Hey Mom … I’m Home!

When I speak publicly, there is one subject about kids that always pops up.  What’s a parent to do when they move back? 

I first respond in a kidding manner—Sell the house and get one that is too small for them to move back to/stay in.  This comment always gets a big laugh from my audiences, and some have commented to me that they wish they had thought of this a long time ago.  

Today, over 50% of adults under 26 live under the same roof as their parents.  Some never left home; others have re-appeared on their parent’s doorstep, bags in hand.  And, some bring their own children in tow.  Ironically, this often happens just about the time parents have settled into a peaceful existence that offers them time for themselves—at last. 

Boomerang Kids

You did your job as a parent taught them how to fly the nest and now life has broken one of their wings.  Now, they want to come home.  One of the most common reasons that kids boomerang is immediately following college graduation.  The perfect job hasn’t been found yet, or they might have decided to pursue a graduate study program. 

Surveys of young adults between the ages of 20 and 29 show that 50% plus of them live with their parents.   And depending on which studies you look at, between 30 to 40 percent adult children return to living under their parent’s roof at least once. 

Hello Mom, I’m Your New Tenant

Most people know that there really isn’t a free lunch anywhere, and that includes your boomerang kids.  Coming home shouldn’t mean a free ride or vacation time from being an adult.  

But, some kids do ask to come back home.  The reasons are myriad; the “6-Ps” didn’t take, the roommate vamoosed, a marriage has failed, a job was lost, illness took its toll.  The kid is wounded in some way and wants to lick these wounds under your roof.  And then, your life changes again if you say Yes.   

One of the biggest mistakes, related to me by parents of boomerang kids, is that they haven’t set guidelines for the new life with their adult child under their roof.  And, it’s tough to do.  These “kids’ are used to their autonomy by now and don’t respond to parental authority in the same way they used to.  And, this kid may be a parent to one or more children.   

Additionally, when your kid announces “Mom, I’m coming home” there is often the stress of immediacy involved.  They need (or think they need) your help NOW.  You may be tempted to react emotionally in such a situation and take them in your arms and put no parameters on the move-in.  Don’t do it!  They can have your unlimited love and emotional support in their time of need, but not your unlimited or unrestricted financial support. 

Some kids solve the problem(s) that brought them home and some really never had a problem in the first place.  But the fact is that they are living in your home now.  The rationale may then become — why leave a great, comfortable place, why take on another possibly problem roommate, where else can I get such a good financial deal that I get from Mom and Dad?   

Granted, moving back home can be hard on your kid, her grand life style is gone.  She has to move into her old room that still has the flowered wallpaper and the stuffed animals of yesteryear.  These issues are light, when considering the ones that you as parent are forced to deal with in redefining the relationship with your now, very adult child.  Sticky issues pop up in the area of privacy, sex, life style and money. 

Before They Move In

The best formula for success is to hammer out the guidelines and the agreements you will have with your kids, before they officially move in.   Talk over the following issues with your adult kid and make a contract (you may want to put it in writing and sign it):

¨            What is your financial situation now and what do you anticipate it to be over the next few months?  If the kid is unemployed, what is being done to find new work must be discussed, and re-discussed weekly.   

¨            What options do you have, if any, for living accommodations besides the parental residence both now and in the future?  Your home may not be the best choice after all. 

¨            How long do you need to live at home and when can you leave again?  Pin this one down, i.e. is it two months from now that they will be gone, no matter what. 

¨            What space in your home will you to surrender to your adult child?  This is a crucial question.  You like your life as it is and this is your home now.  Don’t give them carte blanche, even if they bring your grandchildren home with them.  You want them to be comfortable, of course, but not so comfortable that they want to stay forever. 

¨            What will you charge them for living in your home? You must keep the reality of life in front of your adult child by charging them for rent and food, even if they have to pay you back at a later date.  This doesn’t mean that you should charge the “market” rate for rent — be reasonable.  Consider either a percentage of present income or a sliding scale, in case they get a raise or better job.   

A side note when parents get paid rent and the tax implications: The IRS considers this to be under the same roof and with parents only and, you are not required to declare, as income, any rental money received from your child. By charging for living expenses, they will be more eager to spend their money on their place and will do it, hopefully sooner rather than later. 

¨      What household duties will you require of them while they live with you?  They must help with the extra work they create and should not be “on vacation” in your home.   This is not the “old days”; they will not get paid for the required duties.  For example, you have every reason to expect them to keep their areas in the type of condition, that were normal for you (i.e., their use of your guest bath requires “apple pie” order at all times).  Be specific if you expect them to assist you with any cooking or house cleaning activities.  If they don’t do it, don’t do it yourself.  Consider hiring it done and charge it to their account. 

¨            What about expenses other than food and rent?  You are not an ATM.  You may have an unemployed kid at home or some emergency could arise for an employed kid that he can’t cover.  Keep a ledger of all money expended and let them know that these are loans that are to be paid back within a very short period of time and, before they treat themselves to any new toys or entertainment. 

¨            What are the rules about phone and automobile (if applicable) usage?  If your kid will be living with you for more than month and they are working, you could have them install their own phone line, at their own cost now and in the future.  If they use your automobile, they must share in all costs — insurance, car payments, gasoline and repairs.  Or you could look at the lowest rate for a rental car and charge him a reasonable per diem rate.  Guaranteed, this will get his attention. 

¨            What about your kid’s kid(s)?  You will be sorry later if you don’t set rules at the outset in this special case of grandchildren living in your home.  Don’t become a full time baby-sitter and learn about your child’s parenting philosophy — hands off are usually best.  But if the grandchild is out of line a lot of the time, your philosophy should take over, it’s your home and your sanity, after all. 

¨            And finally, what time do each of you need alone in the home?  You both need your space because you both have been used to it.  Set times for each of you to entertain friends at home without the other present, you need your life and they need theirs. You know your rules for behavior of guests in your home; your adult child’s friends must adhere to them too. Do you allow overnight stays? — your choice not theirs. 

Managing Their Money During a Financial Time-out

When queried about their reasons from returning to the homestead, most kids will respond — money.  When they do move back home, promises are made to you and to themselves that, in a very short period of time, they will be back on their feet and ready for living on their own again.  It all sounds good, but it is easy to get side tracked.  You both want to avoid turning a short term move back into a long-term stay.   

I’m sure that their move back home — whether it was welcomed with open arms or reluctantly allowed — was not done under the auspices that they would be allowed to redirect their money into “fun” endeavors.  If this occurs, a not so gentle reminder should be forthcoming from you.  Tell them you agreed to a temporary stay and that a pass on expensive hair-do’s/haircuts, weekend trips, dinner out and the like is expected from them.   

Sit down with them and get a firm grip on a financial plan of action as was suggested earlier in this chapter.  Believe it or not, parents who charge rent and require their kid’s contribution to routine household expenses are doing the best thing possible for these move home kids.  They are once again encouraging their kid’s future independence, both financially and emotionally. 

If your kid comes home and brings bill collectors home with him too, refer him to CCCS (Consumer Credit Counseling Service) at 303-627-9179.


In this effort to get them back out on their own, don’t overlook the possibility of “sweat equity” or bartering.  There are ways for them to live rent-free and these can be very much in line.  For example, if your daughter is going to law school and is also working part-time at a law firm, she may be covering her tuition, health insurance and personal expenses.  She can do some chores around the house or the yard in lieu of paying rent.  And pat yourself on the back that she is paying her own tuition and other expenses. 

When kids suddenly are relieved of the obligation to pay for their own living expenses, amounting to many hundreds of dollars, they might begin to “treat” themselves to more goodies than they could afford when they were on their own — entertainment, clothing and toys.  It’s time, parents, to blow the whistle.  They moved back because they needed a financial time-out.