Now that Labor Day has come and gone, all children should be out of the house and back to school. But wait! What about your emerging adult son who still lives with you, with his college degree well guarded? Are you in the middle of a rerun of the big screen comedy “Failure to Launch” and don’t find it all that funny? You’re not alone.

Millions of budding adults, often called “children,” have graduated from college but are not living independently of their parents. According to the 2000 US Census, 25% of young adults ages 18 to 34 still lived with their parents. Young people study longer or marry later, postponing adulthood until around 30 years of age. Here’s how this prolonged period of dependency can affect relationships.

Steve recalls how he longed for those empty nest days once his son moved home from college. He pondered the irony. “The guidelines our son wanted to discuss weren’t the ones my wife and I had set. He told us not to tie up the computer or play with his dog. He also wanted us to leave the bathroom fan off when we took a shower, so that the noise it wouldn’t wake him up. We barely got a chance to talk about what we wanted. “

It’s called triangulation, when your relationship as a couple has to adjust to your emerging adult child. What it often means is less privacy and spontaneity for you, and the need to establish new patterns of interaction and parenting.

As Beth realized: “We can’t treat her like she’s a teenager, but we also don’t intend to lose sleep worrying about whether she’s okay. Unless we can agree to a reasonable curfew, this living arrangement is just not going to. function. . “

Jill had been a single mother since her three children were teenagers. Once her last child went to college, she felt free to move in with her partner. “When my middle daughter lost her job and could no longer afford to live alone, I didn’t have the heart to say no to her. But with the chaos that followed, I soon regretted my decision. Recognizing that my growing resentment was getting to us. Everyone, I took a stand. We set the house rules, divided the chores, and set a deadline for her to move. Now we try to openly air the issues and our feelings. “

Like Jill, you can take a stand. Here are some more ideas:

1. Establish areas of responsibility and appropriate boundaries. This can make daily life easier; it fosters some emotional detachment and the freedom to claim their own lives.

2. Insist that your children face their own challenges. Sometimes “tough love” is the most effective support parents can give. Jane’s son decided to return home after their divorce and expected his mother to take care of the clothes, shopping, and cleaning as his wife had. He knew he had to learn to take care of himself once again. “I insisted that we clarify some things and that he take responsibility for himself. We created a picture like the one he had when the children were in elementary school. I have not backed down and so far we are all here, trying to make our situation complicated to work. “

3. Create a timeline for financial independence. Financial assistance is priced for everyone, with potential conflicts around issues of codependency, oversight, and unsolicited advice. Jack commented, “Our daughter wants to live without paying rent, but she doesn’t listen to our advice on how to recover. Our plan is that she will be alone in six months, and we will stick with that.”

4. Commit to a concrete plan to move the family toward common goals. This requires a willingness to work as a team, with frequent discussions and some commitment. When you set limits and deadlines, the result is less conflict. According to a 2006 Money / ICR survey, 60% of Americans believe college graduates should be allowed to go home, but only for up to one year, and 57% say parents should collect rent from them.

5. Find the right balance between offering support to your offspring and taking care of yourself. Sally and Garry enjoyed spending time together when the last of their children left home. These pleasures were short-lived. When their daughter got separated and wanted to return, they initially felt that they could not reject her. It wasn’t long before their patience ran out and they knew they had no other choice. “Our daughter became lazy. She was not looking for work and making little effort to help. We finally insisted that she find other arrangements. We feel guilty and spend a lot of time discussing our decision. But we have waited forever for this period in our lives and we did not plan. lose it “.

6. Let it go. Once you’ve done your best to groom your boomerang kids to be alone, let go of the resistance and take action. Launching them is an opportunity for all of you. Take advantage of your own passions and start imagining the adventures that await you.

© – 2006

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