Four house rules for your adult child

Family finances

To live together harmoniously and with mutual respect, experts recommend proactively discussing expectations.


Life after college is an exciting time for both you and your adult child. But it’s also time to make some major life decisions.

One option you should prepare for? Moving back home with the parents.

Living with parents has become increasingly common. More than 32 percent of young adults live with their parents, according to Pew Research, including many who live at home for a while after graduating college, according to a survey by the job site Indeed.

It’s not surprising: Millennials are delaying marriage into their mid-to-late 20’s and they tend to get along better with mom and dad than earlier generations did.

“It used to be you were expected to be on your own and you didn’t really want to hang out with your parents,” says Angie O’Leary, head of Wealth Planning at RBC Wealth Management–U.S. “Today, the relationships are very different.”

There are financial reasons, too: Major urban markets sport high rents and many college grads have student loan debt.

While allowing grown “kids” to move back home helps them save money or pay off student debt, some critics say the practice can keep young adults from taking responsibility for their lives. Another criticism of the practice is that it perpetuates the dependence of a generation raised by hovering “helicopter parents.”

Despite the criticism, your young adult may need or want to move back home and you may agree. But it’s important not to slip back into the old routines, like doing everything for your child or micromanaging their schedules, which can lead to resentment on both sides.

These steps may help make youngsters returning to the nest a positive experience that enriches the parent-child relationship.

Focus on the positives

When your adult child moves back into your home, it may feel like a bit of a disappointment for both parents and child. However, it can be an opportunity to enrich your bond and get to know each other as people, rather than as parent and child.

Parents can use the time with a boomerang kid to teach financial literacy and help them get into the habit of saving and investing, says O’Leary.

“Some families encourage their young adult to put the money they would otherwise have spent on rent, insurance and phone bills into an emergency fund—or into their 401(k) at work—so they get into the habit of getting their employer match and have a solid start financially,” she says.

When her own daughter moved home to Minneapolis after graduating from the University of Denver, O’Leary had her save up the down payment for a house, which she recently purchased. “It was a great eye-opener for her to see how much money goes into things like property taxes and utilities,” she says.

Try to focus on developing interdependence—in which both parties gain something from each other—rather than simply enabling dependence, says Jane Adams, the author of I’m Still Your Mother.

“Having your kid back home can provide companionship, help with household chores or expenses, and can give you a viewpoint into a world you would otherwise miss out on,” Adams says. “You also get to have your parenting validated; you must have been a good parent if your kids still want to be around you.”

Set house rules

Keep in mind that the college graduate who’s returning to you is not the same teenage kid who left a few years ago. To live together harmoniously and with mutual respect, here are four things you and your adult child may want to discuss:

1. Exit plan

Early on, set a hoped-for date when your child will be able to live independently. The date doesn’t have to be set in stone, but at least everyone will be on the same page about the basic timeframe and the temporary nature of this living arrangement. After six months, you can revisit the plan and adjust it as needed.

2. Responsibilities

To avoid feelings of resentment, and to encourage independence, your adult child should have some responsibilities in the household beyond taking care of his or her own space and laundry. Take time to discuss together what those responsibilities will be, such as doing yard work, cleaning or grocery shopping.

3. Financial contributions

Think about how or whether your adult child could contribute financially to the household by paying rent or helping with other bills. In many cases, the reason they are living with you may be to save money, but making some contribution may encourage responsibility and avoid resentment. Just don’t make finances the crux of your relationship.

4. Communicate openly

Resolve to communicate openly, like adults. Decide that if something upsets you or your adult child, you will discuss it honestly and respectfully.

“If your kid says they’re living at home to save money and you see them spending all of it on cars, clothes and concert tickets, it’s OK to ask about it and sit down and set a goal together and make a plan for how to achieve it,” Adams says.

You will be better able to foster positive communication with your young adult if you avoid hot button issues that may have created unhappiness years ago, such as your child’s weight or friends.

The choice is yours

Like most parents, you probably want to help your child in any way you can. But in some cases, adult children can take advantage of their parents or the situation, and no parent has to sacrifice their own finances, safety or values to accommodate a grown child.

“You have to set boundaries for how you’d like for things to go,” Adams says. “And if the situation is just intolerable, the parents get to say, ‘We’d like for you to make other plans.'”

By being proactive, you can avoid making the move back home stressful for yourself and your young adult, and instead appreciate and enjoy the time you have together.

Non-deposit investment products offered through RBC Wealth Management are not FDIC insured, are not a deposit or other obligation of, or guaranteed by, a bank, and are subject to investment risks, including possible loss of the principal amount invested. 

RBC Wealth Management, a division of RBC Capital Markets, LLC, registered investment adviser and Member NYSE/FINRA/SIPC.

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