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How to Create House Rules for Adult Children

Updated on December 7, 2015
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Ms.Treadwell is a licensed attorney and the author of "How Do Hurricane Katrina's Winds Blow: Racism in 21st Century New Orleans."

My adult son during his recent stay with me.
My adult son during his recent stay with me. | Source

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.

Respecting Values

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
(b) neglect;
(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?

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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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By Liza Lugo, J.D.


© 2013, Revised 2015. All Rights Reserved.


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    • lawdoctorlee profile image
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      Liza Treadwell Esq aka Liza Lugo JD 22 months ago from New York, NY

      You're very welcome, tmoose. Thank you for taking the time to comment. I am truly humbled by your words. Reading can be a very healing tool - in so many ways. I'm so sorry for the loss of your daughter. May God bless you and yours always. You now have an angel watching over you for certain.

    • profile image

      tmoose 2 years ago

      I am glad that my daughter found some peace in reading articles of interest, she was looking for some peace and closure in her I life before she died last Feb.4,2014. She was the most beautiful person. Thank you for your writings.

    • lawdoctorlee profile image
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      Liza Treadwell Esq aka Liza Lugo JD 2 years ago from New York, NY

      RTalloni, I so appreciate you taking the time to read my hub and to comment. I'm glad you found this interesting. You are so right about the attitude many people have is that they "should be able to do their own thing anytime they want" and that "rules aren't important." Rules are very important because we all live with other people. We don't live in individual bubbles where we do not affect others. Setting up rules and boundaries are important in every kind of relationship.

      May the new year bring you many wonderful things. Blessings to you & yours.

    • RTalloni profile image

      RTalloni 2 years ago from the short journey

      While this will be useful, as you say, to the families that are living together longer than most are used to, I found this very interesting on another level. One of the problems people face today is an attitude that everyone should be able to do their own thing anytime they want, that rules aren't important. Good stuff with food for thought.

    • lawdoctorlee profile image
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      Liza Treadwell Esq aka Liza Lugo JD 2 years ago from New York, NY

      phdast7, thank you for taking the time to read my work and share your comment. I'm glad you enjoyed this one. My intent was to provide a framework of how to organize family life with adult children. Every family (and person) has different priorities and values which should be respected. Thanks for your willingness to share this hub with others.

      May the new year bring you many wonderful things.

    • phdast7 profile image

      Theresa Ast 2 years ago from Atlanta, Georgia

      Sensible and beneficial rules for all parties concerned. I like that you kept the rules general enough that they can be tailored by each family. This is where one size does not fit all. :) Two of my adult children moved back in, one for 5 months, the other for 9. The 9 month stint did not end well because we did not establish rules and guidelines like we should. I will know better next time. Good Hub. Sharing.

    • lawdoctorlee profile image
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      Liza Treadwell Esq aka Liza Lugo JD 3 years ago from New York, NY

      I've been in your shoes, Ebonny. An open and honest discussion is always best. For me it was..."My job has always been to raise you in a way where you can be independent and contribute to this world. Therefore, I have certain expectations of you at this age for a number of reasons...I love you, society will expect certain things from you, and I'm also deserving of having peace and living my own life in the way that works for me."

    • Ebonny profile image

      Ebonny 3 years ago from UK

      This is very useful and thought provoking. Thank you for sharing. No 6 - no free rides - is really important, but I think it's harder to implement if the adult child never left home in the first place. Any tips on this scenario would be greatly appreciated.

    • lawdoctorlee profile image
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      Liza Treadwell Esq aka Liza Lugo JD 3 years ago from New York, NY

      Denise, thank you so much for sharing your experience here. Glad you are all happier after establishing rules.

    • denise.w.anderson profile image

      Denise W Anderson 3 years ago from Bismarck, North Dakota

      This area is one that I wish I had taken into consideration when my daughter moved home. It took us several tries to get some rules established, and now that they are, we are all a lot happier.

    • lawdoctorlee profile image
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      Liza Treadwell Esq aka Liza Lugo JD 3 years ago from New York, NY

      Thank you very much for your compliments, Kirsa. Glad you liked this hub.

    • kirsa whitley profile image

      kirsa whitley 3 years ago from Charlotte

      I found your article very well laid out and your perspective flawless ...I wish you the best on continuing to get that message out to the average American family. Farther more in depth when you think of the lower middle class or poverty class to instill these rules and regulations into their children who knows how much the crime rate may go down in certain cities along with high school graduates increasing in numbers. Stability is every thing , adult or best started at a young age . One might want to point toward Eric Erikson's Psychosocial summary chart ....thank you

    • lawdoctorlee profile image
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      Liza Treadwell Esq aka Liza Lugo JD 3 years ago from New York, NY

      Hi Bill! Yes, I agree that statistic is amazing but not really surprising. People really have to have house rules - it makes for a much more peaceful life and sets the pace for a cooperative home. Thanks so much for your comments. Writing for my publisher has really consumed a lot of my time not leaving much for HubPages. But I plan to write on here some more. Sending you my best :)

    • billybuc profile image

      Bill Holland 3 years ago from Olympia, WA

      Good to see you writing again.

      I saw a stat the other day that I found amazing....36% of people between 18-36 live at home with their parents in the U.S.....am I the only one that finds that stat remarkable?

      Yes, we have a 29 yr old son living with us, and your suggestions are right on!