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Moving Back Home With Parents as an Older Adult – How to Make It Work

The COVID-19 pandemic has reshaped our lives in many important ways, and some of these changes are likely permanent. One significant change is that more older adults are moving back home with their parents.

According to a June 2020 analysis by Zillow, roughly 2.7 million adults moved back in with their parents due to the COVID-19 pandemic. There are now 32 million adults living with a parent or grandparent, the highest number on record.

It’s relatively common for college grads to move back home, and many families are familiar with the challenges of living with young adult children. However, it’s less common for older adults.

Moving back home can be a blessing, especially if it helps you get back on your feet financially. It can also give you some quality time with your parents and a new perspective when you spend more time with them as an older adult. However, the situation can be rife with conflict and stress, especially if you work from home or have a family of your own.

Without patience, good communication, and balance, everyone might start feeling the tensions rise.

My family and I were traveling full time in a camper when the pandemic first began to circulate the globe. It didn’t take us long to realize that with an unknown virus making its way to the U.S., this lifestyle wasn’t the safest option. So we decided to move in with my parents while we looked for land and waited things out. We quickly found out that while living with parents as adults can be beneficial, there are definitely some challenges to overcome when you shift to multigenerational living.

The Shift to Multigenerational Living

Many factors are driving the shift toward multigenerational living, including job loss and some less obvious factors.

  • Job Loss. One such factor is the economy. Staggering job losses have made it impossible for many people to afford to live on their own. The situation is likely to worsen this summer when the extra unemployment benefits provided by the Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security Act (CARES Act) expire along with protections for homeowners and renters who can’t meet their financial obligations. If Congress doesn’t extend the CARES Act’s benefits, there could be an exodus of young and established adults moving back home with their parents.
  • Infection Fears. Others have moved back home because they fear living in a densely populated city during a pandemic that, so far, has no end in sight. While some people intend to move back to the city once the pandemic is over, an April 2020 Harris Poll showed that 39% of U.S. city dwellers are reconsidering living in urban areas due to the pandemic. Many with parents in rural areas have moved back home to reconsider their lifestyles and consider their next steps.
  • Caregiving. Some older adults are returning home to take care of their parents during the pandemic. With the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention advising seniors and those with underlying medical conditions to stay home as much as possible, adult children are stepping in to care for their parents and take over shopping and errands.

Many adults feel like they’re taking an enormous step backward if they have to move back in with their parents. After all, in the United States, multigenerational living isn’t part of the culture. The stigma is that if you have to move back home, it’s a clear sign you’re failing as an adult. However, the reality is that sometimes, home is what you need to take the next step, care for the people you love, or get back on your feet after a setback.


The Pros & Cons of Moving Back Home

Multigenerational living was on the rise long before COVID-19 showed up. A 2018 analysis by Pew Research shows that 1 in 5 Americans is living in a multigenerational household.

According to ABC News, it’s common for adult children to continue living at home with their parents in other parts of the world, such as South Korea and Italy. And while there are many reasons this living situation benefits everyone, there are also some drawbacks.

Pros of Moving Back Home

Moving back home is a common-sense arrangement for some, and the situation can come with many benefits.

1. More Hands to Help

When more people live together, there’s less burden on each person individually.

As an example, Frankie Huang wrote in The Atlantic she moved in with her in-laws in rural Connecticut when the pandemic first began its trek around the globe. Then, her sister-in-law and infant niece moved in so her parents could help with child care while the sister-in-law worked remotely.

Huang writes that initially, she felt nervous she’d never get her work done with a baby in the house. But the arrangement has been surprisingly satisfying. All the adults pitch in to watch the baby and take care of household chores. The result is balance: Everyone feels more rested and less stressed because one person isn’t responsible for doing everything. With more hands to help, everyone has more time to rest and relax.

2. Getting to Know Your Parents

Another benefit is getting more quality time with your parents. As an adult, you can get to know them in ways you never could as a child or teen. Living closely with your parents can provide new insights into their past. It might also help you deal with issues that previously went unaddressed, such as past family conflicts or resentments.

3. Financial Savings

Moving back in with your parents can give you the time and opportunity you need to build savings, pay off debt, and get back on your feet financially.

Having your parents there to help with child care or household chores can also give you the time and freedom you need to start a side gig, find a work-at-home job, or look for a better traditional job.

Pro tip: If you’re looking for a new job that gives you the flexibility to work from home or work unconventional hours, look into Flexjobs. They have thousands of jobs from all different types of industries. Sign up for Flexjobs.


Cons of Moving Back Home

Some people find moving back in with their parents to be a transformative experience. However, there are some downsides, and many people see it as a stressful option of last resort.

1. Reverting to Old Roles

One potential downside is that both you and your parents might revert to your old roles. They’ll think they have to “parent” you, while you feel increasing resentment over their nosiness or rules. On the flip side, you might revert to old patterns of behavior, such as expecting your parents to cook the meals or do laundry.

The reality is that while you still have a parent-child relationship, you’re now an adult, and the dynamic will be different. You’re used to having freedom and autonomy, and your parents are used to having a private life that doesn’t revolve around you.

2. Arguments Over Old Wrongs

Living with your parents can be stressful, especially when you stay at home as much as possible to avoid exposure to the COVID-19 virus. The stress and tension of living in close quarters can force old issues to the surface and lead to arguments over past wrongs.

Unless you and your parents try and work through these issues, bitterness and resentment can start to simmer and cause conflict and tension.

Mother Daughter Arguing Fighting Grandmother Resolving Conflict


How to Navigate Living With Your Parents

If you’ve decided to move back in with your family, there are plenty of details to work out before showing up at the front door with your suitcase.

Talk Out the Logistics

There are plenty of details to work out when several adults live under one roof. One of the most important are the expenses and who’s going to be responsible for what. Some essential questions to consider include:

  • Groceries. How will everyone pay for food when all of you are sharing meals?
  • Utilities. Are you going to pitch in to pay for electricity and water?
  • Rent. Do your parents need help paying the rent or mortgage? If so, how much will you pay each month?

If you’ve had to move back home with your parents due to a job loss, you might not be able to help financially. In this case, talk with your parents about what you can do to help save them money.

For example, they might have been planning to have the house repainted. If you take on this project, it could save them thousands of dollars. Other projects to consider include:

Set Boundaries

Everyone’s situation is different, but it’s essential that each person sets some simple boundaries or ground rules and shares what they need to succeed in this arrangement.

If you’re now working from home because of the pandemic, you might ask your parents to keep the television turned off or invest in some noise-canceling headphones so you can focus. You might need to explain your working hours, and what you can or can’t do during this time. For example, doing chores or running an errand for your folks is off-limits until you finish working.

As you think about what you need, it’s tempting to keep coming up with requests to make your life more convenient. But, keep the list as short as possible. Figure out what you need for this situation to work, ask your parents to do the same, and try to let the rest go. If it helps, write everyone’s ground rules down on a master list and post it in the kitchen as a constant reminder.

Talk About Expectations for Your Children

If you have children, talk with your parents about what’s acceptable and what isn’t regarding behavior, routines, screen time, and tidiness.

For instance, if your parents like to sleep late, they might need you to keep the kids quiet in another part of the house until they wake up. If your parents want to keep a clean house, you need to talk to your children about cleaning up after themselves and keeping their toys in one room instead of all over the house.

Another important topic you should discuss upfront is discipline. Many people discipline their children the same way their parents did. However, many take the opposite approach to that of their parents.

However you handle discipline and expectations with your kids, you must talk to your parents about it early on. Explain your approach, and talk together about how all of you will handle discipline together.

Pitch In

You must do your part to pitch in and help with household chores and responsibilities. So sit down with your family and write down everything that needs to happen for the household to function.

It can help to assign each person specific responsibilities so there’s no confusion or resentment that someone isn’t doing their fair share.

For example, you can offer to cook dinner every night if your parents take care of the cleanup. You can take over sweeping and laundry, and your kids can take over cutting the grass while your parents take charge of shopping and meal prep.

Schedule a Weekly Family Meeting

Commit to sitting down with your family once a week to check in with each other. These family meetings should be a time to air any grievances, talk about what you’re feeling, and work on making the living arrangement easier on everyone.

These family meetings might feel awkward at times. However, it’s important to openly talk about what’s not working so resentment and bitterness don’t affect everyone.


Final Word

We ended up living with my parents for two months until we bought a house that suited our budget, and like Huang’s experience, it was surprisingly beneficial for everyone. My parents pitched in watching our two boys while we worked, and they loved having so much extra time with their grandchildren after such a long absence. My husband and I took on the shopping responsibilities so my parents wouldn’t have to risk exposure. Everyone worked together to cook and clean. The result was that the household flowed smoothly and all of us had more time to rest and spend time together.

Of course, the situation wasn’t always perfect. We missed having our own space, and there were times we had to bite our tongues when our ideologies and routines clashed with those of my parents. However, we all tried to be more patient with each other. And we were always grateful we had a safe place to stay during a scary time.

Moving back in with family can feel like taking a step backward at times, and there’s no doubt the situation can be rife with stress and conflict. However, you can avoid much of that if everyone is open and honest about expectations and boundaries.

Have you had to move back in with your parents? What are you doing to make the situation work?

Heather Levin
Heather Levin is a writer with over 15 years experience covering personal finance, natural health, parenting, and green living. She lives in the mountains of Western North Carolina with her husband and two young sons, where they're often wandering on frequent picnics to find feathers and wildflowers.

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