The Rules for Moving Back Home With Mom and Dad


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The weak economic climate and labor market has forced many college graduates to move back home, but students should be aware: The rules have changed since you last lived with mom and dad.

Recent college graduates have seen a near doubling of unemployment rates from 1998 to 2011 from 7.9% to 15.7% respectively, forcing more young adults to return to their nests. According to a study from the Pew Research Center, since the recession began about 1 in 8 older Millennials (22 and up) have “boomeranged” back to their parent’s home.

“The job market is very, very difficult right now and so many people, even with a college degree, are not finding jobs in their field,” says Suzanna de Baca, vice president of wealth strategies at Ameriprise Financial. “Even if they can find a decent entry-level job, [grads] are strapped with student loan debt, or may have been financially irresponsible with credit card debt, and are really not in a position financially to be able to tackle independence.”

Moving back home is a less-than-desirable situation for graduates and their parents, but there are things each party can do to make the situation more harmonious.

Good Communication

The shock of moving home can be a difficult pill for young adults to swallow. Going from living on their own schedule to adjusting to their parents’ plans means compromises are going to have to be made.

“Certain latitude that you’ve enjoyed with your independence at college or from temporarily living out on your own is going to need to have some give and take,” says Nicholas Aretakis, author of No More Ramen: The 20-Something’s Real World Survival Guide.

A crucial part in co-existing peacefully is open, two-sided communication. Parents need to be upfront about the conditions for moving home and realistic about when the time will be for the student to move out.

“They’ve got to have a pre-agreement; set up what are the rules and expectations,” says Dr. Gregory Jantz, psychologist and author of How to De-Stress Your Life. “This is a short term solution--don’t plan on coming back and living at home for years.”

Jantz says it is important students express gratitude and appreciation; even if the situation is not ideal, don’t project anger and frustration on the people who are helping out.

You’re Never Too Old for Chores

You might have a college degree, but you’re never too old for chores. Young adults should make sure to help around the house without being asked.

Depending on the situation, grads can offer to pick up groceries or help with the mortgage or rent. Contributing something, either literally or symbolically, is the responsible thing to do and shows initiative, says de Baca.

“It’s important that parents and children have a discussion about what kind of remuneration is important,” she says.  “[Contributing financially] might actually be necessary--the parents might actually really need it.”

Be on the Hunt 

Students without a job or contemplating returning to school should be actively seeking opportunities and treat their search like a full-time job.

Aretakis says that the least a child can do is let their parents know what’s going on in their life and that they do have some direction for their future.

“Parents would also like to know that the money spent on their children’s education was put to good use and that they’re actually trying to apply themselves,” he says.

Don’t Fall Back in Time

Moving back home certainly has its positives: a fully-stocked fridge, home-cooked meals, laundry and for some, rent-free living.

“A lot of times when we move back home, emotionally we might regress to a younger age,” says Jantz.  “It’s really easy sometimes to allow yourself to be re-mothered and depending on the parenting style, you could have a mom that will take care of everything again. I don’t think that’s going to be helpful.”

If grads are feeling the sting of a tough job market after spending so much time and money on school, there can be a feeling of shame and poor self esteem. In addition, the sudden loss of independence can cause a lot of kids to feel hopeless and give up, says Aretakis.

“They’re less enthusiastic, less aggressive with pursuing a career, and with really having a sense of responsibility,” he says. “They just accept that their parents are going to continue to provide that financial umbilical cord.”

What Parents Can Do 

“I think it’s very tempting for a parent who is compassionate and loves their child and wants to be helpful and to always put that child first,” says de Baca. “[But] part of the responsibility of the parent is to help the child become independent.”

Despite potential hardships, having a “boomerang” kid can be a positive learning experience for parents. Oftentimes, co-habitation with a different dynamic can make parent-child relationships stronger, says de Baca.

“If the child is trying and making an effort, the parent can see the child in a whole new light and really respect their efforts,” she says. “I think that children that go home as adults can see and understand the work and contributions that their parents make in a very different way.  It can create a new and shared respect.”

Letting your child return home after graduation can be somewhat of a sacrifice, but it shouldn’t change or derail your life plans or retirement goals.

“If you can’t pay your mortgage or put money away for retirement because you’re helping your kid out with inappropriate expenses, a [parent] needs to be very clear that they’re making a trade-off that is detrimental to their financial future,” says de Baca.