How to keep a happy home when your adult child moves back in

Why it’s good to talk.

The high cost of housing paired with huge debts means many young adults are struggling to become financially independent, moving back in with their parents in the short term. While living with parents has its drawbacks, living with grown-up kids can be tricky too. How can we manage this new family dynamic?

Janey Downshire, a qualified counsellor and specialist in emotional literacy, answers parents’ questions about how to have the difficult conversations necessary for domestic bliss.

Creating boundaries

“I want my son to feel at home, but I’ve become used to my own space. How can I set boundaries?” 

  • Make sure your conversations are adult-to-adult, not parent-to-child. Don’t say: “You should, you always, I need you to,” but phrase things in a balanced way: “How should we approach this? What do you feel I should do?” Remember, you’re not ‘telling’, you’re discussing
  • Try to put things in a clear and reasonable way. For example, “I hate mess around the house. You know that because we’d row about it when you were 16” 
  • If things do start to slide, go out to a neutral place and have the conversation there.

Money talks

“How much should I charge them for rent and food? I want to show that I’m being fair but that they’re also here to save for their future.”

  • It’s important to think about how you’re going to say it. Sit down and ask: “What do we all feel is fair and reasonable?” to encourage the sense that you’re a team
  • If you feel you’re getting a negative response, tackle it immediately. Say: “You look upset. Help me understand what you see as unfair” 
  • If you expect them to save – tell them! Say: “I’m really pleased you’re able to save money by staying here. How is the saving going?” You could encourage them to look at ISAs to help reach financial goals
  • It might also be necessary to say: “I need you to get into the habit of spending money on things that seem boring,” to encourage them to contribute to things like bills, council tax and insurance

Find out how to help adult children get started with investing 

When they come home with a partner

“My son has returned home to live for a while with his partner. How do I make sure everyone feels happy living together and his partner feels welcome? 

  • Around 95% of communication is non-verbal and that includes tone of voice. Try to convey a warm welcome
  • Turn whatever you’re feeling into consideration for them. Pick a comfortable moment and say: “I’ve been thinking this must be quite difficult for you – it’s unfamiliar territory for all of us but we want to make it work,” or, “You won’t have as much privacy as you’re used to. Perhaps we should have a routine to have some space from each other”

When they come home with their children

“My daughter has returned home with my grandchildren. I want this to be a happy time, but the house feels crazy! How can I strike a balance between protecting my sanity and helping out as a grandparent?”

  • Offer clearly defined help at the start: “What would you like from me? When would you like my help?” This makes it clear you have boundaries without having to say so
  • It won’t be healthy for anyone if you slip into a co-parenting role. Approach it by creating a plan together so that you don’t step on her toes
  • Define a time, perhaps once a fortnight or every Saturday afternoon, when they need to go out as a family so you can have a rest. It will remind your daughter that, while you love having them, you need space to recharge your batteries 

Teenage angst

“Sometimes it feels like we’ve gone back in time and I’m parenting a teenager again. How can I manage this?”

  • Don’t worry if you’re feeling like this. It’s a common scenario parents face when their adult child moves home because when faced with new situations, we often regress to a familiar way of being
  • Be aware of how you’re communicating. Don’t get sucked back into a parent-child tone 

Time at home can help young adults on their way to financial independence. Find out how ISAs could support saving goals.

The value of the investment can fall as well as rise and could be less than you have invested.

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