Recent surveys have found that 70-80% of college graduates are planning on moving home, and that they will stay home for an average of 2 years. So, what are parents to do when the child they thought they had launched successfully, returns? Many parents find themselves caught in a ‘is my child a member of the household or a guest?’ bind, while others find that the two parents have differing ideas about how long the child may stay home and under what conditions. The keys to getting your child to move out successfully are a realistic idea of what lies ahead for your child, a move towards making home uncomfortable, and a firm, steady push in that direction.
Many children return home with the cry of, ‘The economy is so bad! I can’t find a job!’ but let’s be realistic. There is a huge difference between a career and a job. Yes, the economy is tough and many graduates may have trouble starting in their career in any professional manner. But that doesn’t mean they can’t find work that would support them and have no choice but to move home. Minimum wage is $825 in California, which makes $920/month after taxes. Even in the exorbitantly expensive Bay Area, rooms are available for rent for $400-$600/month. This would leave $500-$320 leftover. Car insurance is likely to be $100, leaving between $200 and $400 for food, clothing and whatever else. It’s not fancy living, by any stretch but it is independence for them, and peace and quiet for you. Besides, starting ‘at the bottom’ will just give them more motivation to work hard. If you (and they) can see that they don’t need the ‘perfect job’ before they move out, you will have gone a long way towards shortening their stay.
Another key factor in getting kids to move out is to make home at least slightly uncomfortable. It is a well known fact that people change when they are uncomfortable and tend to remain the same when all is well. So a child who gets his meals prepared and finds his surroundings miraculously cleaned for him has little motivation to change. On the other hand, a child who pays rent for the privilege of being home by curfew, cleaning his room as well as the living room, and doing the grocery shopping, will be more likely to want to be truly on his own. If your child tries the ‘but I’m an adult! I don’t have to have a curfew/clean the bathroom/do whatever you’re asking me to’, remind him that ‘adults’ live on their own and support themselves.
To give the firm, steady push out the door, set up a contract before your child moves in, if possible, outlining rent, chores, curfew, and estimated length of stay. Don’t let ‘but I don’t have a job!’ deter you from charging rent. Almost anyone can find a babysitting job or return cans and bottles for the deposit. Free rooms are scarce in the real world and it is best your child learn that r rather than later. Besides letting your child know upfront ‘this is not an unlimited gig’ another way to push for them to move out.
If issues such as mental or physical handicaps are involved, contact your local social services (dial 211 from any phone in the Bay Area to get started) to see what help is available. As much as children may be reluctant to make the Big Jump, it is better for all involved that they move towards independence rather than the other way around.
It’s a fact of today’s economy that many kids are moving home, but that doesn’t mean parents have to let it drag on forever, if they choose to let their kids move in at all. By being realistic with your child about what to expect, making home less inviting and giving your child a firm push toward the door, you can dramatically reduce the length of his stay.
On a final note, in is of supreme importance that parents find a way to agree on how they are going to deal with the child. In most couples, one person will take a ‘but it’s my child!’ viewpoint where the other will take a ‘he’s an adult—time for him to get out!’ attitude. So, how to find a compromise? It may take counseling, but it is best if parents can come to see that the parent who wants the child out is not ‘turning his back on the child’, or however else the partner might phrase it. And the partner who is willing to extend hospitality is not necessarily ‘coddling the child.’ Parents should work together to try and see the other’s viewpoint. Perhaps the ‘he can stay’ parent had issues about not feeling welcome in his own home as a child. Or perhaps the ‘time to be out on your own’ parent has reasons to fear that too much ‘help’ will lead to dependency. It is best, if possible, to explore these with the help of a licensed professional.