An Open Letter to Young Adults Who Are Living at Home with their Parents

Dear Young Adult,

So there you are. Living in your parents’ home. Maybe you recently moved back in after graduating from college, or after a difficult divorce or job loss. Maybe you’re trying to save money or going through a transition and need a place to stay temporarily.  Or perhaps you graduated from high school and never moved out, and you’re working or taking classes while still living with your parents.

However you got there, you’ve probably already noticed that living in your parents’ home has some challenges.

Now part of making this a positive experience depends on your parents. My next blog post will be tips for parents. But what can you do on your end to make the situation as positive as possible? Here are a few ideas…

1)  Be a good roommate

You are all adults now. Adults who live in the same house or apartment need to be good roommates.

Good roommates communicate well.  They talk about expectations and negotiate ground rules.

Talk about chores. Who is responsible for what? Will Mom or Dad buy groceries and prepare meals for everyone living in the home? Or are you responsible for your own meals? Who will do the laundry, who will clean the bathroom, who will mow the lawn, who will vacuum?

There are no one-size-fits-all answers to these questions. It’s perfectly acceptable for family members or roommates to divide responsibilities according to what suits their unique situation. But DO have the conversation.  DON’T just expect that however household responsibilities were handled in the past when you were a child or teenager is the way that they should continue to be addressed now that you’re an adult.

Roommates also need to discuss the use of shared space. Are you allowed to have friends over or have parties in the home? Is your room considered your personal space, and are you allowed to keep it as clean or as messy as you want? Good roommates are sensitive to the needs of others in the home.

Communicate about your schedules. If you’ve been out on your own, you’re no longer used to reporting to your parents about where you’re going and what time you’ll be home. But now that you’re roommates, it’s basic courtesy to keep those you are living with informed about your schedule. And clarify with your parents whether they expect you to just keep them informed before you do certain activities like having a friend spend the night, or if they want you to ask permission.

2)  Be respectful

As an adult, when you’re living in a home that someone else owns or is paying for, you aren’t just a roommate, you’re also a tenant. Even if you’re not paying your parents for the privilege of living there, in some ways they are your landlords. You’re not on a level playing field in the same way that two college roommates might be, for example. It’s your parents’ place.

So be a respectful tenant. Ask your parents if they want you to pay rent or pay a share of the utilities. And if you are paying, do it in a timely and uncomplaining manner.

Clarify with your parents how long you expect to stay with them. If you expect to live at home until you find a job, how long do you think that job search will take? If they plan on you finding a job and moving out within two months, but you realistically expect it to take up to six months, that’s a recipe for conflict if you haven’t discussed expectations.

Part of being a tenant is realizing that you’re not entitled to live there. Your parents don’t have to provide you with a place to live now that you’re an adult. They fed you, clothed you, and did their part to keep you alive for 18+ years, and now they’re allowing you to live in their home. So be a good tenant. Respect the property. Abide by any house rules that are important to your parents. Show a sense of gratitude, not an attitude of entitlement.

3)  Be responsible

One of the hard things about living with your parents is how easy it is to fall back into the old family roles. For example, if you were a forgetful teenager, then when you’re back in the home, your mom might start frequently “nagging” you again (she probably calls it “reminding”), and you might respond as impatiently or defensively as you did in the past.

But you’re an adult now. You don’t have to live in those old patterns. Notice when you say to yourself, “Oh no, here we go again.” That’s a sign that a negative pattern has resurfaced.

Once you notice an old pattern, do your part to change it. Maybe say, “Thank you, Mom, for reminding me to make sure I don’t forget my laptop, I know that you’re trying to help. But I’m an adult now, and I need to figure out my own methods to help my memory. So please hold off on reminding me.” And then show her that you’ve changed by not blaming her if you do forget something.

Mature adults take responsibility to do their part to have healthy relationships with the people they live with. Don’t live in a state of irritation, frustration or resentment. Those are all warning signs of relational issues. Do what you can on your end to create new, healthy patterns.

Have a plan for your life. Have a plan for when and how you’ll move out of your parents’ home. If you’ve said you’re looking for work, then don’t spend eight hours a day playing video games. Keep taking steps toward your goals. Let your parents see that you are a responsible adult, and watch their trust in you grow.

4)  Be connected

Even though you are now an adult, you are still a child of your parents. Be a connected family member. Living in your parents’ home gives you a great opportunity to strengthen your relationship with your parents. Build good memories by spending time together. Find things to do together that both of you enjoy.

Now that you’re an adult, your parents’ role in your life needs to change. They should be less of a manager or a coach, and more of a consultant. Don’t ask your parents to do things for you that you can do for yourself – that’s asking them to continue to manage your life. But do ask for their input about how to do things for yourself. Talk with them about your job issues, for example. Ask them for tips about resume writing or interviewing. Discuss relationship issues with them. Listen to the story of how they decided to get married, and what they found most challenging about committing to another person.

Once you start viewing your parents from an adult perspective, you can learn more about them and gain more insight into their history and personality. Take an interest in them; get to know them better — this can be a great time for you to develop a closer relationship with them.

If you do your part to be a good roommate, a respectful tenant, a responsible adult, and a connected family member, these months and years that you spend as a young adult in your parents’ home can become treasured memories.

Please note: I reserve the right to delete comments that are offensive or off-topic.

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