More than ever, young adults are living at home with their parents. A recent study found that 30 percent of the Generation Z population ages 18-25 are currently living at home. Whether it’s due to the COVID-19 pandemic, the high cost of school and living, failure to launch, or mental health struggles, young adults have moved back home. This can be a difficult adjustment for parents, who are now finding themselves struggling to parent their adult children.
Parenting a young adult can come with a host of challenges. Regardless of why they are living at home, young adults can be unaware of the responsibilities that come with returning to live with family. Parents typically have higher expectations of their children: they might expect help with household chores, payment for groceries, or even rent. After all, if their child is now an adult, living at home is not a free ride.
Although parents have higher expectations, young adults often expect things to be like they used to be. Further, they might be more resistant to parental direction because they are now an adult. This dynamic creates the ultimate comfort for the adult child: minimal responsibilities and lots of freedom. Understandably, it can lead to frustration and confusion on how exactly to be a parent.
The 18 to 29-year-old women at Skyterra Embrace learn the tools and mindset to launch into adulthood. With that, we seek to empower their parents to gain clarity and confidence. Here are our top five tips:
1. Communicate Clear Expectations and House Rules with Your Young Adult Living at Home
A source of conflict between parents and young adults living at home is understanding the household rules and expectations. Parents may become frustrated if an adult child does not meet their expectations, but they cannot get mad if it was never clearly communicated. To minimize conflict, it is extremely important and very beneficial to clearly define expectations and house rules with your young adult. This can be a mutual agreement between parents and young adults. It is best if this is discussed and agreed upon before they move home.
It is essential for adult children to know that it is not a “free ride” when they move back home. They are adults now and will be held to adult expectations. Living at home can become a little too comfortable for young adults. Understanding the expected move-out date can be helpful to motivate the adult child to find their own place and move forward with independence.
Here are some things to consider regarding expectations and house rules:
- Length of time at home: Discuss and clarify the expected move-out date.
- Housework expectations: Discuss and clearly outline the chores and housework responsibilities.
- Curfew: Every family member should have a mutual understanding of what time to be home each night.
- Monetary contributions: Set expectations of paying rent or contributing to groceries.
- Family events: Create a clear understanding of what weekly events, such as dinners they are expected to attend.
Communicating clear expectations and house rules helps minimize conflict and confusion about each family member’s role in the house.
At Skyterra Embrace, it is part of the enrollment process to communicate our expectations of each student and make sure they agree to uphold them daily. By communicating clear expectations and ensuring follow-through, our guests are equipped to carry out expectations when they return home and to also communicate clear expectations with future roommates. Owning these responsibilities empowers our guests to gain independence in adulthood.
2. Set a Non-Negotiable Weekly Family Meeting with your Young Adult Living at Home
Another parenting struggle with young adults living at home is how to communicate concerns when rules and expectations are not being followed. Parents will quickly discover that constant nagging is not beneficial for them or their child, yet it is important that the house rules and expectations are upheld.
Scheduling a non-negotiable family meeting once a week allows space for the family to share concerns or praises on how everything is going. The scheduled meeting also gives the young adult time to mentally prepare to receive feedback and gives parents confirmation that their concerns will be heard. This can lead to less daily worry and nagging. Further, it gives the young adult time to understand if and where specifically they are falling behind, and make up for it without parent’s pressure. If these meetings feel unproductive for the family this is a good time to reach out to a family therapist.
Here are some things to consider when scheduling your family meeting:
- Who: Clearly identify which family members will attend.
- Where: Clearly identify where you will meet. You can make this fun by meeting at your favorite restaurant or coffee shop.
- When: Clearly identify the day of the week, time of day, and length of the meeting.
At Skyterra Embrace, we provide multiple opportunities for staff and guests to check in with each other. Our guests start their mornings and end each day with a huddle in which they review their intentions for the day, and what they are grateful for. It is also a time for guests to work through conflict, or address group expectations that are not being met. Further, every Monday we start our week with Embrace Culture, a check-in with the guets and staff on how the culture of the group is going. Having a dedicated time and space to bring concerns, feedback or praise helps minimize conflict and increases group efficiency. We encourage all families to continue this weekly or daily check-in when the student returns home to ensure the household is running smoothly.
3. Focus on Staying Emotionally Regulated when Talking with your Young Adult Living at Home
Within the Parent Program at Skyterra Embrace, there is an emphasis on emotional regulation for parents of young adults. Parenting during this period of young adulthood can be difficult and frustrating. If parents aren’t focused on staying calm and regulated, they may say or do things they regret.
According to Natural Lifemanship, learning occurs in a calm, regulated state. Further, the fascinating science of mirror neurons explains that when two people are connected, you can feel the emotions of the other person. In a parent-young adult relationship, if the parent is highly aroused and frustrated, it is felt by the young adult. This can then lead the young adult to become highly aroused as well. When the young adult is highly aroused, they are in a state of fight or flight. Change occurs in a calm state, so it is important that parents are regulated and calm when approaching their young adult with concerns or feedback. Some tips to regulate before and during difficult conversations with your young adult are:
- Deep breathing: Taking a few deep breaths can increase oxygen to your brain, turn down the fight or flight response, and calm the body.
- Taking time out when needed: Taking time out from a family conversation can be beneficial in regaining your internal calm. Be sure to state how long you will take the time out, and when you will return to finish the conversation.
- Self-care: Exercising, going for a walk, eating a nourishing meal, or participating in an activity that brings you joy can be very beneficial in regulating your emotions and calming your body.
- Talking with your support system: Spend some much-needed time with the people that care for and are willing to support you as a parent.
Within Skyterra Embrace’s Parent Program, we review these regulation skills and go deeper into the science behind why it’s so important for parents to stay regulated when talking with their young adult child. Often, we hear the number one takeaway for parents is to “stay neutral” or “stay calm!”
4. Work on Understanding and Validating your Young Adult Living at Home
Validation acknowledges that you hear and understand someone. It communicates the message: I’m hearing what you are saying. Young adults might share stories of what happened during their day and how they feel about it. It can be difficult for parents to validate their adult children because they feel a desire to fix the situation or highlight the lesson to be learned. However, it can often lead to conflict or separation in the relationship due to the young adult not feeling heard.
Another place where validation is essential in the parent-adult child relationship is in arguments. It is difficult for anyone to move on from an argument if they do not feel like their point is being understood. Arguments can de-escalate quickly when parents validate their child’s emotions. Remember, you do not have to agree with your child, you just have to express that you understand what they are saying. You also don’t have to withhold your opinion, but your opinion is heard more when validation comes first
A recent study indicates a strong association between parent invalidation and self-harm. When teens or young adults feel invalidated, their feelings are essentially rejected. This can lead to low self-esteem and mood disorders such as depression and anxiety. Your young adult needs space to express their emotions, and for those emotions to be heard. When parents listen and validate, they can experience reduced conflict and an increased likelihood of the young adult applying what they have to say. Some tips on validation are:
- Listen and reflect on the emotion (ex: “It sounds like that was very overwhelming for you”)
- Put yourself in their shoes (ex: “I would have been overwhelmed too!”)
- Do not try to fix the situation, just try to understand where your child is at.
Guests at Skyterra Embrace can go through big emotions. As a staff, we teach guests to feel their feelings and to communicate them using “I feel” statements. Since we cannot change their emotions, we provide support by validating. We teach guests to validate others as well. This helps each student feel heard and understood, which leads to a deeper, more trusting relationship with the staff and other guests.
5. Build a Solid Support System for you while your Young Adult is Living at Home
Life is not meant to be done alone. Everyone needs support and encouragement from a trusted personal network. The saying it takes a village applies to parenting too! Talking with others about parenting struggles reminds parents that they are not alone, and offers hope that they can make it through this tough time.
Your parent support system can consist of friends, family, coaches, therapists, groups, and many more. Research from Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA) suggests that parent support from a peer can lead to increased feelings of collaboration, self-efficacy, empowerment, family connectedness, and understanding the importance of self-care.
This is why parent support is an essential component of Skyterra Embrace. With weekly parent coaching calls, a parent workshop, and family therapy, the importance of parent support is highlighted in the program so that parents can feel empowered and confident in parenting during this new period of young adulthood. Parents also gain peer support, and often lasting relationships with other parents at the monthly Parent Workshop.
If you are a parent of a young adult living at home, have hope! There is no perfect manual to parenting, but following these five tips can help ease conflict and help you feel more confident on your parenting journey.
For more information about Skyterra Embrace, click here.