Millions of college graduates are not going back to school next month. And they're not moving out on their own. A series of factors - mountains of debt, a tight job market and a generation not used to spreading their wings - conspired and now more nests are fuller than ever.
To help the parents and grandparents whose young adults are living at home, I asked my favorite go-to expert to help us all come up with new ground rules. Social Psychologist Susan Newman, blogger at Psychology Today, author of 15 books, most recently, Under One Roof Again: All Grown Up and (Re)learning to Live Together Happily has seen and heard it all when it comes to multigenerational living situations.
In an earlier post, Midlife and Moving Back Home, Dr. Newman offers great advice on how to manage moving back in with mom as a midlifer. In Boomerang Rules Part I: When a Grad's New Roommate is Mom, Dr. Newman describes essential rules, boundaries and decisions to discuss and create for successfully living with your young adult. Here we have the second half of her terrific survival guide.
Get those boundaries early: "Clear boundaries reduce the disagreements that can readily dampen the emotional rewards of togetherness. At the same time, boundaries re-enforce your values and promote positive behaviors that lead to responsible, independent adult children. If you want to safeguard your time, avoid aggravation and becoming resentful, and keep peace (and at times your sanity), outline your desires. Because returning children have been independent for a number of years, you'll have to be somewhat flexible with rules. For example, the 11:00PM curfew you enforced during high school won't work now. However, you can insist on a call before a designated time when he or she is not going to be home for dinner. If your child is not coming home to sleep, be sure she understands she must let you know—especially if you are a worrier who can't sleep until everyone is accounted for."
Honor your comfort level: "It is your home, after all, and if sleepovers with the opposite sex make you uncomfortable, tell your son or daughter, "not in my house." Same goes for alcohol and parties if they go against your wishes. Don't wait until the drinking bash occurs or you encounter a partially dressed young man or woman in the hallway at 3:00AM. But, you will want to be realistic and listen to what you're hearing. If your daughter is sleeping with someone, don't pretend it's not happening. Having her return home alone at three in the morning presents safety issues you'll want to consider. Similarly, having a guy or gal sleep in a separate bedroom may just be silly given that you know she's been on her own and making these decisions for herself for several years. Discuss your feelings and rules as soon as your child returns to avoid problems and misunderstandings down the road."
Keep in Mind: "Once you've made the practical adjustments to daily living with your grownup offspring, you can live peacefully together as long as you remember:
- This changed person is used to living independently and may have different sleeping and eating habits, routines, even politics from when she left. Be prepared to compromise.
- Respect your adult child's privacy: stay out of his or her room. If you don't see the mess, it can't' drive you crazy.
- Don't pry into his personal life. He'll let you know when there's something you need to know about the job hunt or a special person.
- Be sympathetic to the feelings and challenges your adult child faces that probably include career and job roadblocks or setbacks. Offer to listen and offer advice ONLY IF asked.
- Stick to the agreed plan on ways in which your child contributes.
- Avoid the triggers and topics that set off arguments during the preteen and high school years.
- Be wary of slipping back into your full-time, mommy-parenting role or of becoming too dependent on your boomerang child."
Protect your own life: "One of the major pitfalls of having young adults return home is expecting to be with them, waiting to make plans until they firm up theirs or, worse, giving up what you enjoy on the possibility (and often it's quite remote) your child will be around. Most adult children, on the other hand, hopefully put all their time and energy into making contacts with old and new friends, and in short, trying to get their adult lives in order. Accept that you are not your son or daughter's top priority and that your offspring may cancel plans with you on a moment's notice.
It is very important to keep commitments and social engagements in much the same way you did before the "boomerang." Your young adult can come home to an empty house, prepare a meal, and amuse himself. And, with you out, you give him space to entertain guests without feeling inhibited by hovering parents."
Have fun! "When a college graduate moves home as an adult, there's no question that the relationship has to be reinvented, or in the least, tweaked. Contributions and boundaries foster mutual respect. With it, you'll have the opportunity to know your offspring as a person and he to know you as a grownup rather than only as a parent.
As you enjoy being together, you build a warm, close peer to peer relationship and set in motion the beginnings of a true friendship that will last a lifetime. No question that is the biggest perk of putting out the welcome mat and living together...again."
Read Dr. Newman's great advice for mid lifers moving back in with mom:
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