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Maryanne Paul, Kitchener, ON
Currently, my son and I are working the 24 out the door plan. We joke about it, but really, I am uncertain what that means. Before I was a parent, I assumed that my kids would be ready to leave at eighteen. Fly away little birdies, fly away.
Not so. My son is 23 now and still living at home. I don’t know if he will be moving out next year or not. Truthfully, I am not sure how I feel about this. Is it ok for him? For me? For us, it is about finances. We both need the financial convenience of sharing expenses. So, right now, it feels ok.
There are so many reasons why our adult children stay home or why they come back. Struggles with finding independence, relationship breakdown, affordable housing issues, lingering post-secondary education: there are lots of reasons. Really, though, it doesn’t matter how it comes to be that your adult children (maybe even with their kids or partners) are living with you. They just are, and I think the answer is to navigate a new way of living together.
When my child was young, I thought of myself as a kind of manager. I was involved in his day-to-day life in a very “ hands–on” kind of way. As he grew and became an adult, it felt like my role changed to that of a consultant. This means that I have started to talk with him just as a consultant for a business might. You know….curious and open.
I find that I step back more, check in and ask if I can be helpful rather than jump in with unsolicited advice—no matter how hard it is to do this! As a consultant, I have information (aka, experience) that he does not have. I try to share my “expertise” in a respectful way, when it is sought, knowing that I have no control over what he does with what I share with him. He makes his own choices now.
I have learned that it is important to ask myself, “What am I responsible for?” I am responsible for my choices and perspective. I am not responsible for my child’s choices in life or his behavior. I have learned that if I feel like I am responsible for what he does, I lose sense of what my own limits are. I realized that I had been trying to get my child to be how I want him to be—where I expected him to be by this point in his life. Now I know that when we do that with our adult-kids, we create a dynamic where they’re not going to be very motivated to function for themselves.
I needed to shift my way of seeing my child and our situation. Things aren’t the same, after all: my role as a parent and his role as a child have evolved. I have learned to see and respect (and love!) him as the adult he is. He has been learning that adulthood carries responsibilities as well as rights. Together, we have been learning to define a whole new way of living together.
Some of the strategies that are working for us include:
Lately, it seems we rarely see each other; we are both busy living our new lives. We pass each other in the hall and I admit it is nice to have him around. I find I miss him, though, and would love to have a meal together every now and again; just like we do with his brother, who has moved out.
Maryanne Paul is the parent of two young adult sons, one who lives with her and one who has his own place. She is an Experienced Parent on Parenting Now and you can find Maryanne on our online chat on Tuesday evenings from 8:00 pm to 10:00 pm. Maryanne would love to chat with you about your adult children—or about any parenting issue. You can read more about Maryanne by visiting our Let’s Talk Parenting page.
It turns out, Maryanne’s parenting journey is becoming increasing typical. In fact, 20-somethings living at home have become the “new normal”. In Canada, just over one third (34.7%) of young adults between 20 and 34 live with a parent (StatisticsCanada, 2017: Young adults living with their parents in Canada in 2016). The StatsCan report cited here points out that Canadian statistics are very similar to those in other countries, particularly the United States and Australia. It is a trend of our time.
What the report does not tell us is why….why are so many young adults living at home with their parents? A massive project out of the University of Waterloo sheds some light on this. The project, titled GenY at Home: Understanding why young adults live with parents in Toronto, Canada (click here to see the full report and some interesting infographics) identified three key factors:
Precarious work environment. Young adults today struggle to find permanent, full time positions that have employment benefits. This leads to more frequent and longer periods of financial instability.
Challenging housing market. In many jurisdictions, affordable housing is difficult to come by. In addition, many young adults identify that they live at home, or return home, in order to save money to purchase their own home.
Cultural and Family Reasons. Young adults often identify that they have a close relationship with their parents, making the choice to stay home a positive one. Further, many cultural practices support living at home until marriage. Mutual care giving is also cited as a reason to stay home: sharing finances as well as household responsibilities such as chores are mutually beneficial.
As Maryanne says in her story above, “it doesn’t matter how it comes to be that your adult child is living with you. They just are and I think the answer is to navigate a new way of living together.” How true!
Jeffrey Arnett, Professor of Psychology at Clark University in Massachusetts, US, has spent many years researching the influences surrounding young adults and has coined the term “emerging adulthood” to describe the period of development between 18 and 34. He has partnered with his wife, Elizabeth Fishel, to author a unique book for parents. The book, Getting to 30: A Parent’s Guide to the 20-Something Years, is well worth the read and contains not only helpful strategies but a new perspective on this very interesting developmental stage.
Are you living with your young adult child? We would love to hear from you. Share your thoughts and stories via the comment section with this article or start a discussion via our Chat Room.