The trend of adult children of all ages moving home with their parents is unmistakable. This year alone, some 80 percent of college grads will return because rents are high and jobs are scarce. For some, the thought of living with mom and dad again, be they 20 or 40 is horrifying or at the least, troubling.
Olivia, 30, who lives at home to save money for her own place, asks, "What's wrong in our culture that we don't get along with our families? Immigrant families from many cultures have had the generations living together forever?"
I've spent the last year or so researching this trend and interviewing people like Olivia, their parents, and parents who move in with their adult children and grandchildren. My book, Under One Roof Again: All Grown Up and (Re)learning to Live Together Happily, looks at the complicated and inevitable issues that arise when formerly parent-child relationships become adult-adult ones.
Twenty-four year old Hank, like Olivia, feels good about going home and makes a point that scholars at Yale and Northeastern University back up. Hank says, "Friends are critical of my living home, but I have a chance to construct a future narrative, enact it, and not take some crappy job that I will hate for the rest of my life just to get away from my parents. I have the time and their support to figure out who I am, what I want, what my passion is-a luxury most people don't have."
Andrew Sum, director of the Center for Labor Market Studies at Northeastern University in Boston says that graduates who accept jobs below their education levels need seven to nine years before their salaries are comparable to the earnings of graduates who take jobs that require a college degree. Yale University School of Management labor economist Lisa Kahn concurs, but thinks those who accept jobs during a recession can spend longer-up to 15 years-in the labor force before their earnings catch up to those with comparable educations who start out in better economic times.
Whatever your feelings are and no matter how difficult your parents may be, a few attitude changes and a bit of behavior tweaking can make the return to your former bedroom much smoother and more comfortable for everyone.
1. Remember your parents are doing you a favor. Be appreciative-say thank you for the things your parents do for you.
2. Develop an exit plan early and let your parents know when you hope to be able to leave.
3. If job hunting, don't waste your days. Unemployed Americans are sleeping more and watching more television.
4. Avoid "trashing" your parents space by leaving your shoes and possessions scattered about.
5. Make yourself useful, as in be helpful wherever and whenever you can. Surprise parents by preparing dinner, for example.
6. Be responsible for the cleanliness of your own space...and for doing your own laundry.
7. Be considerate: Call if you are going to be late for dinner, later than anticipated, or to let them know you will not be home at all. Once a parent, always a parent: They will worry about you.
8. If you have an intrusive parent, keep your personal life separate by limiting the amount of information you share.
9. Focus on your parent's positive traits, not the things that drove you crazy as a teenager.
10. When a parent upsets you, speak up: You might say: "When you do that, I feel as if I'm 15-years-old again." Or, you might say: "When you say that you make me feel as if you are judging me."
If you have siblings, you may have your parents all to yourself on this return "trip." For however long you stay, you will be their "only child." Take advantage of the opportunity to view them as people, not parents, and enjoy getting to know them in ways not possible when you were growing up.
For more on living with parents as an adult, see Under One Roof Again.
Copyright 2010 by Susan Newman, Ph.D.