When your college graduate moves back home

Moving backIt used to be that after graduating from college, young adults would set out to create a nest of their own. Today, however, some 30% of young adults move back in with their parents—a higher proportion than any time since the 1950s.

The reasons are well-known: Our young people are flooded with student debt. They’re likely to only be able to get low-paying entry-level jobs or internships. And they can’t afford to pay today’s steep rents—much less buy a home—while they get established and build a fund that can support their independence.

When adult offspring move back in, however, the parent-child relationship can become strained, and the household’s general dynamic might become uprooted. If you have a “boomerang kid” returning home, there are a few things you can do to prepare. Most important is to set clear expectations before they move back in.

The first step is to address financial matters: Will you charge your child a nominal rent to cover their food and utilities? Asking for $100 to $200 per month is fair. If you don’t feel comfortable taking money from your child, consider that you can put that money aside and give it back once he or she moves out. This requires your child to devise some way to be earning money while staying with you.

You may also want to consider asking your child to sign a pre-move-in contract (like a lease) that sets boundaries that are agreeable to everyone. Will there be a time limit to the stay? Three months? Six months? A year? Will you require that your child be pursuing career goals? The contract could also require that your “tenant” do chores such as cleaning, cooking, or grocery shopping. In addition to helping around the house, this prevents you from enabling your child to be a “mooch” and maintains their self-respect as a functioning, contributing adult.

Decide on other rules, too: Are you OK if your child has someone of the opposite sex spend the night? Is there a time you want them to be home by (if only so you don’t have to wait up worrying)? Do you and your partner need time alone in your home at least one night a week? Communicate and agree on these things before your child lugs her suitcase back in.

There should be no guilt for either party in this situation: You did your job as a parent to prepare your son or daughter, so don’t feel bad for standing your ground. Your child is an adult now and needs to act more like a roommate than a dependent. By the same token, don’t make your child feel guilty, ashamed, or like a failure for needing to move back home. Recognize that this might be harder on your child than it is on you.

Finally, remember to make the most of this time together. This person you spent so much time and energy raising may eventually end up moving far away, and this might be your last chance to spend so much time together. So make the time as meaningful as possible: Have fun together, be a moral support system, and make yourself available for conversation and quality time. These could be memories that you’ll cherish once your kid has truly flown the coop—for good.