Is Unemployed and Living at Home

How do we deal with an adult child who has no job, is living in our basement, and drawing heavily on our financial resources? My husband and I can't agree on the best way to handle this situation, and it's becoming a real strain on our relationship. What should we do?

It might help to realize that you’re not alone. Millions of American families have adult children living at home. In fact, it’s a growing trend. It’s increasingly common for young adults to continue living with mom and dad after high school or to return after getting out on their own for a time. Sociologists call them “boomerang kids.”

Whatever else can be said about them, “boomerang kids” have the potential to introduce tension into their parents’ marriage. You didn’t specify the nature of your disagreement, but we strongly suspect that one of you takes a more authoritative approach while the other tends to be more permissive. Before doing anything else, you and your husband need to find a way to get on the same page. You should do this both for the sake of your child and in the interest of preserving your own relationship.

As a matter of fact, marital counseling may be your first and most important step toward resolving this problem. A strong and healthy marriage is the only foundation on which you can build an effective response to the challenge you’re facing. You can get the ball rolling by speaking with one of our counselors over the phone. If you’re interested, our Counseling staff can also provide you with referrals to trained therapists in your area.

Sit down together and agree on some basic ground rules. Once you feel capable of presenting a united front, hold a family meeting. Tell your adult child that he is welcome to go on living in your house, but that as an adult he will need to start assuming more adult responsibilities. This includes responsibility for personal expenses, laundry and cleaning, transportation, phone and Internet. Your child should also make a weekly contribution to the family grocery budget. As an adult lodger in your home, it’s perfectly reasonable to expect that he pay some amount of rent as well.

Your statement that this child is “drawing heavily on your financial resources” leads us to believe that he may be irresponsible with money. If you and your husband continue to pick up the slack in this area, your child will come to expect it and never grow up. The key to good parenting is balancing love and limits, and this applies to young adult children as well as to toddlers and elementary school kids.

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