Smart Moves by Ellen James Martin


In the aftermath of the recession, many more young adults have found employment. But even for those working, the economy remains challenging. That's because wage gains have lagged, student loan debts are formidable and the cost of renting an apartment has risen dramatically.

All this means that many young adults are moving back into the family homes where they were raised. This can complicate things for their parents.

Take the true story of a 25-year-old graphic designer from Virginia who couldn't make ends meet on the job she snagged in Washington, D.C. So she quit and called her parents to say she was moving back home, causing them to cancel their plans to downsize to a smaller residence.

Christina Newberry, author of "The Hands-On Guide to Surviving Adult Children Living at Home," says an estimated 25 million adult children are now living with their parents.

"(H)aving adult children return home can put a ton of stress on everyone involved," says Newberry, who twice moved back to her parents' place, once at age 21 due to a career transition and again at age 29, after a divorce.

Do you have one or more adult children whose wishes could derail your housing plans? If so, these pointers could prove useful:

-- Solidify your plans before telling your offspring.

Kathleen Shaputis, author of "The Crowded Nest Syndrome," says that whatever their wants or needs, the parents of grown children should put their own preferences ahead of their kids' wishes. (This assumes their offspring are in good health and have the capacity to earn money on their own, if only after a brief boomerang period.)

"Don't give your kids veto power over your choices. And make sure your plans are firm before you announce them to your kids. Otherwise, they could sense your ambivalence and try to pressure you," she says.

Still, Shaputis says it's unwise to make a major real estate move, such as selling a longtime family residence, without first informing your adult children.

"Otherwise, your plans could come as a rude shock that might cause needless conflict within the family," she says.

Shaputis says it's ideal to choose a restaurant or another public venue to break such news to your children.

"It's usually easier to handle an outburst if it happens in a public place," she says.

-- Try to assist your grown children to transition emotionally.

Even if your kids have already reached their 20s or 30s and are living independently, one of them could find the sale of your family home especially hard emotionally.

"Some kids are very tradition-oriented. For instance, they could be very upset that Thanksgiving dinner will no longer be held in the same place as it always was," Shaputis says.

While you don't want to forfeit your overall housing plans to shield your grown children from disappointment, she says you can help them make a smoother transition with reassurances that they're welcome to visit no matter where you live.

-- Help guide your kids to a place of their own.

Do you have grown children living with you who will need to move when your home is sold? If so, Shaputis says you can help soften this transition by assisting them to identify ways to live independently.

"Brainstorm with them about how they could make it on their own. Maybe they could use some help finding an apartment and a roommate to share the rent. Or maybe they need suggestions for finding a second job that lets them become more self-sufficient," she says.

Of course, the financial realities of the current economy may require both parents and their grown children to make some temporary accommodations.

"The reality is that sometimes everyone in the family has to pull together to make ends meet. Extended-living arrangements have been going on since the dawn of civilization," she says.

-- Remember that good parenting isn't always about yielding to the kids.

Alyson Schafer, a psychotherapist and author of several parenting books, says there's no reason parents should feel guilty for asserting their right to make their own housing choices, especially after their kids have reached maturity.

"If it's necessary to downsize, remember what's ultimately important is that your kids know you'll always love them and will be happy to see them -- even if you have to move to a tiny apartment," Schafer says.

(To contact Ellen James Martin, email her at