When your empty nest is feathered

Some feel upset when their adult children fly the coup. It can be a big moment for everyone involved, and

Some feel upset when their adult children fly the coup. It can be a big moment for everyone involved, and may not become noticeable until you sit at dinner for the first time without them, or you do a grocery shop and only need half the amount of food.

When you first become an empty nester, you’ll notice the house is quieter and there are less things to plan and prepare. But one thing no one tells you is often, somewhere down the track, one or more of your adult children will come back.

Divorces, relationship break ups, redundancies, illness or in-between homes – these are all reasons why your children may come back to the empty nest again. It’s not quite filled, but it’s feathered. After being in such a quiet environment and becoming used to the zen of an empty home, you may be feeling upset or discontent with a boomerang child coming home, especially if you weren’t prepared for it.

So how can you deal with it without fracturing you and your child’s relationship?

1. Set boundaries early

When your adult child moves in, they’ll likely want to do their own thing but it’s important to show them it’s your home and you will have some boundaries when it comes to guests, language and alcohol consumption. Depending on the child and the circumstances, you might want to draft a brief “contract” naming the conditions that must be met in order to live under your roof.

2. Ask questions and agree on the terms

Ask how long your son or daughter will stay with you, what chores they can do, and when they can pay rent. Ask them about when they will be working and if they have any preferences for food (will they cook or will you?)

3. Tell them what they’re responsibilities are and the costs (if any)

You don’t want to enable a grown child wants to live with you to avoid adult responsibilities. If your child seems a little too comfortable at home, setting a move-out deadline. Tell them how much board you expect, and don’t be afraid to ask for some, especially if they’re working. Also don’t be shy to ask for money to do laundry or cook for them. Otherwise, make them do it themselves.

4. Accept that you have to go through a transition

Having an adult child at home takes a bit on transitioning. You may want to mollycoddle them in the first few days of them arriving but it’s important to give them space. Let them come and go as they please, but also let them know you want quality time too. Don’t annoy them, but be open to conversations they initiate.

5. Have a plan of action

Understand that helping your child get on their feet financially doesn’t mean providing everything that they needs and wants. You should help them implement a plan that in three months, six months, or a year, they will move out and find their own place. If your child is home due to illness, mental or physical, work out their treatment schedule and be there to assist if they need you to. If they are recovering from an addiction, do not enable them, but do not try to control them either. Support and give guidance.

6. Consider your own needs

Don’t wait upon them hand and foot! Just ask yourself: what are they learning if you do it for them? Also, if you put yourself out for them, your adult child will likely push for you to do more. Don’t let your dreams of having an empty nest fall to the wayside because your child need you. How will you consider your needs as the adult parent who didn’t expect to have somebody back home? How can you make it work, and what are you willing to put up with? State your needs clearly and firmly to your child. Your child might get angry and say things like, “I can’t believe my parents are doing this to me!” Don’t start to feel guilty.

7. Embrace them being home

If your adult child is living with you or planning to move home, it might not always be a bad thing. For some, it can be a time where the relationship deepens between parent and child, because you’re spending time with your kids – and you’re all adults.

Tell us: have your adult children moved home recently? What happened?