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How Long Should Your Child Live with You?

One of the realities of life is that more and more adult children are living with their parents. In some cases, the plan is to save money by living at home while a child attends a local college [3]. At other times, the children are “boomerang” children — returning home after college while they try to get their financial feet under them.

In any case, it’s important to have an understanding when your adult children live with you. Remember: It’s still your house, and you’re still in charge. You don’t want your efforts to help your children achieve financial independence to degenerate into enabling them to make poor decisions while making little progress.

Setting Expectations

One of the most important things you can do is to set clear expectations of the conditions related to your child’s continued residence in your home. If the eventual goal is independence, your adult child needs to be making contributions. Here are some things to consider:

Sit down with your adult child and work out the terms of his or her staying at the house. Right now, my brother is living at my house while he tries to get his feet under him. He has been fairly helpful when it comes to preparing food and cleaning up. Additionally, he is willing to watch my son on occasion while my husband and I go out, or while I run errands. Figure out what you all feel is reasonable, and then agree to it.

One of the things you can do is write out your agreement. It seems awfully formal, but it can be helpful in making sure that everyone knows exactly what is expected of the situation. You can all sign, and everyone can have a copy. That way, everyone knows what to expect, and there is less chance of misunderstanding.

Setting a Time Limit or Move Out Deadline

Among the hardest things to do is to set a move out deadline. You might tell your child that he or she can stay for a set amount of months. If your child is living at home while attending college, you can set the deadline for six to nine months after graduation.

In other cases, the deadline might be more flexible. When my sister and her family lived with my parents for a little more than a year, my parents said they could live there until they had paid off much of their debt [5], and were in a better financial position. However, they conditioned that they had to be making regular progress, and they had to be working toward a degree or certification so that self-support was possible. At least one of them also needed to have a part-time job so they could make debt payments and start saving up.

When approached with the goal of helping your adult child prepare for independence, allowing him or her to live with you can be beneficial. However, you have to be clear about your expectations, and enforce them, if you don’t want to cross the line that separates helping from enabling.

What are your thoughts on adult children living with you?

(Photo: Here’s Kate [6])