4 Frank Conversations to Have with Your Parents Before Moving Back Home

published Mar 23, 2020
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Credit: Lauren Volo

Moving back home isn’t all that uncommon to do—it’s often a great financial decision that can help people get ahead. With high costs of living across the country and seemingly stagnant wages, living rent-free (or nearly rent-free) can help people pay off their student loans, save for a house of their own, and more. And in the trying times and eventual fallout of, say, a global pandemic, moving back with your parents might even be unavoidable (as long as neither you nor your parents are in a high-risk group). 

However, schlepping your stuff home can be difficult—and can put a strain on familial relations. Moving back in with your parents as an already established adult (complete with adult responsibilities, habits, and routines) is no doubt jarring, and might feel like you’re winding the clock back to your teenage years.

Ahead, here are four conversations that you can have with your parents before moving in with them to help ease the transition for everyone involved. 

Set boundaries

“When an adult child moves home, the household needs rules and boundaries around household chores, finances, and expectations like full-time work or full-time school,” says Dr. Melissa Deuter, a San Antonio-based psychiatrist who specializes in the care of young adults, families, and emerging adults.

“It might help to stipulate how long the adult child plans to stay with parents, and what steps need to take place to move on to the next living situation or stage of life transition.”

While setting boundaries will be beneficial to everyone, it’s important to remember that there’s going to be some give and take. Both parties will need to reach a compromise in order for it to work. And not beating around the bush is the best course of action—don’t be afraid to be direct and engage the conversation as soon as possible. 

Come to an understanding about finances

Personal finance is one of the most popular reasons for moving back home with parents. While many people are able to live at home rent-free or for a significantly reduced price compared to renting an apartment, that doesn’t mean that your parents will be OK with you spending money willy-nilly. 

“Adult behavior includes taking financial responsibility,” says Dr. Deuter. “Each family should define what that means. Maybe that means paying rent or taking care of community college tuition. Some parents want their adult child to save as much money as possible while living back at home, but to contribute by taking care of household chores or errands.”

The important thing, according to Deuter, is that the meaning of financial responsibility is discussed and agreed upon between you and your parents.

Discuss expectations

“Being thrust back into child roles can be confusing and frustrating after time spent away from home as an independent young adult,” Dr. Deuter says. “Parents accepting kids home may feel anxious and confused. They may default to familiar behaviors as parents: Giving orders and advice, and controlling various aspects of their children’s lives.”

To avoid this, it might be beneficial to remind your parents that you’re a responsible adult now and come to a compromise on something that was different for you as a teenager. For example, you may expect to no longer have a curfew like you did when you were 17, but your parents might expect a text by 9 p.m. that tells them when you’re going to be home. 

Draw up a contract

Dr. Deuter has seen success in families who create contracts in order to keep a record of their expectations and boundaries that have been set. 

“Contracts help families in situations like these,” she says. “Families who follow these steps are more likely to stay on track rather than deteriorate into conflict. Planning helps everyone stop and think, rather than react emotionally while trying to formulate a plan in the midst of a struggle.”

This can be especially helpful in times of stress, like the current coronavirus outbreak.

“Contracts are about planning and collaborating,” she says. “They aren’t a tool for parents to exert control over adult children. When used as a collaborative planning tool, they aid families greatly.”