Adult Children Living at Home?
Part II: 9 Rules to Help You Maintain Sanity

by Debbie Pincus, MS LMHC
Adult Children Living at  Home? Part II: 9 Rules to Help You Maintain Sanity

In Part 1 of “Adult Child Living at Home?” Debbie Pincus talked about the things you can—and can’t—control when your older kids move home—or when they’ve never left. In Part 2 of this hands-on series, Debbie advises parents on what to do before your child moves home, and how to handle it when the living situation isn’t working out.

What’s the golden rule of living with an adult child in the home? Clarify your expectations. This requires honest communication. Represent yourself honestly and openly as a parent. Do you expect your child to do housework, contribute to groceries and bills, and pay rent while he stays with you? How long are you willing to let him live in your home? Will he have access to your car? And what do you need to see him do in terms of job hunting, if he’s unemployed? Really think through what you want and what you’re willing to put up with, and then talk it through. If your child is to have the gift of living back home, so to speak, he also has a responsibility in the areas of courtesy, housework and possibly finances. Those are things that need to be discussed openly and honestly with your child.

The message has to be, ‘To live in this house, you need to show us that you are working towards independence. We need to see that—and you need to help yourself make that happen.

In turn, it’s important to listen to your child openly and respectfully. You have the final word as the parent but you should try to be open to your adult kid’s input. Again, your role as the parent of older kids is to be a consultant, not a manager of their lives. Listen to your child’s expectations as well. Most likely, he will feel a bit guilty or inadequate in some way. He may also feel like he’s still being treated like a child. There are all sorts of things that come up for your kids that make living with their parents uncomfortable for them.

Related: Learn how to restore peace in your home today.

Here are 9 rules that can guide you through this time with your adult child:

  • Before your child moves back in: If your child is about to move back in with you, I think you need to sit down and hammer out some guidelines. Having a plan ahead of time is always good because everyone will know what to expect. Part of the conversation you’ll have with your child is, “Let’s talk about what each of us needs. What’s going to make this work the best?” Make sure everything is clear, because the living situation is all new now. Remember, your adult kids are not coming back in as children. In a sense, they are coming home as guests. And don’t go in with the assumption that it won’t work; you’re ideally working towards collaboration. You want to be very respectful of your adult child as a participant in making decisions, but ultimately, you are the head of the house. In The Total Transformation, James Lehman talks about the four questions you should ask your child when you are anticipating some kind of change. The questions to ask (with some examples of answers you might give) are:
    • How will we know this is working?
    • “We’ll know because everyone will be doing their fair share. We’ll be respectful of each other.”
    • How will we know it isn’t working?
    • We’ll know if someone isn’t pulling their weight or starts overstepping boundaries.”
    • What will we do if it’s not working?
    • “You will make plans to leave within a month.”
    • What will we do if it is working?
    • “We’ll continue with our original plan of six months.”

You might also ask, “What’s the goal?” Is the goal just to make a certain amount of money so your child has a cushion before he goes out on his own? Or is the goal to help him learn how to live on his own? These are all important things to establish before your child moves in. If he’s already living with you, you can still use these questions and “start fresh.” Sit down with your child and say, “Things haven’t been working out quite the way we planned. Let’s start over.”

Related: Having trouble getting through to your child?

Don’t forget to keep revisiting those conversations. From time to time, sit down and talk it through. Be sure to listen to what your child has to say and also tell him how you think things are going. You might have all the best intentions when your older child first moves in and then realize that it’s not working out the way you thought it would. Some kids don’t feel like they’re guests in their parents’ home, and that’s often where the problems start. They may have a sense of entitlement about what you should do for them and what they deserve. I think having those little conversations can be helpful. Just be clear and tell your child what your expectations are.

  • Set limits: Be sure to set time limits and parameters on your adult child’s stay. These can be readdressed or changed around; there can be some flexibility, but be clear about the plan. And that plan might be, “You’ll stay until you get a job,” or “You’re going to stay until you get your first paycheck.” If your child is going to stay until he makes a certain amount of money, be clear and in agreement about that.

Basically what you’re helping to do is create motivation. If there’s no guide and no set time limit, there’s no motivation. You might say, “What we expect is that after six months, you’re going to have your own place.” You’re not telling them what to do; you’re making clear what you’re going to live with.

  • Have a plan of action: Understand that helping your child get on his feet financially doesn’t mean providing everything that he needs and wants. Rather, it’s having a plan that in three months, six months, or a year, you’ll help him get an apartment, for example. You might even start out by paying a portion of his rent, but let him know that after a certain amount of time you’re going to reduce the amount you put in. That way, his responsibility grows while yours diminishes. He is working towards a goal with your help, but not relying on you completely. This is a gradual way of helping someone get on their feet. You might also tell your child that he needs to pay rent at your home. James Lehman suggests that you could consider keeping this money in a special account and then use it to help your child pay his deposit on an apartment.

Questions around finances can get complicated. Your child needs money, but how much are you willing to give? Are you giving it as a loan and expecting them to pay it back? How long do they have to do that? I don’t think there’s one right answer; I just think it has to be right for you. Consider what your finances are and what’s going to stress you too much. I think people have to figure what’s really okay with them and what’s not.

Overall, the message has to be, “To live in this house, you need to show us that you are working towards independence. We need to see that—and you need to help yourself make that happen.”

Related: Having trouble getting on the same page with your spouse?

  • Consider your own needs: Always come from a clear sense of yourself. How will you consider your needs as the adult parent who didn’t expect to have somebody back home? How can you make it work, and what are you willing to put up with? State your needs clearly and firmly to your child. As a parent, really think about what you can and can’t live with. What are your bottom lines? What are your values? What do you expect your child to adhere to if they’re living under your roof? Do you need them to pick up after themselves? Are you willing to let them have friends over and drink in your home, or not? Make sure your child knows those things and respects your rules. If he doesn’t, there’s too much room for resentments to build. You can say, “We’re going to keep open and honest communication where we both listen to each other and hear each other. There are certain responsibilities that come with the opportunity of getting to live here. I expect the house to be kept in a certain order and that if you’re coming home late you have the courtesy to call because otherwise I’ll stay up all night worrying.”
  • Don’t get pulled into guilt: If you’ve always done everything for your child and now you’re asking him to be responsible and contribute to the household, understand that you are changing a system. You will likely get resistance and what’s called “pushback.” Your child might get very angry and say things like, “I can’t believe my own parents are doing this to me!” Don’t get pulled back in and start to feel guilty. As long as you’ve thought it through and considered your own needs and principles, you’ll be able to hold onto yourself through that anger as you insist that your child gets on his own feet.

Anytime you start to feel resentment, you have a responsibility to ask yourself, “How am I not addressing this issue and how am I stepping over my own boundaries here?” In honoring your relationships, you want to make sure that you take responsibility for what you need and what you are asking for. Otherwise you’re going to be saying “yes” to something you really want to be saying “no” to—and that’s not good for any relationship.

  • Try not to react to your child’s anger: Try to be kind but firm and work toward being thoughtful. So rather than responding when your child says something you disagree with or that pushes your buttons, say, “You know what, let me think about what you’re saying and let’s talk later.” Don’t get pulled into that struggle. You can also say something like, “I hear you’re not happy with this and you feel like you can’t find work. I hear you saying that you don’t want to leave. Mom and Dad need some time to think about this. We’re going to discuss this and sit down and talk about this with you later.” This is one way of not getting into a battle with your child—because often times, that’s what it becomes.

I know some parents who are afraid to talk frankly with their adult kids because they don’t want to upset them or make them angry. But remember, if you’re afraid of someone’s anger, you’re never going to be willing to do what it takes. If you’re too careful because you don’t want anybody to be upset, then you won’t come across strongly enough. On the other hand, when you stop being afraid of your child’s anger, you’ll be able to stand up for yourself and let them know you mean business.

Related: Afraid of your child’s anger?

  • When you’re feeling controlled by your child: When an older child is living at home, the situation is usually emotionally charged for everyone. Again, if you’re letting somebody control you, you’d better look at how you’re letting that happen. Ask yourself, “Am I not making clear enough boundaries? Am I not making my expectations known? Am I not making clear how long my child is allowed to stay here or how much money I’m going to give him?” If the answer to any of these questions is “no,” you need to address those issues with your child right away.
  • When the relationship becomes abusive: I’ve worked with parents who have been verbally or even physically abused by their adult kids. When that happens, the question you need to ask yourself is, “What am I willing to live with?” Remember, as James Lehman says, “There is no excuse for abuse”—and this includes abuse from an adult child living in your home. If you feel like you’re in a dangerous situation and the abuse is scaring you in some way, seriously ask yourself, “Is it time for my child to leave altogether?” Another thing to ask is this: “If somebody’s being abusive to me, in what way am I allowing them to do that? Where am I being too passive?” You may need to say to your child, “If I’m feeling endangered here, I will need to call the police. I don’t want to do it, but I may have to.”

Again, keep your own needs—including those for respect and safety—in mind. If the verbal abuse is continuous, the discussion with your child might be, “You need to make other arrangements because it’s no longer working here. What I expect in my own home is peace and calm. If you can respect that, you’re welcome to stay. Otherwise, this is no longer going to work.”

A word of caution: don’t contribute to the problem by reacting to your child’s reactivity—this will only make things escalate. If every time you respond to your child’s anger by getting angry yourself, tuning them out, having shouting matches or getting physically abusive yourself, then you are contributing to the problem. It’s not only about what your child is doing to you—it’s also about how you’re reacting that may be adding to what’s going on. But if things have devolved into a dangerous or intolerable situation, you might decide to say, “No more. You’re out the door and you’ve got to figure it out.”

  • When it’s time for your adult child to leave the nest: I think there are many reasons why you might decide it’s time for your child to leave. You might feel that it’s just not working or that you can’t take it anymore. Maybe your health or finances are too stressed by the situation, or perhaps you just want to be with your spouse and have that time in your life. I think it’s up to you; there’s no right answer. But the bottom line is this: When you feel that you’ve done your part responsibly, or that your child is not living up to his part of the bargain and is taking advantage of you, it may be time for him to move out.

Sit down and talk with your son or daughter if you feel things are not working out. You can say, “If you are going to stay here, I expect certain respectful behavior; otherwise you’re not welcome here. There are certain respectful ways that you live in a house with others and if that’s not possible for you, then maybe it’s time for you to leave.”

Before you ask them to leave, I think it’s very important to think about how you as the parent might be contributing to the escalation of frustration or arguments. If your child says something that makes you angry, how do you handle that anger? Do you handle it in a way that makes things worse, or better? Remember, you’re the parent. No matter how immature your child is being, you need to stay grounded; don’t go to that place. Instead, stay connected to the principles that you want to live by as a parent. And that may be to simply come back later in a mature way and say, “Look, you’re having some problems here and this is what your dad and I think.”

A final word: If your adult child is living with you or planning to move home, it might not necessarily be a bad thing. For some families, it can be a time where the relationship grows and deepens between parent and child, because you’re getting some extra time with your kids. You might be able to work out some of the difficulties that have plagued your relationships for years. So it’s not always a bad thing for adult kids to live at home. I believe the key is for everybody to understand expectations and try to work together in a cooperative, collaborative way. Be cognizant of what’s realistic on both ends. Remember, you’re not there to indulge your adult children and over-function for them. Rather, you’re helping them move towards independence and maturity. And even if there are difficulties, there is still an opportunity for the relationship to grow.

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For more than 25 years, Debbie has offered compassionate and effective therapy and coaching, helping individuals, couples and parents to heal themselves and their relationships. Debbie is the creator of the Calm Parent AM & PM program and is also the author of numerous books for young people on interpersonal relations.


very good advice, I have 3 adult triplets living at home and it is a challange to relate to all 3 as they all have different issues.

Comment By : deb

i like this, its just in time for my situation.myson is 18 and has no plans of moving,collage yes, we"ll see. he has no goals .he is in 12 th grade plus a part time job,he pays his car insurance, and for the internet,gas for his car. at this point i am not sure if he is on line with his age. its just he & I iam a single mom 58 drawing a small retirement check no support from anywhere. this article really hit home, I need more !!!!!!!!!!!

Comment By : miss kay

My 27 year old adult child has moved back home. In the past year he has been diagnosed as bipolar and HIV positive, so there are many issues going on. He is unemployed. Any suggestions for how to manage when physical and mental illness are in the mix?

Comment By : erjie

A whole new set of problems arise when the child/adult has not learned how to live as a responsible adult...has poor health habits, can't keep a house clean, makes poor social decisions,can't keep[ track of time, is depressed, and barely keeps a job with too little pay to save for the future. Do we continue to enable her and give her emotional as well as financial, housing and secretarial support or do we cut the cord as she does not fulfill almost any of the obligations which were understood to be a part of staying home? The last time she tried to support herself she ended up living in tenement type squalor, was robbed and threatened, lost her paycheck, wallet, and returned home so defeated. At least now she is safe and relatively happy. I have many days when i think she is finally growing up, a little, but honestly I do not think she would get along much better on her own now than before. I am worried and, yes, resentful....she has also once or twice taken money from me that she hasn't told me about. My daughter is 22, very smart but has yet to get through a college course without dropping it halfway through. She has always had emotional problems,been in and out of counseling, on and off medication (not much), and has not had an alcohol or drug problem, is not addicted to sex or the wild life (!), and I prefer having her around to the thought that she could be in real danger out on her own. But then I ask I wrong? Am I preventing her from growing?...and frankly I do not want her reliant on me much longer.

Comment By : tired mom

I have two sons, 19 and soon to be 21. Both alternate living with me and their mother. I guess you could say they live with least resistsance. Both have never had jobs or appear to want a job or even want to go to school. I have had them in counceling and job workshop. Again no interest. I hate to not support them, but they continue to bite the hand that feeds them. When should I throw in the towel? I am at my wits end.

Comment By : Willis

* Dear erjie: Probably the best thing that will help you to ‘manage’ is to connect with others who are also caregivers. A support group offers a common emotional connection that will help you to feel less isolated. It can give you a place to release powerful emotions which can help improve your mood and reduce stress. Plus support groups can be a great resource for information. The United Way maintains a data base on resources available in your local area. You may be able to access them by dialing 2-1-1. If not, speak to your physician or local mental health agency. We wish you and your son the best as you work through this challenging time.

Comment By : Carole Banks, Parental Support Line Advisor

* Dear tired mom: It can be very challenging at times to live in harmony with our family members. It helps to talk about any resentment you may be feeling and try to work out a system of sharing the maintenance of your household. When family members are ill, either physically or mentally, we need to support them and help them recover. There is nothing wrong with her staying with you if you believe she would be in real danger out on her own. There are ways for her to learn to be self-reliant and responsible while still living with you.

Comment By : Carole Banks, Parental Support Line Advisor

* Dear Willis: When to ask your children to leave your home is a personal decision. In the circumstance that you describe, there are techniques for requiring a child to ‘leave home’ on a daily basis to seek employment. See: Rules, Boundaries and Older Children Part II. James Lehman writes that you have to force your kids to find work, no matter how menial they may think the jobs are. He suggests establishing a time for them to get up and out the door in the morning and working on completing three job applications per day. Given that we are in an economy that may not have many jobs available in your area, you might look into having your sons do volunteer work. Getting experience—paid or unpaid—can help build your resume.

Comment By : Carole Banks, Parental Support Line Advisor

I have two adult children who are in college and would like to spend the summer working and living at home to save money. They will both return to school in the Fall. My only hesitation is alcohol and marijuana usage. One is now legal age for alcohol and I have not seen any real abuse. I know one has smoked marijuana. I hate any drugs and my children know how I feel. I have been very clear with rules and expectations. Am I out of line asking for a drug test before they move home and once during their stay this summer. We still have a sixteen year old at home. My husband thinks I'm being ridiculous because they are good students and have good work ethic. I just want to know that my rules are being respected while they are home this summer.

Comment By : pb

* Dear pb: You should have rules for your adult kids when they’re staying at your home. It’s very reasonable that one rule is no drinking or drugs allowed in your house. You could consider waiting until your kids appear to have violated that rule before you drug test them. Do your best to get your husband on board with this house rule before the kids come home or you may not be able to enforce it. See: Two Parents One Plan.

Comment By : Carole Banks, MSW, Parental Support Line Advisor

My 24 year old daughter lives at home and has an "internet" boyfriend who she stays online with almost 24/7. She does work a full time job, but when she is not at work, she is on the phone or the computer with him. This guy does not have a high school education and does not work. He is 25 and lives with his parents and is also currently married to another woman (he does not live with her at present but he does live with his parents). My husband and I have tried to talk some sense into her, but she just will not listen to anything we say about his not being a productive person and not getting a job. To top it all off, he and his wife lived with her parents when they were married - he didn't support her then! He and my daughter have been having an "online" relationship for over a year now. He can't even scrape up the money to get a divorce from his wife. I don't see a lot of things like this in blogs and would like to hear if other parents are faced with the same or similar situations.

Comment By : patti

I have a 20 year daughter, dx with bipolar, and a learning disability. She lives in the basement which always a mess. She does not have a job, she does not go to school, and she refuses to get help from the services I have gotten her approved for. She just got her license and drives places. She is always crabby, and irritable. She will take her medication when I get it and give it to her. Her life revolves around sleep. She never wants to talk about the future, gets angry and states she doesnt want to talk about it. She has no friends and does nothing. Since her dx at the age of 11 she really hasnt had friends. She wont go to group sessions with other people. Im frusrtated because I feel that she is just wasting her life away. She does exactly what she wants to do. She has so much potential. How do I get this process going to get her independent. I do not care if she lives in the basement but she does need to get a job, I dont care if its 10 hours a week. Im afraid if I tell her she needs to move out, she will do something that will harm her. She is a major depressant. Meds work and then they dont work,

Comment By : Worried Mom

* To ‘WorriedMom’: It is so hard to have adult children living at home. It’s even more challenging when there is a significant mental health issue involved and your adult child is resisting help. It sounds like you do a lot more work to help her than she does for herself. Whenever children refuse to seek counseling or any other kind of help, we always encourage the parents to be the ones to start the process. You could start off by talking to a professional who knows your daughter’s situation, or start off some place new. Either way, working with someone in your local area can help you get a better understanding of your daughter’s needs, and therefore a better idea about what tools are going to be helpful in motivating her to get a job or take care of herself better. To find local supports in your area you can try dialing 211 from a landline. 211 is an information and referral service run by the United Way, and it is available in most of the United States. You can also visit and enter your zip code to find your local 211 branch’s website. We wish you luck as you continue to work through this.

Comment By : Sara A. Bean, M.Ed., Parental Support Advisor

My husband and I made the mistake of not setting expectations for our 20yos. He has done lots of things totally inconsistent with our values which he had hidden from us. Most of it is out now, but I'm not confident he still won't lie to us in the future. So my question is this: As we set specific expectations for him, how on earth do we make sure he isn't lying to us about what he's up to? He has smoked pot, hooked up with girls met on the Internet (had no idea on this one!), and is actually talking about selling pot to a couple of kids at work. So, how do I make sure he's not doing any of this? This is a kid who is incredibly secretive and good, evidently, at hiding what he's up to. There are some possible mental disorders he may have, but that's no excuse.

Comment By : Stressed Mom

* To ‘Stressed Mom’: It sounds like you are very concerned about the decisions your son is making. The hardest part of all of this is that you can’t control what your son does when he is not in your home and you cannot control the choices he will make at any point, in any setting. Your best bet is to focus on what you can control and that is you, your reaction to your son’s behavior, how you decide to hold him accountable for it, etc. When kids are using drugs or flirting with illegal activity, the best way for parents to hold their child accountable is to use local supports such as law enforcement or substance abuse counseling. For more information on substance abuse and to find support in your area, you may visit or You might also want to read James’ article ‘Is It Time to Call the Police on Your Child?’ for more information. We wish you luck. Take care.

Comment By : Sara A. Bean, M.Ed., Parental Support Advisor

This is SO helpful to know that other families are in the same boat and it isn't just us! One son is fine and porductive, the other one, although he did really well in HS -didn't finish freshman year at a private college. He's home now, staying out all night,working half time and sleeping the rest of the time with a really surly attitude, interspersed with a lovey-manipulative demeanor. No plans for September. I think the tools here will be extremely helpful for me, to set my own boundaries and then let go of the's heartbreaking for sure.

Comment By : SVMOM

My 26 year old daughter is still living at home with my husband and I. This is a second marriage for me, so my husband is not her biological father although he does love her and has been a good "Dad". She was an excellent student and has earned a batchelor's and a master's degree. She works 2-3 jobs at any given time, and does volunteer work, so she is anything but lazy. The problem is she tries to control our lives and is very manipulative. She also seems to have zero interest in getting married. I feel sorry for her and don't want her to be alone, but I have had enough. My husband and I would like to have our lives to ourselves. We have never been without her during our married life.

Comment By : Mom4ever?

For all you parents with an adult child at home that has a job and/or is going to college -- thank your lucky stars. My only child, 28 years old, has quit or been fired from every job he’s ever had: alcoholism and related irresponsibility to blame. I’ve suspected since high school he’s got ADD too. He moved out a couple of times in his early 20s, but it lasted only a few months before he ran out of money. I’ve offered to pay for college or transportation and help with housing anywhere he can find a job, but he does nothing except sleep until late afternoon, watch movies and play computer games. He’s got a DUI on his record and a horrible work history. His last job was commission only furniture sales, which earned him very little and he quit after 8 months. Seems that he has no motivation or interest in doing anything with his life. He’s cut way down on the drinking, but it’s a daily struggle. Another person commenting on this site said it’s “heartbreaking” – so true. I can’t think of anything more painful than watching your child waste his life. Throwing him out of the house when he has no job or any prospects of getting one in this economy and with his record seems out of the question, but I’m at the end of my rope.

Comment By : heartbrokenmom

My husband and I were happily enjoying our empty nest. When one son, got into trouble with the law - lost his job and couldn't get a job. Was living off of his 401k and then lost his house. So he came to live with us. It's been over 2 years. He finally found a job and is attending online classes to be a pharmacy tech. He will be 31. The other son spent 5 years in the Navy. Came back and couldn't get a job or an affordable place to live, so moved with us. It's been over a year with him. It gets hard at times. My husband is not their dad. So there are different dynamics. The older one likes to push buttons - and then there are words. I feel like I walk on eggshells all the time. The Navy son and I, are alot alike and on the same page. Now we are having to discuss room and board. The Navy son pays but the older one is balking at paying a certain amount because he says, he has no spending money. HELLO - since they have moved in, we have no spending money either! Not to mention I used up thousands of dollars that my folks left me. Just to keep us afloat when he was not working. It just hurts that at age 30, he cannot see all that we have done for him. He is not financially able to move out yet - but I am hoping it will be in another year. Lord I hope so.

Comment By : mom2sons

I am amazed at the amount of parents who share similar problems with their adult children. I identify with so many situations. I too, have a 23 year old son who refuses to take responsiblitlity for his poor choices., He is in and out of jobs, currently unemployed and sleeps days and keeps me up at night with his constant "movement" in and out of the house. He can be verbally abusive if I happen to demand too much of him ( which could just be picking up his own clothes from the floor.) I am starting to get physically sick and feel I am at the point where I can't tolerate it anymore and need to figure out a way to have him leave. I know he won't go unless there is outside intervention of some srt so it could get ugly. I just know we cannot cohabitate any longer and will need to look into some support groups to help me through this. I wish there were more in terms of exact advise on how to get them OUT if they don't want to go.

Comment By : serenitynow

* To ‘serenitynow’: You are weighing out a very tough decision here. A support group is an excellent idea! Because laws vary so much from state to state, we have no way of knowing for sure exactly what steps you will need to take to get him out. You can call the non-emergency line for your local police department and they should be able to point you in the right direction. I do know that there are some states that would require you to go through the eviction process with the court system—I have talked to a few parents that reached that point and followed through with it. Whatever it is you need to do, having a support system in place first will be a good idea. This is not easy. We wish you luck as you work through this. Take care.

Comment By : Sara Bean, M.Ed., Parental Support Advisor

Wow, I can relate to everyone of you. I am a parent to one 18 yr old stepson and one 21 year old son, plus a 13 yr old daughter. The 18 yr old, barely graduated, has had two jobs, but has been fired from both, we paid for his first semester in college, but he quit after two months. We kicked him out because our rule was that he had to be in school and doing well in order to live here, thank God, he was really hard to live with, never did the two chores he was supposed to do, would smoke and was so lazy... I just hope he doesn't come back. He is living with a friend and his dad, supposed to get a job and pay rent there, and I doubt that will happen. My 21 year old son just moved out AGAIN, he too has been fired twice from employers! This semester, he is in community college living at the dorms, he will have lots of loans to pay off... I hope he doesn't move back, actually, he can't my husband has had it with the two boys, leaching off of us and not helping around the house when asked and just not being motivated. Things were really tense around here for so many years, I hated to be in my own home, almost got divorced because of the boys and the drama created when they lived here. Now we feel like we have our home back and can enjoy ourselves again. I only hope they don't try to move back home!

Comment By : frustrated mom

Thank you for your feedback. I am in the process of using the courts to start an eviction process. I was advised to have retained a lawyer also which is going to hurt my pocketbook ( as a single parent.) I will be looking into a support group next to help me through this horrific part of my life.

Comment By : serenitynow

I have a 20 year old daughter. she has been out couch surfing for over a year and just returned since she can no longer live in her car. She has made several bad choices and is now without a car and uninsurable (at least more than we can afford). She has been back one week and already we have had damage to our property due to acquaintances of hers being at our home when we are not home. We have made rules that no one can be on our property, there are to be no drugs, etc. and already she has broken those rules. She is finally working but since she has no car it will be very difficult for her to maintain this job. The stress level in our house is very high. I anticipate due to the transportation and drug issues she will lose this job soon. We have set out rules and if she breaks them we will need to make her leave. My concern is where will she go. she has burned many birdges with friends and family and now has no car. I told her to check into the military but she won't. Is a homeless shelter an option?

Comment By : frustratedmom

* To ‘frustratedmom’: It sounds like you have really thought all of this through and made your limits and the potential consequences very clear to your daughter. A homeless shelter may be an option. Since we are not familiar with the resources in your local area, it would be best to ask this question to someone locally for more detailed information. If you’d like you can contact the 211 National Helpline to get information on shelters or other services and resources in your area that might help your daughter. You can reach them at 1-800-273-6222 or visit them online at Ultimately, though, it will be up to her what local supports and services she chooses to take advantage of, if any. We know this is hard and we wish your family luck as you work through this. Take care.

Comment By : Sara Bean. M.Ed., Parental Support Advisor

my daughter and her 4 children ages 10, 9, 6 and 2 live in my two bedroom apartment, 4yrs now, refuses to help with bills and always making excuses for why she cant leave. I dont want to put them out but i am so tiered. have no privacy; clutter everywhere. I cry all the time because I dont want to hurt my grandchildren. I pray. but I still get sad

Comment By : canttellu

My son is almost 21 and is taking a year off college to work (started as full time and now basically 15-20 hrs per week). He spends his time in the basement playing video games and partying with friends when not at work. His room is an ongoing battle as he refuses to put away any clothes - looks like a bomb goes off - I don't know when he does laundry. He piles up filthy dishes in the sink, refuses to empty the dishwasher and put in dirty ones. He does his own cooking and leaves the stove, counters and sink crusted with grease and such. His bathroom is disgusting, never hangs up towels, etc. I am sick of battling with him, it lands on deaf ears. I don't want to ask him to leave as he will be returning to school in September (commuting from home) so I need to establish rules but he doesn't listen. He is controlling the household - I am a single mom working full time. Help!

Comment By : witsend

* To 'witsend': It is very exasperating to have your adult child living at home with you, and not respecting your rules. We recommend looking at what you are willing to live with, and what you are not when coming up with rules for your house. You mention that you do not want him to leave, so threatening him with that will not be effective if you do not plan to follow through. Are you willing to live with having “his” areas of the house (for example, his room and his bathroom) messy as long as the common areas (such as the kitchen) are tidy, or does he need to pick up after himself in all areas? It’s also helpful to clarify what your goal is in having your son live with you-is it to help him save money for school? Is it to have him gain more responsibility in order to make it on his own when he does move out? Once you have figured out what your goal is, it is easier to focus on teaching him the skills he needs. We do find that it’s helpful to tie a privilege with completing what is asked of him. For example, you might let him know that he is not allowed to have friends over until the kitchen is cleaned up. I am including links to an article series I think you might find helpful:
Failure to Launch, Part 1: Why So Many Adult Kids Still Live with Their Parents
Failure to Launch, Part 2: How Adult Children Work the "Parent System"
Failure to Launch, Part 3: Six Steps to Help Your Adult Child Move Out
Good luck to you as you continue to work through this.

Comment By : Rebecca Wolfenden, Parental Support Advisor

My daughter is 24- graduated college but does not have a job. She only wants to do "something that interests her"- therefore no job and almost no volunteer work(she does volunteer exactly 6 hours a week). She watches TV or plays on the computer. Her father will not ask her to do anything- I am the "heavy" requiring chores/taking care of herself and her room. I got her into counseling although I have not seen any improvement. My husband gets angry with me whenever we discuss the situation- and if my daughter does so much as a load of laundry, he tells me I am wrong because she did "something". How do I get them both to see the current reality of life and that it is not healthy for her(or me) for her to be like this?

Comment By : toofrustrated

* To toofrustrated: It can be very frustrating to feel like you are battling on two fronts-one against your husband, and the other against your daughter. We recommend first getting together with your husband privately in a calm time, and talking with him about what your expectations are for your daughter. What is the goal of having her live at home? Is it to save money to move out on her own? Is it to learn some basic living skills and responsibilities before getting her own place? Is it just more comfortable to have her at home with you? Once you have talked through your goals for your daughter living at home, it is helpful to find that common ground that you can both agree on, as well as common expectations for meeting that goal. It may involve coming up with a living agreement for your daughter to follow while she is in your home, such as requiring her to do certain chores, or apply for a specified number of jobs in order to earn privileges each day. I am attaching some articles I think you might find useful:
Failure to Launch, Part 1: Why So Many Adult Kids Still Live with Their Parents
Failure to Launch, Part 2: How Adult Children Work the Parent System
Failure to Launch, Part 3: Six Steps to Help Your Adult Child Move Out
Differences in Parenting? How Your Child May Be Using it Against You
Good luck to you and your family as you continue to work through this.

Comment By : Rebecca Wolfenden, Parental Support Advisor

My 20-yr old daughter has moved in and out 3 times in the last two years. The last two times, she moved in with a older boyfriend of whom I didn't approve. When she moved back in this time, she said it would be for 10 days as she had something lined up with a girlfriend...that was almost 9 weeks ago. I'm a single woman. I divorced her dad when she was two. My kid is an extrovert, I'm an introvert. She takes fewer classes at college so she has ample time to party (and she works part time). I'm exhausted from raising this difficult, boisterous child. I've been dreaming of her departure from my home for a long time. I deeply appreciate your article. She's allegedly moving out on June 2 or so. If this doesn't work, she's going to get a firm departure date from dear ol' Mom who has had more than enough strain and drain financially, emotionally, physically and mentally. I'd like to have a shot at my own personal life before I die of old age and fatigue! Thanks so much for the support here. I needed this article more than you can guess!

Comment By : TiredSingleMom

I have a son who is 27. He has never left home, has had over 50 jobs in ten years. He has a reading, writing, and comprehension disability. He lies, and he steels from me all the time. He does no work, I can't get him to do anything for himself. I dont want to put him out on the streets because he doesnt know how to take care of himself. Do you know of any help center or adult camps or any ascociation that i can get him some help with. I'm tired, I'm broke, and I'm stressed out 24/7. So if any one could help that would be awsome thank you and have a blessing day...

Comment By : stevena27

* To “stevena27”: Thank you for sharing your story with us. I’m sorry you’re going through this. It’s natural to be fearful of what might happen when you don’t believe your child has the skills to make it on his own. I can hear how much you want to help your son become independent. There is a great resource available that may be able to help you find the services you are looking for in your area. The 211 National Helpline can connect you to local resources and supports for both you and your son. You can reach it by calling 1-800-273-6222 or by logging on to We wish you and your family the best as you continue to work through this challenge. Take care.

Comment By : D. Rowden, Parental Support Advisor

I have a 21 year old and on the whole he is a good lad, he didn't do that well at school and has a full time job that pays minimum wage. He does smoke but does it in the garden and not in the house, he talks to me fine, no attitude, we get on really well most of the time. However the one thing I can't handle is the lying, this has been a problem that has risen its head on a number of occasions. This time I have come back from holiday with my partner and my other son who is 23 and all our blu rays are missing. He claims they are round his girlfriends and I would get them back on Monday, Monday arrived and I got 3 back, it was already going through my mind that he had sold them whilst we were on holiday. One of the front covers was black and white and I'm sure I had the colour one. 3 packages have arrived through the post for him so I opened one and it is one the of the blu rays that he owes me. So he has sold them and is now replacing them gradually. Unfortunately when I confront him I suspect the same thing will happen, he will storm out appalled that I accused him of lying, then after a few days I will agree to talk to him, he'll come back, we'll talk, everything will be great until next time. Some people say tell him you love him but it's time he moved out, but I don't know if I'm strong enough or it's the right thing.

Comment By : Carrie

I have got the bottom of the blu rays in the last comment, he did sell them because his friend was being threatened with death threats and he was desperate to try and help him with the money he got for them and had every intention of replacing them. He says he lies because he is scared that people won't like him if they know the truth, basically he wants to be accepted and feels he won't be because his brother doesn't have to and my partner doesn't have to as he's not his dad. I thanked him for his honesty and that I respected him more for owning this situation and if he tells the truth then we can always find a way to deal with something. I told him the lies can't continue and if they do then the consequences will be dire. Honesty is always the best policy.

Comment By : Carrie

Hi my problem is that I remarried my ex friend and my 18 yr old does not live with me but constantly comes over the house to get my 23 yrs old that does live with me so my 18 yr old will storm into the house open the fridge grab the juice bottle and drink from it or he would go over to the stove open the pot grab a spoon and start eating from the pot when I tell him not to do that he's reply is I do what I want or the only person left to eat is Luis (my husband) and he would laugh. My 18yr old and my 11 yrs old boys don't like my husband cause thief father has just filled there heads with so much stuff and they would make fun of my 23 yrs old son if and whn they find out that he talks to my husband or if my husband helps him in any way so this has caused a big strain on my marriage to the point that my husband is moving out I don't know how to explain to my 18 yr old the his behavior is wrong one day I had asked my 23 yr old to take out the garbage and my 18 yr old was there and he said to my 23 yr old don't take out the garbage cause your not the man of the house that's Luis's job and so my 23 yr old follows my 18 yr old is a bad influence on my 23 yr old and I just don't know Wht to do my 23 yr old wants to be loyal to his brother and ex step father that many times he would bring up my husband in conversation that has nothing to do with him. I want to help him its just destroying my marriage my ex brain washed the kids in believing that I had abandon them for my husband and I only love my husband not them among many other things

Comment By : goingcrazy111

* To “goingcrazy 11”: Thank you for writing in to us. The transition between childhood and adulthood can be a rocky time for both parents and children because the parent-child roles and boundaries can change and become less clear. From what you have written, it sounds like your 18 year old son’s behavior when he’s in your house is upsetting for you. That’s understandable. Most people would be upset if someone came into their home, drank out of the juice bottle or ate out of a pan on the stove. Just because it’s your son doesn’t mean the behavior has to be tolerated. At this point we would suggest establishing clear boundaries and firm limits around what behavior is expected and will be tolerated by him when he comes to visit either you or his brother. It may be helpful to think about what behavior you would expect from a guest because even though he is your son, since he is an adult, he is a guest in your home. If he continues to choose not to follow the expectations you decide upon, you may want to consider how often or even if you are going to allow him to visit. I am sorry to hear this situation has had a negative impact on your relationship with your husband. It may be helpful to speak with someone outside of the family for support and advice about ways of dealing with this situation. The 211 National Helpline can put you in touch with local supports and services in your area, such as family or couples counselors, that you mind find beneficial. You can reach the helpline by calling 1-800-273-6222 or by logging onto . They are available 24 hours a day and are there to help. We wish you and your family the best of luck as you continue to work through this difficult situation. Take care.

Comment By : D. Rowden, Parental Support Advisor

I have a 20-year old daughter attending college in another city. The problem is that she has a boyfriend in our home town. She has been coming home every weekend. She goes to his house late and "falls asleep" at his house. She has started not coming home until morning. I cannot allow this anymore because this is not how I raised her. How do I set a curfew for a 20-year-old?

Comment By : Janis

* To “Janis”: Thank you for writing into Empowering Parents. You ask a great question; it’s one we are asked often on the Parental Support Line. Parenting an adult child can offer unique challenges, not the least of which is dealing with issues such as curfew. In his article Rules, Boundaries and Older Children Part I, James Lehman suggests parents should have 2 levels of rules with older children: those that reflect your family’s values and moral authority within your house and those that allow you to live with young adults. From what you have written, it seems your daughter’s choices run counter to your family’s values. We would advise deciding what your expectations are around her weekend visits then sitting down and having a discussion with her about that, as James suggests in the article. It may be helpful to decide before hand what the consequence will be if she doesn’t meet curfew and stays out all night. For example, maybe she would lose the privilege of coming home or her driving privileges the following weekend. Ultimately, you, as the parent, get to decide what the rules and expectations within your house are, including what time people are expected to be in by, as well as how you are going to hold your daughter accountable for not meeting those rules and expectations. You might find these two other articles in James’ series helpful: Rules, Boundaries and Older Children Part II: In Response to Questions about Older Children Living at Home and Rules, Boundaries and Older Children Part III: Is It Ever Too Late to Set up a Living Agreement?. We wish you and your family the best as you work through this situation. Take care.

Comment By : D. Rowden, Parental Support Advisor

Hello I have a 31 year old son who has moved in and out of home. He has moved back home as he got himself into financial trouble. We agreed that he could move back in if he paid board every week without me asking for it and that he cleaned up after himself. Well that did not happen, he pays board when he feels like it and never cleans up after himself. When I talk to him he says I dont want to know. Then there is his 6 year old son who I go and get from his x-girlfriend because he is at the pub. Hes a very selfish person. I think that myself and my husband are enablers who enable him. I think its time I asked him to leave and if he wants to see his son then he can organise and pick him up. He is driving me insane as I love him and his son but I cant and dont want to do this anymore I just want him to grow up, save some money move out and for him to want, love and care for his son.

Comment By : mogs

I was never aware that the 28yr old Step daughter that I inherited would turn out to be one of the laziest women I have ever known. She works 26 hours a week as a barista and the remainder of the day she sits at a computer playing world of warcraft. She has really let herself go to the point of gross obesity. On top of that she never picks up the piles of clothes off the floor or takes any of her dishes from her bedroom to the kitchen until told to. She will not lift a finger around the house, she doesn't do her own laundry but she has bought her own flat screen tv, xbox 360, direct tv, galaxy s3 phone, Wii, and three Mac computers. This woman has zero aspirations to do anything with her life beyond gaming all hours of the day and night. Since I am the step dad I try to enlighten her on the opportunities in life that are passing her bye. Her mother is perfectly fine with her daughter being a total slob, only because she doesn't drink or do any kind of drugs. With that being said should I push forward with kicking her out. She doesn't know how to cook, all she eats is peanut butter and jelly sandwiches and cereal when I have bought milk. She doesn't have friends that she spends time with. Men that she has dated have dumped her for her lazy ways and lack of common sense. Why would she ever leave if shes is fed and pampered every day of her life. Am I just screwed and destined to live this way? Anyone have any advice?

Comment By : AC

* To AC: Thank you for writing into Empowering Parents and sharing your story. Parenting adult children can offer some unique challenges such as what the best approach is for helping them become independent and live on their own. I can hear your frustration around her not pitching in and doing much in the way of helping around the house unless asked. That must be quite annoying. You do make a great point about why she would want to leave if she’s comfortable with things the way they are. Sometimes it does become a matter of making her less comfortable in order to motivate her to move out. Something you might consider doing is setting up a living agreement with your stepdaughter like James Lehman suggests in his article Rules, Boundaries and Older Children Part III: Is It Ever Too Late to Set up a Living Agreement? One of the things he also advises in the article is to charge the adult child rent while she is living in your home. It is going to be helpful if you and your wife are on the same page as far as how you will address this situation. We would suggest sitting down with her and discussing the situation and how the two of you can best help her develop the skills she needs to become an independent adult. You may find the first two articles in the series helpful as well: Rules, Boundaries and Older Children Part I & Rules, Boundaries and Older Children Part II: In Response to Questions about Older Children Living at Home. We wish you and your family luck as you work through this challenging situation. Take care.

Comment By : D. Rowden, Parental Support Advisor

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