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When Your Child Comes Home for the Summer (or for Good)
by Dr. Dale V. Atkins, June 2008

Graduation season is upon us and your child is transitioning from college to the next phase of his or her life. Many graduates are moving to new cities for new jobs. Your child, however, is moving back home. While it may have have been difficult to adjust to a child leaving home, time has passed and now it may be a challenge to have him or her return home.

You and your partner (as well as any other siblings still at home) have gotten used to a routine of life. How do you readjust with an adult child's return, maintaining the sense of freedom you and your partner have developed? Consider establishing a plan and ground rules early enough so that everyone is clear on expectations and responsibilities.

What are key components of such a plan? First, it is important to set some house rules. Negotiate what is reasonable for all members when it comes to laundry, cooking, food shopping, house maintenance, gardening, computer and auto use, as well as entertaining. Bear in mind that your adult child has been living on his/her own and you don't want to turn back the clock and regress. At the same time, things work best when there is mutual consideration of your home and your life. Putting a plan in place is the foundation for a smoother transition.

It is also wise to discuss finances. Start with what they need and what is reasonable. Presumably, you are helping them to become financially independent, and by paying for everything you are not helping that happen. Figure out what you and they can handle. Hopefully, they have already experienced living within a budget and have worked and saved. If not, you can help them understand the basics of budgeting and paying for certain expenses. Some adult children pay rent and contribute to food expenses, phone and cable; others have parents who help them save by putting some money into an account which they will have when they move into their own place.

Future plans are another topic for discussion. How temporary is this new living arrangement and what is the end game? Do you set a deadline for moving out on their own? This works for some adult children. You can make a plan together and revisit that plan every month or two or three to see how they are doing in achieving their goals. Looking for a job, saving for grad school, whatever it is, have a time line. You can always revisit this, but if you don't openly discuss and agree upon goals, one or all of you may develop a growing resentment.

Finally, the key to making this arrangement is respect: for you and for them. Respect each other's privacy, choices, and space. Realize you are adults living under one roof and you must resist the desire to "baby" or "be babied." Avoid falling into roles of doing everything for your adult child or having them expect that you will do everything for them. Remember, your home is now the way station as they complete the rite of passage of moving from their parents' home to their own.

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