Our Adult Children Are Living Back Home Again, Help Me!

More millennials are living with parents. You need a parent-child contract.

Posted Feb 04, 2019

Empty-Nesters No More!

Adult children coming back home to live is becoming common. According to a recent Pew Research Center analysis of census data, "living with a parent is the most common young adult living arrangement for the first time on record.” Male millennials are more likely to live at home with parents (35%) compared to females, but females are close behind (29%) and if trends continue will catch up. The report finds that “for the first time in the modern era, living with parents edges out other living arrangements for 18- to 34-year-olds.”

Pexels/Helena Lopes/License CC0
Source: Pexels/Helena Lopes/License CC0

Why Are Children Coming Back Home To Live?

The report suggests the following:

  1. Postponement of Marriage. Millennials are waiting much longer to get married.
  2. Employment Status. Employed millennials are less likely to live at home with parents.
  3. Falling Wages. When wages go down, more millennials head home to live.
  4. Level of Education. Fewer millennials with a college degree live at home.
  5. The Great Recession and Modest Recovery. Unemployment and stagnant wages. I would also add to the list:
  6. Greater Social Acceptance of and Lower Stigma toward living with parents.

The Confluence Of Overindulgence And The Failure To Launch

One pitfall for parents when adult children come home to live is overindulgence, especially over-nurture and soft structure. This reminds me of the movie “Failure to Launch” in which Kathy Bates and Terry Bradshaw, parents of a thirty-something young adult (Matthew McConaughey) hire an interventionist to help them get him out of the house. Mom and dad make it way too easy for their son by doing his laundry, cleaning his room (over-nurture) and not having a clear set of rules to follow (soft structure). It is very easy for both parent and child to slip into old parent-child roles that have evolved over time but may be outdated. It is very easy for both parent and child to slip into old parent-child roles. You are still parent, but now your child is an adult and many of the old roles don’t work. 

Rent, food, chores, alcohol, pets, and romantic relationships are only a few of the hotspot issues that can spark conflict between parents and an adult child returning home to live.

Parents and Children Make Assumptions About Each Other

Frequently parents and children fail to raise these issues until a conflict arises, and when it does, both parent and child fall back on old roles that don’t work. This situation calls for new roles for both parties.

If your own adult child wants to move back in with you, you will need to negotiate a new set of rules for living with each other. One solution is to sit down together and write a contract. Spell out the rules on paper. Set clear expectations and boundaries. Agree on and sign them. (click here to download a sample contract)

Resources for Writing Contracts

There are numerous helpful resources for writing contracts at your fingertips on the internet. Whichever one you use, they all have some common elements such as:

  1. Names and dates of the contract
  2. Rules about paying rent
  3. Rules about paying for food
  4. Rules about paying for internet, cable, phone, etc.
  5. Rules about paying for car, gas, insurance
  6. Rules about paying for health insurance
  7. Chores such as laundry, cooking, cleaning
  8. Having guests over (e.g., spending the night) 
  9. Quiet hours
  10. Use of alcohol and tobacco
  11. Consequences if the contract is not being followed

One useful resource you should read before writing your first parent/child contract is “What To Do When An Adult Child Moves Back Home, Or Has Never Left” by the Online Parenting Coach.

A Difficult Task

Many parents find that writing a contract with their adult child can be challenging because many parents are used to being a caretaker, making sure that their children are always happy, and doing things for their children that they should be doing for themselves. If the task is too daunting, I recommend hiring a parent coach.

What Is Parent Coaching?

"Parent Coaching is helping someone become clear on their own parenting goals through listening, asking powerful questions, teaching skills and providing support to bring about change." A good place to find a parent coach is the Parent Coach Connection.

Please return to "The Age of Overindulgence". My next blog shows you how to determine if you are overindulging your children using a powerful tool called “The Test of Four”.

© 2019 David J. Bredehoft


Pew Research Center: Social & Demographic Trends. (May 19, 2016). Living with a parent is the most common young adult living arrangement for the first time on record. Retrieved December 5, 2018.