So, your 20-something daughter wants to live at home in her childhood bedroom. Should you happily say yes and make a plate of warm cookies to welcome her back?
Or could this put you (and your child) in a bad spot?
I’ve written in a previous post about the horror of loving mothers and fathers who sacrifice for years only to find themselves in their 50’s, stressed and anxious over unkempt twenty-something children still living in their childhood bedrooms. Many of these parents despair over dependent 20-somethings sleeping in past noon, lounging afternoons away on parents’ couches, helping themselves to food from their parents’ refrigerators, and then staying up long hours into each night gazing into the flickering blue screens of online video games.
You know that there are hundreds of thousands of parents living this nightmare every day, right?
What can you do to avoid becoming that parent?
1. Is your child enrolled in (and making successful progress through) a full-time academic program?
When your child is in elementary and middle school—or as soon as possible after that—start telling your children this important sentence: “Honey, we will be happy to provide free room and board to you after your high school graduation, as long as you’re enrolled in (and making successful progress through) a full-time academic or job-training program.”
2. If your child is still in high school, clearly lay out the plan for the summer after high school graduation.
If your son has committed to attend a certain college, technical school, or university by signing the necessary paperwork before May 1st of his senior year of high school (which is the customary way to commit to a college), tell him that he may live with you rent-free until classes begin the following fall. After that he may continue to live with you rent-free on school breaks as long as he remains enrolled in a full-time academic or job-training program.
If your child decides at any point to not be enrolled in a full-time academic or job-training program, he or she can still live with you under the following conditions:
3. Require rent payments from adult children who aren’t in school full-time.
Tell your child early on that if he’s not enrolled in a full-time academic or job training program, he’s welcome to live with you under the following conditions:
A. He works at a job that he finds himself
B. He covers all his own expenses
C. He pays you fair market rate (a cost equivalent to the rent on a one-bedroom apartment in your city) for the room and board you provide for him.
In the Minneapolis area, where I live, this rental fee would be $1,199.00 per month as of this writing; in the Chicago area it would be $1850.00 per month. Calculate now how much a one-bedroom apartment costs in your area on average, so that your child can plan ahead. If you live in Chicago and he plans to not be serious about college or job training, he’ll have to work 154 hours a week at the Illinois minimum wage in order to afford that rent.
4. If your 20something child is racing to pay off student loans as fast as possible, then yes, please help!
I often tell college grads, “Get out from under those student loans as fast as you can. Sleep on a thrift store cot in your parents’ basement, work three jobs–set a goal of doing whatever it takes to pay off 100% of your student loans in three years or less.
If your child is showing this kind of diligence and responsibility, yes–please do let him or her live at home, as long as the rest of the criteria on this list are being met.
5. Require that adult children living at home provide their own transportation.
This could be a bike or a bus pass, or it could be car payments, gas, oil, insurance, and all necessary auto maintenance.
6. Require that adult children at home treat everyone in your house with kindness and respect.
If they can’t honor this very reasonable request, cheerfully start making a plan for their move-out day.
7. Require that adult children in your home live under your house rules.
Any adult living in your home after high school graduation should cheerfully help with grocery shopping, meal preparation, and an adult level of household chores. He will need to keep his room clean, come home each night by an 11:00 pm curfew so you won’t worry, and have no overnight guests without prior permission.
“Are you kidding?!?” I can hear some parents bellowing. “What 18—24-year-old kid is going to want to live under those conditions?”
Our goal is to treat our children with deep and tender love at every point on their growing up journeys, but at the same time make Mom and Dad’s soft padded nest just uncomfortable enough that the little birds can’t wait to fly.
Want more help from me on this subject?
Read my emphatic post recommending the must-read Meg Jay book “The Defining Decade: Why Your Twenties Matter and How to Make the Most of Them Now.” You’ll find it here.
For clear, step-by-step help helping your adult kids transition into jobs they love, see chapter 13 of my book:
It’s a reference book, so nobody reads the whole thing cover to cover. Pick out what you need to read in it using the fast-paced, 10-minute video instructions here.
You can see hundreds of reviews of it on Amazon at:
(Tell your friends.)
You can see why financial advising professionals love LAUNCH, here.
You can see the top 9 questions parents are asking me about LAUNCH, here.
Read just one chapter of LAUNCH every 1–3 months while your child’s in middle school and high school, and you’ll know every viable strategy for debt-free college at exactly the right time to implement it.
And if your child’s already well past middle school? That’s OK; you can run to catch up. But the process of getting your kids through college debt-free goes more smoothly the earlier you start it—especially if you’re not planning to save up any money to pay for college.
Take a step on this right now. Get regular, inspiring help from me—every Monday morning.
Subscribe to my free weekly email newsletter here.
Do you have specific questions for me about debt-free college and career for your kids?
Who is Jeannie Burlowski?
Jeannie is a full-time academic strategist, podcast host, and sought-after speaker for students ages 12–26, their parents, and the professionals who serve them. Her writing, speaking, and podcasting help parents set their kids up to graduate college debt-free and move directly into careers they excel at and love. Her work has been featured in publications such as The Huffington Post, USA Today, Parents Magazine, and US News and World Report, and on CBS News.
This article was updated on October 30th, 2022.