When your adult kids move back home

“Don’t get used to it,” friends warned when my son moved out last year. “He’ll be back”. And sure enough, he is. And with him come a whole load of mixed emotions. Grown-up children who return to the family home after a period away cause a significant decline in their parents’ quality of life and wellbeing, according to a London School of Economics report on the impact of the so-called “boomerang generation” on family life. In some ways I can relate.

We’d only just got used to the empty nest after his brother left for university in September and were settling into a new rhythm. The heartache was there, of course, but so was the new-found freedom to do what the hell we wanted and focus on ourselves for a change.

Lovely as they are, children are a massive and long-term distraction from our own wants and goals so being able to plan our social calendar and future as a couple felt good. So did planning meals around what WE like (cheese, hooray!). And just living without the stress, worry and irritation that inevitably comes when you share space with young men has been liberating.

You remember who you were and get the chance to think about who you are – and what comes next.

But now, only two months later, comes another emotional upheaval as we adjust to having our first-born around all the time. Don’t get me wrong, he is lovely and having the noise of people in the house again is a joy. But for me, working from home, this turn of events is also very disruptive from an emotional point of view.

The LSE study showed that as grown-up children are increasingly driven back into the family home by rising housing costs and job insecurity as well as the impact of Covid, there are damaging consequences for parents. For some parents having their adult children back living with them can be a source of friction, lead to escalating household costs and can even feel like a violation of their new-found freedom.

For me it’s luckily not that bad (so far), and everyone is making a huge effort to get along and be considerate. But I just feel constantly distracted, like I’m back on Mum Duty and may, at any point, be needed to do Mum Things. I don’t resent this – in fact it’s lovely to be needed – but I’m just finding it hard to make room for myself. Does that make sense?

I just feel constantly distracted, like I’m back on Mum Duty and may, at any point, be needed to do Mum Things.

I recently interviewed psychologist Honey Langcaster-James about how to handle it when your adult children move back into the family home, and she pointed out that it’s not easy for them. “It’s possible that your children felt quite disempowered being living back with you – losing their independence and missing friends may have impacted on their self-esteem. So listen with compassion and curiosity and hopefully in time your child will come to show some appreciation.’

“Be kind to yourself,’ says psychologist Dr Linda Papadopoulos. ‘Yes, you’re their parents but this time is tough for you too. Acknowledge the importance of what you’re doing for them and the impact this is having on your life, even if at times they don’t.’

Words: Marina Gask

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