It’s not what you had planned for your later years, but the house is filling up again, and it looks like some of your kids will be staying for a lot longer than a weekend. How exactly did this happen, and how can you handle it?
For many parents, the discovery that their adult children do come home is producing what has been dubbed “the full nest syndrome.” An increasing number of grown children are returning to reside with their parents as a result of the economic downturn, unemployment, divorce, foreclosures or the tight mortgage market.
If your adult children, married or unmarried, want to move back with you, what can you do to ensure a happy house? Accept the fact that, although you love your children, you understandably may harbor mixed feelings about enlarging the household. You and your spouse have been looking ahead to years of less responsibility, more leisure and lower expenses. Perhaps you’ve considered moving to smaller living quarters or doing some traveling. So before you welcome the offspring home again, call a family meeting. Here are some points to cover:
• First on the agenda ought to be household expenses and how they’ll be shared. Asking your grown children to contribute to rent, food, and other essentials is not only fairer to you but will also help to restore their self-esteem, which is probably bruised by the need to move back with you.
• Next, discuss the question of guests. Everyone in the house should be notified before visitors are invited. Friends who are accustomed to dropping in can be politely told of the change and the reason for it. One situation that disturbs many parents occurs when unmarried children invite boyfriend or girlfriends to stay overnight. This is an individual choice. Make sure you’re honest about how you feel about this.
• Helping out with household chores should be talked about too, because there’s bound to be more cooking, shopping, laundry and cleaning. Responsibility for specific tasks should be clear. Guard against falling into a pattern of picking up after your grown children or running personal errands that they are more than capable of doing for themselves.
• Privacy is probably the key to success in two-generation households. To the greatest degree possible, live in separate areas of the house with your own telephones. Some luckier families are able to convert a garage or a portion of the house into a complete apartment.
For most young adults, returning home is a temporary measure. They plan to move just as soon as circumstances improve. For both you and them, being together again can be a harmonious interlude that cements your relationship as adults who not only love but thoroughly like one another. But it takes conscientious planning, and that’s well worth the effort.
Robin Westen writes about health for national magazines.
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