3 Practical Tips for Parents Living with an Adult Child

Posted November 14, 2016 by

3 Practical Tips for Parents Living with an Adult Child

Do you have an adult child living at home with you?  If so, you are not alone.

A recent report by the Pew Research Center shows that living with parents is the most common living arrangement for 18- to 34-year-olds in the U.S. There are many factors that can lead to this — changes in the job market and the economy have made it difficult for young adults to support themselves on their own, and fewer young adults are moving in with romantic partners or roommates.

While this trend to stay at home can be beneficial for many families, it does present its own set of unique challenges. Is it okay to have house rules and expectations when your child is an adult? How can you set limits and boundaries with an adult child? What if you are ready to have your adult child move out?

Here are a few tips for parents living with adult children at home:

  1. Recognize the things that have changed.  Your adult child will be making their own life decisions. While you will always be their parent, your parental authority has changed. You aren’t going to be holding them to the same exact rules they had as teenagers in your home.
  2. Remember that some amount of conflict is normal.  It can be very hard for parents to let go and watch their child make decisions they might not agree with. Adult children can be very resistant to rules or expectations from their parents as they expect and demand their independence. Going out into the world and learning to support oneself is not easy! Remember that this tension is common and a sign that you and your adult child are going through some age-appropriate growing pains.
  3. Come up with a living agreement.  Even if your child is an adult, this is your home and you get to set your own house rules and limits. What are you willing to provide for support and how will everyone in the family support the household? Some parents ask their child to contribute to the household expenses, or they come up with certain chores that everyone participates in. Sit down and discuss your house rules around things such as noise, overnight guests, or drug/alcohol use. Allowing your adult child to live with you is a privilege that you are providing. How will you know if this living arrangement is working for everyone and what will you do if it isn’t working? Click here to download our sample living agreement.

Empowering Parents has a lot of resources for how to live with and set boundaries for adult children. If you are looking for more information, this article is a good next step: Ground Rules for Living with an Adult Child.


When you need guidance through a specific situation, have questions about your program or just need someone to listen when you’re overwhelmed, our professional 1-on-1 Coaches are waiting to help. Each is highly experienced with our range of learning programs and dedicated to personally motivating and supporting you. Learn more about Empowering Parents 1-on-1 Coaching.

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  1. Trying1 Report

    Our 24-year old daughter recently graduated with her MS in teaching however has a sub job that does not pay enough to live in our area. So, she’s home again.  Aside from the natural tension generators, she has started to sleep out over her boyfriend’s house.  Is it fair for me to say, if she does not live by our values, she needs to move out?  I understand the difference between controlling what occurs in our home versus outside, however, this activity almost makes me sick to my stomach, literally.  Thoughts?

    • rwolfenden Report

      Trying1 I hear how much this situation is bothering you, and I’m glad that you’re here reaching out for support.  You make a good point that there is a difference between controlling what happens inside your home and what goes on outside your home.  In addition, your daughter is an adult, and can make her own choices about what she does and her own behavior.  Ultimately, you are in charge of setting and enforcing the rules of your house.  Something you might consider as you decide your next course of action is something James Lehman suggests in his article https://www.empoweringparents.com/article/rules-boundaries-and-older-children-part-i/, which is to think of your daughter as a tenant instead of as your child.  What would you do if a tenant’s behavior didn’t align with your values?  Would you kick out your tenant, or would you tolerate those choices, even if they are not ones that you would make for yourself?  In the end, the decision of whether to allow her to stay with you given the choices she is making away from home is going to be yours to make.  I recognize how challenging this must be for you, and I wish you all the best moving forward.  Take care.

  2. hennypenny82 Report

    oh Lord! we have our 23yo daughter and her 18 month old son now living with us. The baby, no problem, our daughter however is a nightmare, she uses the baby to manipulate us and her ex boyfriend. This morning I simply asked her what time she needed me to babysit tomorrow so I can plan my trip to the gym around the times she needs me, she just went off on me that I am unreliable, etc. My husband and I left for work, she continued to send unpleasant texts, at least eight by the time I was five minutes from the house. I don’t think my request was unreasonable, any babysitter likes to know what time they are needed.
    Anyway, she has been back in our home for one month, the room she uses is an absolute pigsty, I have taken to going in each day to pick up trash, food wrappers, plates, cups etc. and my towels that are left wet on the floor amongst heaps of her clothing, it is just disgusting. She is bossy to my other grandchildren that I watch. She leaves a trail of mess all over the house, never washes a dish, never does laundry, never leaves a room as she found it, it is just so very disrespectful. In July she got mad at us and had nothing to do with us for four months, it was a very distressing time, it was nice to rid of the drama, but we missed the baby, and we worried about her. Our worries were well founded, she was evicted and subsequently returned home. She has just started her fifth job since July, she owes money to two different apartment complexes and who know where else, (we don’t give her any money), Every job she starts she immediately starts telling us how great it is, how they love her, how she is up for promotion opportunities (after day 1 in an entry level job!), and usually within a month her hours are cut and she is basically unemployed again, I can’t even begin to recall how many jobs she has had since turning 18. Her money management is horrendous. We try not to ask her anything, everything is a power struggle, even if you ask her to turn on lamp that is right next to her, she will wait at least five minutes, we just ignore the delay, because if you ask again she will get really rude. She will call my phone and yell at me and if I try to say something she hangs up, calls back, yells, and on and on it would go, except I stop answering the phone, but she will continue to call it repeatedly and send multiple texts.
    We would send her packing, BUT there is an 18 month old baby who needs stability and a home, and our daughter knows this. Now she keeps “threatening” to find a “reliable” babysitter to watch her child, I said she needs to do what she thinks best, she doesn’t appreciate anything at all.
    I can see that she is in a very difficult position, she is broke, homeless, her boyfriend left her, and she isn’t happy about being dependent upon us again. Her only point of power is her child, and she is using that to manipulate her ex and us and that is a bad thing.
    There seems to be no satisfactory resolution to this situation, we allow her to stay at our house for the sake of the baby, but we have to subject to her sloth and emotional abuse, or we ask her to leave and then worry sick about where they are and how they are surviving with nothing and that is not fair to the baby. I really need suggestions on how to disengage from her emotional abuse, a verbal response that shuts down the conversation. Any suggestions?

    • hennypenny82 Report

      I would like to add, her behavior has been difficult since she was very young. Temper Tantrums that went on for hours well into her late childhood. Constant unreasonable demands, almost everyday of her school life there would be some absolute necessity she had to have immediately that day and since we couldn’t justify all of her incessant demands we were subject to her temper tantrums. She is the youngest of four, thankfully she is, if she had been the first child I don’t think we would have had the nerve to have more. We barely got her through high school, she did graduate. Since graduation she has made terrible life choices, has disappeared on us twice, the first time for a month, and returned disheveled and promising a new leaf, joined the air force only to be discharged part way through basic training for what she said was “detachment disorder”. And this past summer disappeared for four months. She is now 23 and her behavior has caused many, many problems for her, yet she thrashes out blaming all of her difficulties on everyone else. Not to mention she is very jealous of her older siblings who are getting on in the world as they behave like adults.

      • rwolfenden Report

        beanbean I hear you.  It’s a difficult position to be in when you feel as though your hand are tied in setting limits with your daughter due to your concern for your grandson’s well-being.  We speak to many parents who find themselves in similar positions with their young adult children, so you are not alone.  With https://www.empoweringparents.com/article/when-odd-kids-entitlement-mentality-and-verbal-abuse-collide/, it tends to be more effective to set a clear limit around the way you expect to be treated, and enforce that limit.  For example, you might say something like, “I don’t like it when you swear at me and call me names.  Stop it.”  Then, stop talking to her until she calms down.  You can also let her know ahead of time what she can expect from you if she engages in this type of behavior, like “I want to let you know that if you call me and start swearing and calling me names, I’m going to hang up and I’m not going to talk with you until you are calm.”  You might find some additional helpful information in https://www.empoweringparents.com/article/rules-boundaries-and-older-children-part-ii-in-response-to-questions-about-older-children-living-at-home/, in which James Lehman discusses young adults being verbally abusive.  I recognize how challenging this must be for you, and I wish you all the best moving forward.  Take care.

  3. Lostmom1973 Report

    I am a single low income mom of 3 children (21,19,&4), with major health issues.
    My problem is with my 19 year old son, who lives in my home and goes to collage full time.
    My son yells at me, calls me foul names, puts me down and refuses to help out in our family,always reminds me of where and what ive done wrong in “his life” ,and demands respect
    It upsets me that he can go to his girlfriends place and do everything for them ,then refuses to do anything that i have asked. This causes great resentment and anger on my part towards his girlfriend her family and towards my son and causes huge fights between us.
    Ive tried verbal agreements with him and it doesnt do anything, he thinks it is a huge joke.
    Im at a loss as a parent as he demands respect to get respect. But hard to do when you get called a b*tch,c*nt,and everything umde the moon ,with constant reminders of how i failed him as a parent.
    Im not sure what to do anymore as his additude towards me really is taking a toll on my mental health as well as my physical health.
    And i dont want my youngest to think/learn that his behaviour is acceptable way to treat me and to be part of a family unit

    • YoSiempre Report

      Lostmom1973 Hello Lost Mom, I have a daughter that was acting the same way, very disrespectful in my OWN house!, so one day she was going on and on angry and yelling so I finally told her, very seriously, I am done with you, I will not tolerate this behavoir anymore, (at this point I have already asked her to leave several times, you know the “if you dont like it, there’s the door), so I told her, “you need to apologize to me and I will not speak to you until you apologize because I do not deserve to be treated this way”…so, two weeks passed and she apologized, but I can tell you that I was really done with her, I could have gone years that I did not care anymore..now, she does not get so abrupt at me, still sometimes she goes snappy, I just get stern and turn around and she knows I mean business, one day she trashed my kitchen (something stupid) and I told her, if you do anything like this again in my house, I will call the cops and drag you out…she never did and she actually moved out with her BF a few months ago (thank God!), now we speak and meet for lunch, we can’t stand each other for long periods and the relationship still rocky but I think by really being serious with your actions you will get better results, one day someone told me, one thing is to be good and another be fair, you are not been fair to YOURSELF  by allowing this kid to treat you like that!, now I tolerated my daughter until she finished college because I wanted for her to at least be able to stand on her two feet, but I can totally relate to you, like I told her one day, (this was before the final straw) I told her ” I am sorry that you feel that I did wrong xx, zz,,yy…and I’m sorry, but I am done saying I’m sorry, it is what it is”, so, send them packing, you really do not need to take this , best of luck

    • MichelleFerguson2 Report

      Lostmom1973 I’m a single mother of three also. So I have a few questions. Who is paying for his college? Does he have a job? If you put him out does he have a place to go? I use to think that raising my girls and my son could be the same but I’m so wrong. With our boys we have to really treat them as the men they will soon be. I would STOP the arguing, STOP the support and give him a date that he has to move out. Yes he’s 19 and some will say oh he’s still a kid. Well guess what he’s old enough to hold a job, join the military, fight for his country. He’s old enough to be on his own. He will be upset if you tell him he has to move out so I highly suggest you have support there when you tell him. Also, does his girlfriend and her family know his behavior at your house? He is your child however your health isn’t worth this abuse because that’s what it is. I would also recommend to seek help for yourself because I believe this can’t be easy and if you put him out it really won’t be easy so please see help.

  4. lark65 Report

    my 20yr son who living with  us he told us his bisexual ,fond someone on porn media a boy from Russia ,sending money to him every week about 200 pounds it looks like he gets manipulating by him because he telling he got no money for his rent he lost his jib hes favourite trainers  broke, so my son sent him pear of shoes ,what shall i do?my son dont want to listen us when we trying to warn him it could be scamming,what shall i do?

    • rwolfenden Report

      lark65 I hear you.  It can be so difficult when you try to warn your child about potential dangers, yet he doesn’t want to listen to you.  As Debbie Pincus points out in her article, https://www.empoweringparents.com/article/adult-children-living-at-home-how-to-manage-without-going-crazy/, your role as parent changes now that your son is an adult, to being a consultant rather than a manager.  It tends to be more effective to step back, and only give advice if your son is seeking it.  While it is normal to want to protect your son, he is an adult and able to make his own decisions.  This also means that he is responsible for the outcomes of those decisions, even if he ends up being hurt emotionally or financially by this person online.  What you are in charge of are your own actions and boundaries.  For example, if your son is constantly sending his money to this person, you might choose to limit the amount of financial assistance you choose to provide to your son.  I recognize that this is not an easy situation, and I wish you all the best moving forward.  Take care.

  5. Edkins06 Report

    20 yr. old. Full time school and work 4p to 4a and another half day each weekend. Apt. she doesnt even stay at, often. Stays at her guys home, but they’re not a couple?! She’s not sure about college, even though she’s a junior and is accruing student loans. Gpa has been lowered, since Freshman year. Barely a 3.0. Pays her own way, although forgets to pay her bills, gets parking tickets that she doesnt pay. Car in my name and i pay her insurance. If she doesnt take care of tickets, she pays her insurance portion. IS not good at calling/texting me back, not good at following up with what she says she will do. Would really rather she not commit instead of not come through. Im very concerned she is not getting the most out of these years in terms of college and beginning the rest of her life. Seems, some not so great, influences as friends. Doesnt seem ambitious any longer. Student loans forever, and for nothing? How can she see that?.And Now? Doesnt want my advise but i always want to tell her what to do. Really want the best for her but her actions make me not even like her right now



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