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How To Deal With Adult Children Living at Home

08/17/2014 07:51 EDT | Updated 10/17/2014 05:59 EDT

Last week I wrote a post about how to live with your parents as a 20 something. Below is my mother's response to my article.

Alright I confess! I do take their shampoo.

My Mother's Rebuttal:

We like our coffee strong. My husband takes it with triple cream and triple sugar. My coffee preference is a poor man's latte with half coffee, half milk. When our daughter, (nicknamed Junior Child because she is the last of multiple children), came back to live at home after graduating from university, she objected to our "bad" coffee. With admirable restraint, we advised her to add boiling water to adjust it to her taste. She stopped her protests and eye rolling after we told her that if she didn't like it, she could buy her own.

When an adult child boomerangs back into the nest, the parent/child relationship must be renegotiated. It can be a minefield. Here are some of the things we learned that might help other parents in the same situation.

1. Don't badger, coerce, rebuke, belittle or compare your kid to the neighbour's kid who just got into med school

It's a tough world out there for new graduates looking for work. The unemployment rate for young Canadians is twice the national average. It's probably higher if you include the young people who are underemployed, working outside their field, or are providing slave labour as unpaid interns.

Kids who are under stress can be difficult to live with. One day my daughter was particularly grouchy and I asked her how the job search was going. She burst into tears and sobbed, "Mom! I just want a job. I'm shut out of the work force." My heart ached for her. We want the best for our kids.

The days of a permanent job with benefits are just not there for this generation. Encouragement will go a long way towards building a harmonious home environment.

2. Work your contacts in a shameless display of nepotism

Our adult children need all the help they can get. That includes introductions to any and all people we know who might be able to connect them to the job market. That first job is important. It sets a person off on a track that is difficult to change. If your young graduate is trained in international development, it's not good to get a first job at a law firm doing administration.

3. Establish house rules early

It could be that you are enjoying your empty nest and repopulating it is not entirely welcome. Everyone has to learn to get along under new rules. We are no longer parents of children. Boomerang Babies are actually adults. Examples of our rules are: if you borrow it, put it back (this applies especially to shampoo); my clothes are off-limits (not a problem for my husband); first one home starts dinner; public spaces stay tidy; if your own space is a mess, close the door so we don't have to see it; advise us if you are coming home late so we don't get worried you have fallen under a bus; don't borrow the car without asking - ever!

4. Expect conflict despite rules

Even if there are an agreed set of house rules, there will still be conflict. This is a tense time for most unemployed grads. They want fun, but have little spending power. They want freedom, but cannot afford to move out of the parental home. They want the car, but have no gas money. They think sassy is cute. Conflict is OK as long as it is resolved. It's how you handle it that is important. Talk, talk and more talk is good. Talk when they are captive, which is usually in the car when you have picked them up from the train or bus stop. That being said, if the house rules are continually broken, it is time to give your child a list of other relatives who might be willing to take in lost souls.

5. Accept rent "in kind"

No one expects to get something for nothing -- even from parents. Our daughter offered to do the grocery shopping. I hate grocery shopping so this was a winning suggestion. It's true that I provided the list, the money and the car, but hey, I don't have to stock the fridge. Depending on a kid's aptitude and experience "rent in kind" could be grass cutting, gardening, car washing or cooking.

After the initial shock of Junior Child moving back home we started to realize that this situation was not so bad. Our individual lives, which had expanded to include activities and friends that were not possible during the child rearing years, were not curtailed. We started to enjoy the company of our adult daughter and were able to offer help with cover letters and resume writing. Finally we realized that when she is gone for good, we know we will miss her.

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