- Family and Parenting
How to Create House Rules for Adult Children
Read the Forbes article
- Failure to Launch: Adult Children Moving Back Home
A recent survey shows that more adult children are returning home to live with their parents.
It seems that long gone are the days when kids married young and moved out of their parents’ home to go on and create their own families and handle their own responsibilities. Particularly, given the economy and the high rates of divorce, more adults are moving back in with their folks. We call them "Boomerang Kids."
Despite overwhelming emotional feelings to the contrary, once a child turns 18 years old, he or she is considered by law and society to be an adult. Therefore, they should be treated as adults and be expected to act like adults. They have the right to make their own choices and face the consequences – good or bad. But some of us find our children back home at age 20, 25, or even in their 40s. Statistics show that in the past decade there has been a significant increase of young adults living with their parents. So you are not alone if you find yourself with your adult child back home.
Still, maintaining order, respect, and cooperation in a home is necessary; and you need rules to do that. Most parents have rules for minor children but, when those children are adults, the rules have to change.
It is important to consider the reasons why adult children return home. Some adult children have lost their jobs or are going through a divorce. Some are trying to "launch" by returning to college later in life to improve their economic circumstances. Some return home because they have crashed and burned due to substance abuse or poor decision making. Sometimes illness makes the return necessary. Sometimes families make the decision to live together to reduce their cost of living, which changes the dynamic to having children on a more even and equal footing with the parents. Whatever the reason for the return, considering the purpose for having adult children living the parents is crucial in determining what the rules should be in the home. Still, there are some rules that are universal and should be in place to ensure a happy and healthy environment.
For adult children it is important to have the house rules reflect the values of both the parents and the children. We are all very different; and we come from different backgrounds, cultures, ethnicities, religion, political affiliations, et cetera. As your children have grown they have likely developed their own values. Some may be those you instilled while other values have developed through their own world experiences. It is very important to respect those values as the adult children should respect yours.
Top 10 Rules to Include in Your House Rules for Adult Children
1. Respect. All in the household must respect all members of the household. This includes respect during communication, sharing space, the noise level in the home, treating each other with dignity, respect for others’ property and privacy. If you are the parent and it is your home, there is no room for “card blanche.”
2. Length of Stay: Determine whether the stay is short term or long term. This allows the parents and adult children to have certain expectations and influences the rules that need to be set. For example: if the adult child is staying for a few months, you may not want to charge them rent.
3. Rent: Discuss whether the adult child will pay rent or contribute financially to the household in some way: groceries, utilities, gas, personal needs, et cetera. Some financial contribution should be required because that is the expectation of adults in the real world.
4. Company: Set hours for your adult child to have guests, whether or not you will allow overnight guests, romantic encounters, or extended visits. Determine the amount of guests and frequency of guests.
5. Chores: Discuss what contributions each member has to the household: cleaning private areas and common areas, laundry schedules if necessary.
6. Conditions: Discuss the “deal breakers.” For example: you might set a rule that the adult child has to be working or attending school in order to live at home and not stick around to get a “free ride.”
7. Rights of All Members: Each member has the right to the maintenance of their physical, mental, emotional and spiritual health; the right to be treated with compassion and dignity; and to make their own personal choices that does not affect other members negatively.
8. Obligations of All Members: Each member has the obligation to operate with integrity and honesty and to participate in family meetings.
9. Dealbreakers: Along the lines of “deal breakers,” discuss the danger exceptions, particularly:
(a) abuse – physical, emotional, verbal, financial, silent treatments
(c) risking the life or safety of another member; and
(d) drug and alcohol abuse.
10. Inclusion: Have every household member included in the discussion and agreement so all are heard and treated fairly. Every member must be willing to adhere to the rules and needs a copy of the rules.
Set the example.
As soon as my children could read and write, we drafted house rules together; and everyone signed the contract. It gave everyone a plan, expectations, consequences, and rewards. It worked extremely well. Then, like everyone else, the kids grew up and went along their merry way. Later on when my 27-year old son wanted to live with me for the entire summer, we had a candid discussion before his arrival. I said, “I would love to have you here for that period of time but do you remember the house rules?” He laughed and said he did. Still, I reminded him that they remain the same and as long as he could respect the house rules he could come. He followed the rules without a problem. When he wanted to live his own way, he moved out on his own.
The key is that the authority figures in the home have to be on the same page to support one another and to implement those rules. Guess what? The house rules included rules for the parents as well. Crazy, you might say? It will always be that no matter what we say to our children (no matter how old they are), what we do has more impact on them than what we say. Our behavior has a direct influence on the conduct of our children. Parents must set the example or all is for naught.
Does your family have a set of house rules?
Living Peacefully With Adult Children, Tammy Fletcher, M.A.
Every home needs a set of rules.
I have been in both positions, having my own adult children living with me and living with my own parents as an adult after a divorce. Many of you have as well. Few children look forward to living with their parents once they are adults because they quickly get used to their new found freedom. At the same time, financially, it is hard to make it out there in the world; and the responsibilities can be overwhelming.
I am of the opinion that every household needs a set of rules to abide by to reduce tension, conflict, and stress and to encourage respect, love and a sense of contribution to the family unit. In order for everyone to live a healthy and peaceful life there must be ground rules and boundaries set. It cannot be that one lives the way he or she wants and imposes that on another. It is extremely important to have and articulate reasonable expectations. Communication is key. And because we are not talking about minor children, the parenting plan has to change to accommodate that.
Here’s to getting and maintaining the healthy family you want!
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How important is it to have a set of house rules?
By Liza Lugo, J.D.
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