From empty nest to full house: Ways to cope when your adult child moves back home

Many parents enjoy a new lease on life once their children move out of home. All the effort that was once spent supporting them can now be directed towards hobbies and securing a comfortable retirement. But how would you fare if one (or more) of your children decided to return?

These days, it’s not uncommon for empty nesters to welcome their adult children back to the family home. Reasons behind the “boomerang child” trend can range from an unfriendly rental market and inability to find work to breakups and needing time to save for a property of their own.

While the arrangement can be beneficial for children, it can turn into a nightmare for parents. If you’ve found yourself in this position, here are a few steps you can take to help limit the impact to your finances and well-being.

DISCUSS WAYS THEY CAN CONTRIBUTE

It’s natural to want to support your children, especially when they’re struggling. But doing so shouldn’t necessarily come at the expense of your retirement savings. While your child is under your roof, try to avoid putting any undue stress on your finances by encouraging them to chip in where they can.

This might involve them covering their share of groceries and utility bills, or even paying a small amount of rent. Depending on the arrangement you decide on, you might even notice your financial position improving, in which case you can consider contributing extra to your super or other investments.

If money is an issue, think of other ways your child can contribute around the house. Cooking, running errands, assisting with home repairs — all these can be a major help to you and your partner, and can prevent you from coming to see your child as a burden.

DON’T BE JUDGEMENTAL

Try to be sympathetic to what your child is going through. Economic conditions have hit many Australians hard, and young people in particular are bearing the brunt of the current crisis. A low-cost living arrangement can be just what many people need to help regain their footing.

Depending on the circumstances surrounding the move (for example, a relationship breakdown), it might be worth watching for signs of depression too. Think about encouraging regular check-ins with your child to make sure that no one is bottling anything in.

MINIMISE CONFLICT BY SETTING CLEAR BOUNDARIES

It’s true that many children only develop a healthy relationship with their parents after they move out, but living under the same roof again doesn’t have to mean reverting to your old disagreeable ways.

Before your child is even given their own set of keys, make sure you communicate what you’re willing to live with — and don’t be afraid to draw any hard lines in the sand on issues that you feel strongly about.

Some things to think about could include whether they’ll be allowed house guests, what noise levels are appropriate, and if you’ll be prohibiting smoking or vaping. Enforcing a curfew might be excessive, but it’s not too much to ask for quiet when they arrive home after a night out.

DEVISE AN EXIT PLAN

Finally, make sure your child understands that your support has an end date, and this is in their best interests. This might mean informing them that their stay will only last six months or a year, or until they’ve regained their independence by saving enough money or finding a job.

In the meantime, try to resist the urge to bail them out financially, or to create conditions that are so comfortable that your new houseguest won’t be motivated to leave.

It might sound harsh, but at the end of the day your home isn’t a hotel and it’s certainly not your job to wait on your child. If they’re not holding up their end of the bargain, or you’re worried your support is hindering their ability to be self-sufficient, be prepared to pull back.