Will You Please Just Get Out of Here? Now!

Dear Mr. Dad: How do I tell my two adult children ages 22 and 24—and still living at home—that their father and I need our privacy and space? We have almost no time to ourselves, and romance is virtually out of the question, even more so than when they were little. They come and go as they please, constantly have friends over, and never tell us their plans.

A: Once upon a time, kids moved out of the house at 18, got jobs or went to school, and generally became (or at least acted like) grownups. However, there’s been an interesting trend in recent years. The Pew Research Center recently did a survey and found that the percentage of young adults living with their parents is the highest since the 1950s. In 2010, for example, nearly 22 percent of adults 25-34 had moved back home.

I must admit that I moved back in with my parents after college, but just until grad school started. And years later, after my divorce, I moved back in again. I didn’t stay long then either—mostly because it seemed horribly embarrassing to be living with my parents. Plus, it definitely made dating kind of tough. How many times can you get away with, “Oh, we can’t go to my house because, ah, they’re painting and the place needs to air out”? But as you’re experiencing first hand, the days of feeling embarrassed about living with ma and pa are gone.

In many cases, you can blame the economy. According to the Pew report (which is titled  “The Boomerang Generation”), 61% of adults ages 25-34 say they have friends or family members who’ve moved back in with their parents for economic reasons. And twenty-nine percent of parents of adult children say that a child of theirs has moved back in with them in the past few years because of the economy. So, while this may not make you feel any less resentful, it’s good to know that you’re not alone.

In your case, the biggest problem is that your boomerang children aren’t showing you much respect. You, your husband, and both children need to sit down and have a long, serious discussion. You’ll want to make several points:

  • It’s your house and there are rules. They need to ask before they bring friends over and they need to give you at least a rough idea of when they’re going out and when they’ll be back (a very important point if you want to put that romance back into your life).
  • What are their plans for the future? Are they going to get jobs? Go back to school? Where do they plan to live? Your goal here is to jointly come up with a plan that gets your boomerangers out on their own.
  • Right now, you’re paying the mortgage and utility bills and putting food in the fridge. If they want to stay in your house, they’ll need to start kicking in something towards expenses. If they balk, you might mention that 48% of boomerang children say they’ve paid rent to their parents and 89% say they have helped with household expenses.

Bottom line: If your children can’t or won’t do these things, it may be time to pack their bags. Be firm but not harsh—and don’t be swayed by arguments, tears, and empty promises. Letting your kids walk all over you won’t get you anywhere—and will keep them from ever being able to make it on their own.

A Delightfully Empty Nest + Eliminating Childhood Breathing Problems

[amazon asin=1452105979&template=thumbnail1&chan=default]Guest 1: Christie Mellor, author of Fun without Dick and Jane.
Topic: A guide to a delightfully empty nest.
Issues: Handling the initial adjustment period after the kids leave home; how to say “goodbye”; how to get your little darling to stay in touch—without begging; how to cope when he or she comes home for the Holidays, spring break, and maybe even for several years.

[amazon asin=981435497X&template=thumbnail1&chan=default]Guest 2: Nina Shapiro, author of Take a Deep Breath.
Topic: Clearing the air for the health of your child.
Issues: Why 80-90% of children will have a breathing problem at some point during childhood; which breathing problems are truly worrisome and which are perfectly normal; getting a clearer understanding of what’s really going on when your child breathes in and out.

You’re living where? Really?

Okay, I admit it. I moved back in with my parents after college, just until I got settled. And then, years later, after my divorce, I moved back in again. But I didn’t stay long—mostly because it seemed horribly embarrassing to be living with my parents. Plus, it definitely made dating kind of tough. I mean how many times can you get away with, “Oh, can’t go to my place because, ah, they’re painting and the place needs to air out.”
Well apparently, the days of feeling embarrassed about being an adult and living with ma and pa are gone. The Pew Research Center just did a survey of over 2,000 adults across the country and they found that the number of young adults living at home is at the highest level since the 1950s. In 2010, for example, nearly 22 percent of adults 25-34 were had moved back home. The report, “The Boomerang Generation,” also found that:

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The Unconditional Love Test

Dear Mr. Dad: This isn’t strictly a parenting question, but here goes. My daughter, 26, met a man, left her husband, and is already moving in with her new boyfriend. She never gave us any indication that she was unhappy. It all happened very quickly, in a matter of a month. He’s a nice enough guy, but she kind of forced him on us and we’re not ready to bond with him yet. We’d feel disloyal toward our son-in-law if we welcome this new man into our family. What can we do?

A: Actually, this really IS a parenting question. Our kids are our kids—no matter how old they are—and we’re still going to worry about them when they’re all grown-up. The only difference is that since your daughter’s an adult, you can’t really tell her what to do or ask her to follow your house rules—unless of course, she’s living in your house. You basically have to accept her actions, even if they go against your own judgment.

The end of a marriage or long-term relationship is, in a way, like a death in the family. There’s a natural grieving process, mourning the loss of the relationship and of the people connected with it–especially if you were close to them, as you are with your former son-in-law. If your daughter’s marriage had been bad for a long time, her leaving her husband might not have been much of a surprise.(However, even the end of really horrible relationships involve some grief—the loss of hopes and dreams.) In your case, since this all happened so quickly, you haven’t had enough time to completely come to grips with it.

None of this means that you have any obligation to support—or even agree with—your daughter’s decisions. If you didn’t already, have a talk with her and tell her exactly what you wrote here: That you’re confused, that her actions took you by surprise, that you don’t understand the reasons behind what seems like completely irrational behavior, and that you’re going to need some time to adjust to the changes.

It’s not unreasonable to ask your daughter to explain what happened that led her to make such a sudden, drastic change. Has she really thought everything through? (Going by what you say, it doesn’t seem like she did.) Did she try counseling—with or without your son-in-law? Did she consider a trial separation, to decompress and think things through before plunging headlong into another relationship? Keep your expectations low, though. She may open up and give you a decent explanation, or she may refuse to talk at all, falling back on a favorite teenage refrain: “It’s my life and you can’t tell me what to do.”

Given enough time, you might end up agreeing with your daughter’s decision and loving her new partner. But it’s just as possible that you’ll never understand why she did what she did, and never warm to him. Either way, you’ll have to come to terms with the new cast of characters in her life. One of the most difficult things we have to do as parents is to just be there. So when you’re ready, invite them over for coffee.

Two more quick things. First, be thankful your daughter doesn’t have children—that would complicate things by a factor of 10. Second, given your close relationship with your former son-in-law, it’s fine for you to keep in touch with him. But be very careful not to do anything that your daughter could interpret as “taking sides.”