Back to the Basement: Are Your Grown Kids Living in Your Home?

Posted March 5, 2009 by

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I almost laughed when I read an article on about grown children moving back home.  It brought back some old memories about moving in with my parents the summer after college.   For some, this scenario might be described as every parent and grown child’s nightmare, and a sign of “failure to launch.”

Today’s economic downturn is forcing many to get creative and crowded. Families are losing homes, jobs, stability, and may have to turn to family for a place to rest their heads. In fact, I read about one family of five who lost their house but still had the travel camper.  They moved it from parking lot to parking lot to avoid camping fees, and were thankful they had a place to stay at all.

I moved back home for a summer between my second and and third year of college. I didn’t pay rent, I knew how to get around the landlord and I was working so many hours that I avoided all the chores of the house. To be honest, I was a rotten houseguest — messy, entitled, and already all-knowing after just four semesters of college under my belt. I don’t recall buying a bag of groceries or doing anyone else’s laundry except mine. I didn’t keep a curfew, but I didn’t ask for gas money, either.

I had younger siblings at home and I had been replaced by a foreign exchange student who was also there for the summer.  Though the house had not changed, my family sure seemed like strangers. When I asked my mom how it went, she claims she can’t really remember it.  She was working very hard, too. and I think my return home gave her validation that she was a great parent, or I wouldn’t have wanted to move back in.  As a parent, I have a much different perspective on what it must have been like for my mom and dad. Now I look at that time with them as a gift.

Has anyone else let grown kids move back home or allowed grown adults to land at your house for a period of time?  Who is living in your basement, and how are you negotiating the changes?


Annita Wozniak grew up in a large, imperfect family in the Midwest. "As adults we have the power to build children up or tear them down," she says about the challenges of being a responsible parent, "and we never know when what we say is going to be a defining moment in a child's life." Woz is a writer and child-grower living in the Midwest with her husband and their three inspirational children. She is always learning. You can visit her website at

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  1. avjo310 (Edit) Report

    Thank you for your comment. Yes my husband and I are on the same page. My husband had told him that he needs to look for a job everyday, be respectful of everyone in the house, and not come in and out all hours of the night, especially because we have 2 other children who will be starting school here soon in the fall. We have also told him that as long as he is living here rent free, if he does get a job we expect him to pay off his fines (at least half of his paycheck). He has no expenses other than a cell phone. He has no car or no driver’s license. We believe this is a fair request and have told him it would be smart to put more than half towards these or save part of what is left over so he will be able to move out on his own. Thanks for the advise and for listening!

  2. D. Rowden, Parental Support Advisor (Edit) Report

    To ” avjo310″: Thank you for sharing your story with us. It seems you have had some tough years with your stepson. I can understand why you’re concerned about him moving back to live with you and your family. You have dealt with more than any parent or step parent should have to deal with. We would suggest focusing on what you can control in this situation. You may not be able to control the choices your stepson makes but you can control how you choose to respond to him and how you will hold him accountable. It may be helpful for you and your husband to sit down and discuss exactly what your expectations for him will be while he is living in your house, including whether or not he’ll be expected to look for/keep a job, what chores will be expected of him and anything else you believe is important. It’s also going to be helpful to have a clear understanding of how you will hold him accountable if he doesn’t meet those expectations. Keep in mind it is going to be most effective if you and your husband are on the same page. There are some great articles about parenting adult children who live at home. Here are a couple articles you may find useful: Adult Children Living at Home? How to Manage without Going Crazy & Adult Children Living at Home? Part II: 9 Rules to Help You Maintain Sanity. You may also consider finding out what resources and supports are available in your area, in the form of individual or family counseling. Blended families such as yours can offer some unique challenges and it may be helpful to have someone you can talk to about what is going on. The 211 National Helpline is a service you can reach by calling 1-800-273-6222 or by logging onto They can put you into contact with resources and services in your area that may be able to offer some additional support. We wish you and your family luck as you continue to address this challenge. Take care.

  3. avjo310 (Edit) Report

    My husband just allowed his son who is 22 move back again, many times before. He started out running away at the age of 14, the police said they could only bring him back, not make him stay home. He would sneak out at night & then show up days later, staying at friends which we did not know or how to find him. The police said he was not breaking laws and the hard part was after a couple years it was over 18 year old friends. We were not dealing with kids’ parents letting him stay there. He dropped out of school, moved in with an older girl who had a child with someone else and lived with her mother. We did not approve of this but could not do anything about it. His real mother has been pretty absent absorbed in her own life with 2 other kids. He then got in trouble with the law, driving a car with no license, getting in an accident, beating a kid up with a friend of his and taking the kid’s wallet and cell phone. This is considered larceny, he spent a couple months in jail then went to prison and then boot camp a total of about 1 year. He came to live with us out of boot camp. I will shorten this the best I can. He has since been in and out of our home because he does not want to follow any rules in our home. Which leads to my husband and step-son getting into arguments leading to him moving out. He has been in trouble with law since, domestic violence with girlfriend and kicked out of his aunt’s house and now moving back home. I feel I already know the ending. He has never held a full time job, has only GED and now unemployed all together. We also have a 15 year old daughter and 10 year old son to think about. Any advise?!!?

  4. Avonne27 (Edit) Report

    ps I knew that I was not at fault but outsiders did give him that excuse and would talk negativily behind my back. I glad for this information and he yells he is not going to do anything because I am his mother but he has been so mean to everyone.I would like to know more about how to deal with him someone said call the police. He has tickets for not paying traffic tickets.

  5. Avonne27 (Edit) Report

    I am widowed 50plus woman with an 28 year old son that is Disrespectful,Obnoxious Abusive behavior it has affected our family to the point of isolation.When we have sought out help for him he act out to stop going to counselors.One has called him an Socialopath and it has just torn our family up because he has two young children he does not want to be responsible for and blame me for everything just like your book said people DOAB are. I knew I was at fault but I am tired of the rages,up in my face,drinking,sayin he wish he was never born,nobody has gong through what he has.his family has turned their back on him. after I left home trying to teach or prepare him for responsibilty he acts like he does not want it.He felt we have played games with him now its his turn. Our family has had enough.

  6. Fran C B (Edit) Report

    I am a single ‘older’ woman. My ‘children’ are NOT living at home but I am still very much ‘enmeshed’ in their lives; they are in their 50’s!!! I am in my 70’s!! and continued to be co-dependent with them… until a recent “late life crisis” has caused me to do some very grave soul searching…. I love them (as most mothers do their offspring) and have been very ‘fearful’ of them ‘suffering’ too much… I have ‘suffered’ due to developing major depression at 13 yrs. of age so I ‘personalized’ my offsprings’ emotional experiences to be similar to mine when, in fact, that very possibly needn’t be the case. My ’empathy’ and ‘compassion’ have disabled them….
    Their brother suicided many years ago and that has left a gigantic hole in my heart and an enormous ‘fear’… of losing them… and a impetus to ‘ease’ their emotional ‘pains’…
    They are bright, beautiful and very talented but I now realize that my ‘over-protecting’ them has been instrumetal in them becoming more ‘dependent personality’ people than I could ever have imagined.

    I encourage anyone who’s experiencing the difficulties of ‘adult children living at home’ to REALLY consider the longer term effects of being ‘too responsible’ for their offspring. Encourage them to get/do what THEY need to to ‘get it together’ and that doesn’t include the ‘status quo’ or ‘sponging’ off their parents.

    Best wishes and a great big ‘thank you’ to the James Lehman team for the help and encouragement.

  7. Sara Bean, M.Ed., Parental Support Advisor (Edit) Report

    To ‘a mom’s broken heart’: It sounds like you are truly hurt by your daughter cutting off contact with you. The hardest part of this situation is that she can choose to do that if she wants to, as she is an adult. It’s important to keep reminding yourself that all you have control over here is yourself. It’s okay to reach out to your daughter and let her know you care and want to know she is okay. Do your best to find a balance between giving the cold shoulder and being too persistent—sometimes the more you push an issue, the more kids will dig their heels in! In between your attempts to contact her, focus on yourself and taking care of yourself emotionally. Find some activities to engage in to help you cope such as exercise, baking, catching up with an old friend, crossword puzzles, and so on. I am including an article by Debbie Pincus, our expert on the emotional processes behind parenting. The article will give you some pointers you can follow when you do attempt to contact your daughter. And one more thing: Christmas is over two months away. Try not to worry about that. Take one day at a time. Good luck.

  8. a mom's broken heart (Edit) Report

    Our 18 year old daughter started college 2 hours away this Fall after a very stressful 4 years of high school. Although she graduated with a high GPA, her attitude has always been of disrespect, abuse of her brothers, and general sense of entitlement. She is ungrateful, rude, selfish, fought with us constantly, lied about who she was with, disobeyed curfew and expected us to take care of her care without doing anything in return. She worked part time and there met a 24 year old man. She lied about her relationship with him and we later found out that they were having sex. She denied it and we decided to get through the next few months until she graduated. We didn’t prepare a contract (i regret that now), but after we found out that she met this man at a motel while she was supposed to be at a girlfriend’s, we gave her a contract. She refused to sign it and now won’t speak to us and we don’t know where she’s living while on break. What should be our next step? I hate the thought that I won’t see my daughter for Christmas and that she may never want to speak to me again.

  9. Abused (Edit) Report

    My 22 year old has moved back in with us after returning back from Iraq. We already was taking care of her son for almost two years since she joined the military. And not she is here and she tries to corrupt the other kids with her ways. I am not so concerned with a curfew for her but I am concerned with her taking my 18 year old on the roundavues with her all times of the night. She was very rebellious and still is. But thinks she is mature????????? She want be here long. She haven’t ask to pay a bill or anything or even buy grocery and we are not financially fit to carry the load anymore. Why doesn’t these kids understand this.

  10. Cagels (Edit) Report

    I’m a 49 yr old divorcee of 5 yrs with 3 grown children & 1 granddaughter. My 26 yr old daughter moved in/out of my house 5 times in the last 6 yrs. She & her 10 month old daughter now lives with my ex; the 6th time moving home. My ex is foreclosing on his home so I know my daughter will move in with me again. I have serious issues with my 26 yr olds attitude about moving home and have found it very difficult to get her to understand that what she’s doing is wrong.

    I’ve been dating a wonderful man for more than 3 yrs & I would love to have a life with him but we still keep separate homes because I do not want to bring my children’s problems into that relationship. My 26 yr old makes poor financial decisions then moves home to get caught up. Initially we talk and she agrees to pay me rent ($200/mo) then after she’s in she wants to know what I spend the money on then decides to stop paying stating “Parents have an obligation to let their children move in and to help support them financially…that’s what parents do.” I even have some friends who have said “She’s your daughter. She’s got no place else to go.”

    I raised all 3 of my children the same but my 26 yr old just can’t seem to get it together. I can’t turn her away now because my granddaughter’s well being is at stake. It’s been 5 yrs since my painful divorce which hurt me terribly emotionally & financially. I have spent 5 yrs doing without in order to focus on paying off my debts. I have a wonderful man and a new life waiting for me but I cannot fully commit to that relationship as long as I’m expected to take care of my daughter.

    During my entire 22 yr marriage I raised my children and took care of my family. My ex-husband was never home. I was a lonely, depressed, overweight, middle-aged woman and I didn’t know who I was anymore. After 1-1/2 yrs of therpy and sole searching I came out of it a better person (mentally & physically) and met the love of my life; truly. I don’t know how to make my daughter understand that moving in/out of my house is too distruptive. I love her dearly but the burden of her never ending problems is affecting my ability to move on.

  11. Annita Woz (Edit) Report

    Dear Long-Suffering,
    You are a good parent and this is a very, very hard time. Please don’t hesitate to contact your statewide crisis hotline if you feel you are in danger or he is a danger to himself.

    You’re wishing that there were an easy fix for this situation, but as you mentioned, sometimes the paths we take to handle situations don’t always lead to a speedy solution. It is painful, full of shame and blame for loving parents who are doing the best they can with adult children. I can feel the incredible desperation you are experiencing through your words.

    So far you have defined the problems.

    1) He may be mentally ill
    2) He needs guidance from sources who can show him the way to independence – that is a job, and a place to live, a path to mental health.
    3) He is an adult so the path to independence has to one that he chooses to take.
    4) You love him, but you feel powerless to help him or yourself because you are afraid of his reaction.

    He will not choose this new path nor will he seek a mentor on his own. Unless he is forced to leave the comfortable environment you have generously provided for him all these years, the state welfare system cannot give him help.

    That is, when he does not have your basement to live in and needs shelter, food, medical intervention, then he is qualified to get an assessment and the help he needs. I am providing a link here to a series of articles by James Lehman from this website related to this topic. Unfortunately the suspected mental illness factor may make this series inadequate.

    After you read these, you will have to assess what your next step may be. There are many nice ways to say it, but the bottom line is that if you do not want him living in your home, or if you simply cannot handle having him live in your home anymore, then it IS up to you ask him to leave.

    The processes you set in place to assist him in complying may be complicated- even heartbreaking. I suspect you do not have the means to provide a place for him to live and access to supervised mental health care for the rest of his life. Our society is a strange one, where mental illness is one of those gray areas that is expensive, isolating and frustrating for parents of adult children.

    Therefore, you must be prepared to take the advice of professionals and trust law enforcement to insure your own safety and his well-being.

    The alternative is to just let things go the way they are.


  12. Long-Suffering (Edit) Report

    The problem is our 35 year old son who lives in our basement. We have gone through the postings, above, and received no answers. It’s not helping to say “seek professional help” or “get help from the health department and the like. That’s because we have done those things and got just plain bullsh*t. In all cases, we the parents were to blame. So they had NO answers. One so-called “counselor” said, “kick him out.” I need some real answers. Somewhere out there is at least ONE PERSON with the answers. If they have them, they’d make a million bucks. So here’s the problem. So now our son is 35 years old, unmarried (thank God!), has cut down his “work” week to only two days, where he is in charge of carts at a Target store. He has decided to make music, which is his passion anyway. So he plays his instruments, sings to himself and writes sheet music. He did manage to bring over two chums who played music in the basement. Our son is very hard to talk to. He keeps to himself. If questioned to pin down what he is doing, he gets angry. He does not drink or smoke. My feeling is that he needs a mentoring friend. Someone to show him the way. Right now, I think he’s being negatively reinforced by other semi-bums like him. And I think he might me mentally ill as well. ANYONE HAVE ANSWERS AND NOT REFERRALS???

  13. Annita Woz (Edit) Report

    For chris,
    you are starting in the right place asking we know we made mistakes and now how do we get out of it…that is an excellent opening line to a private discussion with your son.

    Your goals remain the same as before the fire and the job loss. You want to help them but not enable, right? That requires figuring out what your boundaries and expectations are and being honest about your limitations.

    You are good parents, you have been generous, supportive, patient and even kind to the girlfriend.

    You should feel no shame in taking the next step and asking your son to be an adult. You have some options here, either you ask them to leave or you ask them to offer you an alternative that meets your expectations. If you choose to let them stay, rent is not an unreasonable request for a full time guy, student or not or trade in chores/grocery/utility. Paying his way builds confidence, competence and pride as he pays it and proves that he can do it. Make sure the rent reflects current market value and consider offering a student discount because he is family as long as he stays in school.

    Contact your local tenant resource center or go on line and get a lease form and do it formally. One parent I know generously set aside the rent and gave it all back to his daughter upon completion of her degree…a motivator of sorts)

    If what you are really saying is that you do not want to be a landlord then you are doing your relationship more harm by allowing him to stay. The girlfriend trapping is a risk, but not your risk (emotionally/financially) unless you make it yours.

    Take care of yourself first, then your son. Girlfriend is his responsibility.

    Good luck in finding your balance and allowing son to find his as well.

  14. chris (Edit) Report

    We have a difficult situation at our home. To make a long story short, we suggested our 20 year old son to move home and save money to go to school and buy a car. His rent was over $600 plus his bills. He moved back home in Sept and in November we had a house fire and lost everything. We stayed in a very large cottage with two living quarters. In January he and his girlfriend lost their jobs due to a their employer closing. So my husband suggested she stay with us until she got a job and got on her feet finaciallyy y. It is now July, we are back in our rebuilt home and she is still with us. She and our son do not pay a dime. Sometimes they buy food. Our son started a paramedic program, did not receive unemployment and the girlfriend did get another waitress job. Our son is working full time and planning on continuing school in the fall. As you can see, we have made several mistakes, but how do we get out of it. I think if we ask them to pay, they will leave, our son will not return to school due to finances. I want to help him, but I am tired of his girlfriend not paying or pulling her weight. We have discussed the great opportunity they have to save alot of money, but it is not happening. I have suggested she get a second job and I even compiled a resume for her. I am afraid if we ask her to go she will get pregnant to trap our son. Yes, it takes two and I have discussed this with him, but he is so trusting! Help.

  15. Stress Mom (Edit) Report

    My daughter and grandson moved back home with my husband(not her Dad)and me over 6 years ago. At the time she said that it would only be 1 to 2 months, how time flies! Like Elaine, I think my daughter is Bipolar as well. She gets to be so mean and nasty at times I can hardly take her. If it wasn’t for my grandson, she would be out on her own also.She will pick up groceries and ask if we need things but she does not contribute to the household expenses. My husband feels like if we ask for her do something she might move and not let us see our grandson but at times it gets to him also and he gets mad over the situation.
    Over 5 years ago she bought a house that had to be totally remodeled(I believe she saw this in a book and thought she could do it) and expects us to go over there daily and work on her house that is a nightmare plus it’s a good distance from where we live. She has not touched this house in over 2 years and gets mad if we suggest that she sells it.
    She also has credit problems.
    It’s good getting that off my chest.

  16. Mary (Edit) Report

    To Elaine; It’s not right for your life to be “hell.” My husband and I highly recommend the Total Transformation program. Our 26 year old daughter has lived with us for the past 18 months,after having worked out-of-state for 3 years. We were having a very difficult time and ordered the program about 3 weeks ago as our last resort. Already we have seen much improvement, and wish we had ordered the program much sooner. Still,”better late than never.”

  17. awstevens (Edit) Report

    I am a sophomore in college 4 hours away from home. I am living in the dorms at school and when I am home, whether it is for summer or holidays I stay at home. I have never thought about staying anywhere else or had my parents say anything about staying anywhere else. I am not asked to pay anything or to do any chores. I do what is asked of me just as I did when I was living there before college. When I graduate I plan on becoming a teacher so depending on where I find a position will determine where I will live. It is not something that I have put much thought into. My parents still pretty much totally support me financially. I have a regular babysitting job but I do not make enough from that to support myself on my own. I have never thought it was unusual the way my parents support me but I do know most people my age are not as lucky as myself. Most of my friends still receive a small amount of money from their parents but for the most part are on their own and have a part-time job on top of all their studies. For now I think it is fine that I am still allowed to live at home. Im not sure if/when my parents will change this for me, but I hope it is not soon.

  18. Annita Woz (Edit) Report

    Elizabeth, it sure seems like your daughter is “on her way” and that you have found a good balance of expectations and she has reciprocated by meeting those. It is clear that you are so proud of her! When she moved back in, did you formally come up with this living/chores agreement or did it just kind of fall into place? I think your story and process are very valuable for others parents to hear.

  19. Annita Woz (Edit) Report

    Grandma Betty- you make an interesting point about enabling behaviors and sometimes, people who are depressed- who get help for everything but their depression- do rely on the “easy” help because sometimes that help is all that a severely depressed person can manage. You have been a landing pad for her several times in her lifetime- all due to depression? If so, you may wish to empower your daughter by leading her to profession help to manage depression. One of the gifts of allowing grown children back in to our homes is that we get time with grandchildren. What a wonderful mixed blessing.

  20. elizabeth (Edit) Report

    Our daughter our one and only “child”graduated from college in another state 2 1/2 hrs. away….we saw her a few times more than the requisite holidays plus summer vacation during those four years.

    Fortunately she is living with us now particularly since unfortunately it is as if a degree in Psych from an “almost” Ivy University has only wrought her low paying jobs such as Starbuck’s initially for about a year, then in the medical field earning $15/hour!

    She says she is happy….we are keeping our fingers crossed that she is planning on more training that will bring her a much higher income in a stable field.

    We give her free rein…but we do ask her to contribute $150 a month for electricity….I didn’t want to charge her anything, but then I thought she really should pay something just because she is an adult! ? And some chores…altho her own room is up to her.

    She is an absolutely wonderful human being, so kind, caring, and responsible. Great sense of humor as well! We are very proud of who she is…naturally we worry about whether we should gently push her out but where could she live on $15/hr? That is what keeps us from even approaching the issue. And this way it would be easier for her to return to schooling of some kind w/o worrying about a lease, etc.

    We also ask that she vacuums the kitchen, hall, and upstairs hall bath once a week which we do need to remind her. And since of our 3 cats, one was a college kitten so she is asked to be responsible for cleaning out litter every night, and washing litter pans about every 2 weeks as well as floor in her bathroom where one of the pans is located…and the hall where the other is.

    Yes, she is in our “basement”..which is above ground at the other end of house with a separate door to close off her bathroom and bedroom/studio! She comes and goes without asking permission since she has her own car.. We are sure to say goodbye and hello even if we are one floor away! Not exactly complete freedom, but close enough! And we do ask for a “signal” of one telephone ring if she stays overnight at her friends.

  21. Grandma Betty (Edit) Report

    My 30-yr. old granddaughter is living with us (along with 5-yr old child) after divorcing. This is the fourth time we have allowed her to stay in our home. The first time was after high school, without a job. Second time was after divorcing the first time. Third time she and family stayed with us while their house was being built. Now after divorcing the second time, she again is staying with us temporarily. We love her and our great-granddaughter, but wonder if we are “enabling her” to take an easy way out instead of making her own way. She does contribute to household expenses, doesn’t create a problem, etc. She is extremely depressed and unsure of where her life direction should go. Over the years she has had counseling, but it doesn’t seem to have helped much. Should we continue to allow her to stay with us indefinitely? We have not set any time line. We appreciate having a site to express our concerns.

  22. Annita Woz (Edit) Report

    I have so much admiration for you for recognizing the challenges your daughter faces (diagnosed bipolar or not yet?) and for being a solid rock of stability for your grandson. He needs this in life. Focus on consistency, acceptance and a lot of loving interaction with your grandson. This site is a good spot to use to sharpen communication skills including figuring out what you need from your daughter while she lives there and the words to clearly ask for what you need. Daughter and grandson will both benefit from this seemingly simple concept as it teaches flexibility and consequences – the two critical skills to have when dealing with individuals/families affected by mental health issues like bipolar, etc. Your local Health and Human services department has education and support groups for families and would be another good resource.

  23. Elaine (Edit) Report

    My 35 year old daughter and 4 year old grandson have moved back in with me and my husband (not my daughter’s father). My daughter just graduated from law school and passed the bar exam. She couldn’t find a job with a law firm, but she is working a related legal-type job (low paying) as a contractor and she is trying to get a legal practice started. It is hell. I believe my daughter is bipolar, as well as being totally self absorbed to the point that she neglects her child. If it wasn’t for the grandson, we would ask her to leave. I often read the blogs and advice for dealing with children, just to figure out how to deal with my adult daughter. It does help. I am so thankful for this site.



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