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Set Boundaries When Adult Children Move Back In

It’s back-to-school time: the point of the year parents look forward to sending their children off to school, knowing that another summer break is months away. However, some parents of adult children are in the opposite mode—instead of sending children away, they may need to welcome their adult children (and possible the child’s spouse and the grandchildren) back home. 

In “Thinking about welcoming adult children back into the nest? Consider these tips before deciding,” Washington Post columnist Michelle Singletary offers some advice. Overall, she writes, “No matter how responsible and hard-working your adult child is, the best-laid plans can go awry. To mitigate the issues that will come up, establish some boundaries for your boomerang adult.” 

Singletary also gets into some specifics that even those who think they are setting boundaries may ignore-

Have the end in mind—Come up with a timeframe for how long your adult child will stay with you. The timeframe may change but it helps to have one in mind. Discuss how long they expect to stay after reaching their goal of getting a job, saving for a house, or paying down debt. Also talk about how often you can ask about their progress towards this goal (once a week, once a month, etc.) without creating tension.

Discuss expenses—Even if you don’t charge rent, your household bills, such as utilities, will go up with more people in the house. Talk about how and who will cover these expenses. You may also want to discuss expectations for ‘payment-in-kind’ options like cleaning or cooking in lieu of money exchanging hands.

Discuss fun money—While you may be okay with your child having fun while they are living with you to get on firmer financial footing, the reality is that if you see them spending freely, you may get annoyed. This also ties into how often you check in about their progress. If your adult child is dining out and buying a lot of things, you may wonder if they are really working towards a financial goal. It is better to set expectations before resentment builds.