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How To Navigate Living With Your Parents Again

Moving back in with your parents as an adult doesn’t have the same sigma it once did. For Baby Boomers (those born 1945-1964) and Generation X (those born between 1965 and 1981) moving out of your parents’ home was a sign of maturity and returning would have often been seen as a failure of the child, and even the parent.

However, for Millennials (or Gen Y – born between 1982-1994) and Gen Z (born 1995-2010) the concept of living at home past the age of 18 and even returning home as an adult after having left, is far more socially acceptable now. There are a few reasons for this.

High cost of real estate
The cost to purchase a home has increased significantly in the last 20 years, and it seems to continue to rise each year. The same can be said for rent, with many cities seeing extremely high rental rates as well. This has made it increasingly difficult for people under 30 to afford to buy a home, or even live alone while renting.

As such, living at home longer to save money is very common. In addition, the need to return home due to the high cost of living also happens quite frequently for this age group.

Parents are ok with it
Many Baby Boomer parents were of the mind set that their kids should be out of the house and self-sufficient by the age of 18, or after they had completed their post secondary education. More modern parents, like those of Gen X have much less rigid rules when it comes to moving out.

“Gen Xers are all about parenting. They are a generation that focuses on learning about parenting and caring about work-life balance. They understand the importance of individualism and tend to support their children’s choices for different lifestyles more than past generations. Generation X is also a generation of volunteers and are very involved in their kids’ development.” – Familyeducation.com

COVID hit young adults’ employment the hardest
Most recently, the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic was a big reason for young adults to move back in with their parents.

According to Finder.com, 1 in 10, or 2.8 million Canadian adults, saw a change in their living situation in 2020 due to the COVID-19 pandemic.

The industries hardest hit by job loss between 2020-2021 were accommodation and food services, culture and recreation, and retail. All industries that would employ many Canadians under the age of 30. The result was a mass migration of adult children moving back in with their parents during the “lockdown” period of the pandemic, and for some time thereafter.

There are many reasons why you might find yourself in a situation where you need to move back in with your parents. Often it’s because of a job loss, money troubles, a change in relationship status, or having just finished college or university and needing some time to figure out your next step. Or, alternatively, it could be because your parents need your help at home for some reason, perhaps because of an injury or illness.

Whatever the reason, the following tips will help make the transition and new living arrangements easier for both parties.

Set Clear Boundaries (And Respect Theirs)

Parents planning with adult childThe most important thing you can do to prepare for living with your parents again is to talk about it in advance. Communication is going to be key to creating a situation that works for both parties. These discussions should include creating a list of “house rules” and the setting of healthy boundaries.

Boundaries will vary from person to person, and situation to situation. If you’re living in your childhood bedroom, you’ll have to discuss different topics than if you’re living in a unit that isn’t attached to the house, or a basement suite with a private entrance.

Here are a few topics you should cover and create rules for:

  • Guests and visits from significant others
  • Quiet time
  • Cleanliness expectations
  • Splitting of chores – indoors and outdoors
  • Costs – will you pay rent or contribute to bills?
  • Groceries and meals

Living with your parents as an adult will be different than when you were young, so it’s a good idea to actually write down the new “house rules”. That way you can both reference them, and there’s no confusion.

Having clear expectations of one another and establishing boundaries will help you avoid frustration and arguments and will make the new living arrangement more predictable for everyone involved.

Practice De-escalation and Conflict Management Techniques

Sometimes, no matter how well you plan and prepare, things can happen that will cause conflict and confrontation. Again, the most important thing to remember here is that you’re all adults living together. As such, you’ll need to handle disagreements like an adult because reverting back to your adolescent reactions (i.e. slamming doors, yelling or having a full blown temper tantrum) are not going to be ok anymore.

Whether a specific incident or on-going behaviour is the cause of the conflict, sitting down to have a conversation about it is important. Both parties should be allowed to voice their concerns and offer up solutions, but the key is to stay calm and focus on the issue at hand. Don’t bring up past frustrations that will only make the current situation worse.

From a psychological perspective, having a high emotional intelligence (EQ) is key to healthy relationships:

“Emotional intelligence (otherwise known as emotional quotient or EQ) is the ability to understand, use, and manage your own emotions in positive ways to relieve stress, communicate effectively, empathize with others, overcome challenges and defuse conflict,” says Jeanne Segal, Ph.D., Melinda Smith, M.A., Lawrence Robinson, and Jennifer Shubin of Helpguide.org.

Emotional intelligence is commonly defined by four attributes:

  1. Self-management – The ability to control impulsive feelings and behaviours, manage emotions in healthy ways, take initiative, follow through on commitments, and adapt to changing circumstances.
  2. Self-awareness – The ability to recognize your own emotions and how they affect your thoughts and behaviour, know your strengths and weaknesses, and have self-confidence.
  3. Social awareness – The ability to show empathy so you can understand the emotions, needs, and concerns of other people, pick up on emotional cues, feel comfortable socially, and recognize the power dynamics in a group or organization.
  4. Relationship management – The ability to develop and maintain good relationships, communicate clearly, inspire and influence others, work well in a team, and manage conflict.

Keep the four attributes above in mind before going into a difficult discussion or when you need to de-escalate an argument in the moment. If living with your parents is a living arrangement that you want to continue for an extended period of time, you don’t want to react in a way that will put that (or your relationship with your parents in general!) at risk.

Learn more here: Improving Family Relationships with Emotional Intelligence

Create Routines

Having predictability and knowing what to expect on a daily basis can also help ensure an amicable living situation. This means creating routines and trying to maintain them as much as possible. Here are a couple examples of how you can approach this.

In-house Routines

Creating in-house routines will depend on your situation: Are your parents retired or still working? Are you working? If so, are you leaving the house each day or working from home?

If your parents are retired and you work from home, talk about the hours you’ll be in your home office and keep them updated on daily zoom work calls you might have so they don’t decide to do things that will cause a lot of noise, like use the blender or vacuum during those times.

If you work outside the home, try to maintain a schedule so that things like sharing a bathroom or the kitchen don’t become an issue. Let them know when you plan to get up most days, when you’ll be out of the house, and when you’ll be back.

The same goes for weekends. If you or your parents like to entertain, make sure you let the other party know when you plan to have guests over and what you’ll be doing (i.e. tying up the kitchen or using the TV room for several hours). Making a cleaning and yard work schedule for weekends is also a good idea so that everyone knows what’s expected from them and chores will get done.

Out-of-the-house Routines

Routines that involve being out of the house are also important to create. As mentioned above, if you or your parents work outside the home, it’s important to establish a routine for leaving and returning home each day. This will ensure everyone gets where they need to be on time and without getting in the others’ way.

Creating a grocery shopping schedule is also a good idea. If you keep a running list on the fridge and take turns picking up the items that are needed, you can ensure you’re not upsetting your parents by always drinking the last of the milk or using that last roll of toilet paper.

If you or your parents are social butterflies and like to go out in the evenings, let the other party know when you expect to be home or if you need to be in bed early for something the next day. That way you can be respectful of the other by coming in as quietly as possible, and in turn, keep the noise level down in the early mornings if the other wants to sleep in a little.

Age-up Your Space

Painting a wallIf you’ll be staying in your old room, you should ask your parents if they’d be ok with you giving your childhood bedroom a makeover – mainly, to make it more age appropriate. Just because you moved home doesn’t mean you have to be stuck in your old teen-age surroundings.

If your old twin bed is still in your bedroom but there’s room for a queen, that’s a good change to start with. Then find some bedding that suits your style.

Ask your parents about painting the room if it’s still sporting that old pink or blue from when you were young. In addition, hanging new photos or artwork, or adding a reading chair or desk will help make the room feel more mature and comfortable.

If your parents’ home doesn’t have room to house all the things you had in your previous living space, you may need to look into temporary storage options so you don’t end up overcrowding your parents basement or garage. Self-storage lockers and portable storage units come in a variety of sizes to suit different needs, but if you’ll need moving and storage services during your move back home, a company that offers both will save you time and money.

And, while you’re home and doing some minor renos, it’s a good time to go through boxes of stuff from your younger years that your parents have packed up to see if you can declutter some of your old stuff. Divide items into “keep”, “donate” and “throw away” piles. If there’s a lot in your “keep” pile, consider moving that into your storage unit to free up space in your parents’ home and then you can take it with you when you move out again.

Enjoy the Perks – But Don’t Take Them for Granted

One of the biggest advantages to living in your parents’ home is saving money. Since the cost of buying a home and renting can be too high for many young adults to achieve quickly, living at home to save up for a down payment or first and last month’s rent, can help a lot.

However, don’t forget that you’re an adult, and while you may be at home to save money, you should still look for ways to contribute to the household, whether that’s by paying rent, helping with bills, or buying groceries now and then. Or do things that don’t cost money but will make your parents’ life easier, like mowing the lawn and pulling weeds, cleaning the house each week, washing and putting away dishes, or folding laundry.

It’s also important to continue to do things that will help your money-management skills, like keeping up with a car payment, and car insurance, so be sure to stay on top of those things while putting some money away each month for when you’ll be back out on your own. It can be easy to go into spending mode when you have less responsibilities, however, creating this habit will catch up to you once you leave home again.

If your parents are allowing you to live at home they likely want to help your financial situation and won’t expect a lot of monetary help from you, but be careful that you don’t take that generosity for granted and look for ways to contribute wherever you can.

Share Your Time, Not Just Your Space

Parent and adult child having coffeeWhile living with your parents will mean taking on more responsibilities around the house than you may have had as a child, don’t forget that you’re still their “baby” and they probably want to spend extra quality time with you while they have you back in their house.

Life can get busy with work, friends and significant others, but it’s important to make an effort to maintain your parent/child relationship and have fun together now and then. This could be accomplished by planning movie nights or family meals together. Take turns cooking a big meal for the other once per week, or better yet, prepare it together. Having “family time” will enhance your bond with your parents and let them know that you enjoy spending time with them and appreciate them.

Look Out for Regression

As we’ve mentioned a few times in this post, it’s important to act like an adult while living with your parents so that you don’t revert to your childhood ways, and alternatively, your parents should treat you like an adult. They can’t expect you to follow the same rules as you did when you were younger, and you can’t expect them to do as much for you as they did when you were a child

According to psychotherapist Amy Launder, it’s quite common for adult children to psychologically regress when moving back in with your parents, no matter how independent they were when they lived alone or with friends

“What can sometimes happen is the parent reverts to parent-mode while the adult child struggles for independence. This can lead to the parent being frustrated that their child isn’t following certain rules or deferring to the parent on certain things.

Other times, the adult child reverts to child-mode expecting to be waited on, while the parent struggles for their freedom. This can lead to shouting matches – the adult version of temper tantrums.”

Launder goes on to say that one can impact the other, so when the parent reverts to parent-mode, in ways such as cooking all meals, tidying up, and imposing rules, that behaviour can make the adult child revert to a child-like mode of expecting to be taken care of and reacting to situations in an immature way. In this case, it could become a vicious cycle.

The key to avoiding regression is to clearly communicate with one another and address the possibility of the situation before it happens to ultimately avoid it ever happening.

Seek Support if You Need It

If the reason for your move home is because of a traumatic event, like the loss of a job, having to leave school unexpectedly, or the end of a long-term relationship, it’s important to take care of your mental health.

Being back at home with your parents may offer a sense of comfort, which is a very positive thing, however, be cognizant that you may have deeper feelings that need to be addressed in order for you to fully cope with the difficult event that happen. This can be particularly tough if you’ve moved from a different city and left some of your closest friends behind.

If you find you’re feeling down and having trouble coming out of those negative feelings, you should consider speaking with a licensed therapist. Trained specialists have a deeper insight into human thoughts and emotions and will be able to give you coping skills and mechanisms to help you understand your feelings, grow from them, and eventually move on feeling stronger than before.

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