| August 14, 2012

If you're like an increasing number of Americans, this scenario may be familiar: Your children grew up, moved out, and now, they're moving back.  We asked some family and financial experts for tips on how to best navigate your not-so-empty nest.

Set Boundaries
Experts say it's important for both parents and their grown children to come up with a list of boundaries before move-in day. "A parent and their offspring need to spend time separately considering the boundaries that will work, then come together to discuss and negotiate," says relationship expert Ilene Dillon.

If both sides are unable to find common ground, Dillon suggests that living under the same roof is probably not a good idea, although differences can and should try to be negotiated.

Knowing what is acceptable when it comes to dating should also be negotiated before the adult child returns home, experts say.

"The adult child is honor-bound to be sensitive to the values he or she was brought up with," life coach and author Dr. Terry Diebold says.

Dr. Karen Ruskin, a psychotherapist and licensed marriage and family therapist, also points out that "Parents instinctively feel they have a say about whom their grown child is dating and are quite likely to voice their opinion when their grown child is living under their roof."

Identify Financial Expectations
Many adult children returning home do so in order to save money and gain financial footing. To expedite the savings process, financial expert Vera Gibbons stresses living below your means.  "The key to saving money is spending less than you make!" Gibbons says. "Pretty simple stuff."

Gibbons adds that asking grown children to pay a small amount in rent "is not unheard of." If the children cannot afford to do that, she says it's important for them to assume some responsibility for helping out in another way, "whether it's taking the trash out or doing the dishes every now and then."

Recognize that Parents Are Not Roommates
While living at home as an adult is an opportunity for the parent-child relationship to mature, it's also important to remember that parents are not roommates, Diebold says.

"The main component is mutual respect for family rituals but also for the separate life that each party has developed during the adult child's absence," Diebold says.

"The healthy transition as we age and move out of the nesting home is to have an adult relationship with our parents, and our parents to have an adult relationship with their now adult children," says Dr. Ruskin. "Living back home re-instates old roles and old negative patterns of parent-child relationship dynamics."

Have End Points In Sight
Diebold suggests establishing a timeline for when certain goals are to be met towards moving back out on their own. For example:

  • 9 months to pay off bills
  • 3 months to save for rent or mortgage output.
  • If a couple is saving for a house, the schedule for when that will happen should be calculated.

For grown children who have yet to leave the nest, Dr. Ruskin suggests, "Early to mid 20s is less than ideal to be living at home and is bordering on too long, depending on the situation." She goes on to say if you over-stay your welcome, "you have more likely than not crossed over the line of healthy individuation and are well past due your time to have detached from your parents."