So you expected your kid to fly the nest and go to college — and then 2020 happened. Or perhaps your young adult kids have returned home after pandemic-related unemployment. Either way, families have been faced with a new set of challenges. Instead of empty-nest syndrome, you may be working to navigate an entirely new parent-child relationship.
What’s more, financial challenges (from extra grocery bills to tuition fees) can add stress to your home life. Here’s our advice on thriving in a fuller nest, and how to keep your bank account and state of mind as balanced as possible.
Re-Nesting May Be Our “New Normal”
In various demographics of American culture, living with parents after graduating high school comes with some stigma. Your kids may worry that peers, strangers, or even their own parents will judge them for being “lazy” by living at home. Parents have a great opportunity to remind college students living at home that they are in good company. As of July, more than half of young adults aged 18-29 lived with a parent. Nearly 3 million young adults moved back in with parents in spring of 2020, either in response to economic hardship or college campuses closing dorms.
In other words, living in a full home “nest” may put you among the new normal for families.
Parents can reinforce their grown children’s independence and responsibility, even if young adults can’t currently leave the nest. Some tips to foster family harmony include:
- Agree on house rules together. Your kids may be back “under your roof”, but a college-aged student or 20-something should have a voice as an adult. Work together to agree on big issues, like mask and social distance protocols for your household. Don’t be afraid to set norms for who your family will allow into their COVID-19 “bubble” and set some rules for outside the household as well. For instance, is everyone comfortable with indoor dining, or would you rather everyone agree to stick to outdoor dining-only in the near future?
- Discuss housework expectations. Will each family member be responsible for their own laundry? Will one person do most cooking, or will you trade nights? Find an equitable division of household chores and errands, then write it down to hold each other accountable.
- Make accommodations for grown children to have their own space. They may need to claim a quiet space to work or study. They may also want an area to unwind, so you’re not arguing over Netflix or The Real Housewives vs. the news.
- Set expectations for family vs. independent time. Will you meet for a family meal? Are there certain hours that you or your children plan to work and cannot be disturbed? On a personal front, some children may be accompanied by their significant other, expanding your nest even further. Not everything has to be a family activity, or even a couple’s activity. Pay attention to your need for alone time.
- Consider a shared calendar. Transparency into each other’s schedules can go a long way when establishing boundaries, especially if you’re feeling space-constrained. Do you gather every Wednesday night for game night? Put in on the calendar and decline the invite on any weeks you're planning to skip.
- A pro tip: decide on a few spaces you can turn into “conference rooms” during working hours and book them accordingly. An argument over use of the living room becomes much less emotional when you can point to a calendar that clearly states: Roger has booked “Conference Room L” today from 12pm-2pm for a virtual board meeting.
Adjust Your Family’s Budget Accordingly
Your home isn’t just home anymore. If you’re re-nesting, your house may be the family home, college classroom, and office for multiple people, all at once. You may need to reconfigure how you use your space and budget to handle all of those needs and functionalities.
You’ve probably already noticed changes to your anticipated household budget. More family members at home means higher grocery bills and increased need for soap, cleaning supplies, and other household goods. Depending on work and school requirements, you may have chosen to upgrade your Internet plan to handle higher bandwidth.
Whether you planned to keep your college student’s bedroom as a shrine to their childhood or remodel it into a home gym before Thanksgiving break, you probably need to adjust your plans. Young adults living with parents may be struggling with negative feelings over losing their chance to “launch” the way they’d hoped. Parents can help by giving children the best living and study space they can. Some ideas:
- Transition the childhood room. Remain open-minded about replacing childhood sheets and curtains, providing a desk and comfortable chair, and offering a reasonable budget for decorations can make a childhood bedroom more suitable for their now-adult needs.
- Set up an alternate work or study space. Not everyone has the ability to rent or buy a second home to use as an office, but it’s better for your child’s sleep and mental health if they have somewhere other than their bedroom to get work done. If you have a guest room, formal dining room, or other infrequently used space, can you repurpose it into a work or study area?
- Don’t let household costs creep up on you. Meal planning in advance minimizes waste, as does choosing low-cost grocery stores. If your young adult is employed, it might make sense to discuss a nominal “rent” to chip in toward household expenses like the increase in utilities and food costs.
- Take a breather when you need it. If you are running your small business from home, you may find that you need to set up designated space inside your home for just you to help maintain your mental sanity – and that’s okay! While it’s natural to want to make sure your child has everything they need to be comfortable in your home, airlines' “Oxygen Mask” rule is evergreen: put your own mask on before helping others.
- Know that you have options. If you feel like you’re watching your cash cushion deplete, you have financing options at your disposal that may provide much-needed cash relief. With Noah, you can tap into the hard-earned equity in your home without monthly payments or interest. See how much you may qualify for here.
Welcoming grown children back into the family home (or launching them later than planned) means figuring out important financial, emotional, and logistical solutions to address everyone’s needs. Strong communication and smart budgeting are two of your best tools to keep a happy and healthy balance at home.