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Sharp Health News

When adult children move back home

Jan. 17, 2020

When adult children move back home
Whether it’s because of the end of a relationship, a lost job, the desire to save money or the need to care for an aging or sick parent, many adults move back in with their parents. Recent research found that the number of young adults living in their parents’ home continues to rise, with 15% of millennials, ages 25 to 35, returning to the nest and staying for an estimated three years or more.

Whether they are 20-something or over 40, adult children who return to their parents’ home find that they are mostly pleased with the living situation. In fact, according to a survey, nearly 60% of parents and close to 70% of adult children say they get along well with their roommate-relatives.

Recognize potential conflicts in cohabitating
However, survey respondents also admit that challenges can arise. These include:

According to Caroline Atterton, LCSW, lead therapist in the senior intensive outpatient program at Sharp Mesa Vista Hospital, parents might also sacrifice too much of their own needs for the sake of helping their adult child, often allowing them to live at home without contributing financially. This could seriously hinder parents’ own financial security and future retirement plans.

“Once a parent, always a parent,” she says. “Navigating changing roles can be tricky. Parents may have to adapt to the fact that guidance and advice might not be as readily accepted.”

She further warns that there may even be a reversal of roles, with the adult child parenting the older adult. The parent may start to develop health conditions or disabilities and become dependent on the adult child, which can lead the older adult to begin to feel like a burden.

Family dynamics need to be considered as well. Unresolved issues, ineffective patterns of behavior and communication styles can be reignited.

“The adult child may have moved out years ago, but issues from childhood are still there and can easily be triggered once everyone is under the same roof again,” Atterton says. “Past family conflict could lead to estrangement.”

Atterton recommends setting clear house rules and boundaries before cohabitating, and making an action plan in case things don’t work out. Open communication is key.

“Explore these matters in advance and communicate about the ‘what if’ scenarios,” she says. “Be sure to regularly appraise how things are going to make sure everyone's needs and concerns are being met.”

Enjoy the benefits of living together again
It’s also important to recognize the benefits of living together under the safe roof again. For some, this can be a time when the relationship grows and deepens between parent and adult child.

“Getting to know each other from an adult-to-adult viewpoint can be very rewarding, and offer a deeper understanding and connection,” she says. “You may even find you’re able to work out some of the difficulties that have affected the relationship for years.”

For many older adult parents, changes in late adulthood can bring about a sense of loneliness, isolation and feelings of redundancy. An adult child moving back into the home can provide companionship, and for many, additional care — emotionally, physically and financially. Having an adult child return to the home can also provide the older adult parent with a sense of purpose and usefulness.

“To get the most out of the experience, make sure you share concerns. Talk openly, listen to each other and calmly, but assertively, state your expectations,” Atterton says. “If challenges arise, elicit the help of another family member or close friend, or consider talking to a therapist to help facilitate effective communication and work through problems.”

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