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No Empty Nest Here

Summer is here which means our kids—of any age—may be coming home. Or they have been home, thanks to Covid. Regardless, no matter their age, they are still our kids and we remain a parent. The difference is that our job description changes.Our adult children can make their own decisions, and then we’re all free to determine how we want to interact with each other.

If our kids have been away in college, they are used to living their own lives. But we are also used to living ours—and having them live a certain way with us. So we need to hold some space while we figure this new dynamic out. Setting boundaries is a really good way to start—and to keeping a good relationship.

There may be many issues to sort out. For some parents, it’s a matter of encouraging healthy independence in their children. It’s easy to fall back into our old roles when er go home. That goes for the kids but also for us parents. On the other hand, other families are going to run into conflicts caused by feeling neglected or even disrespected.

So we need to have a vision of how we want this to go. How do we do that? Think about the good and bad of how it’s gone in the past. By looking at that, then you can use your emotional boundaries to clarify your priorities and let others know how you want to be treated. Just keep in mind that things have changed, and they are adults now—even if they are living in your house..

Guiding Them Toward Independence

The coronavirus has increased the already-high numbers of adult children living with their parents. Boundaries that distinguish between helping and enabling may prepare your kids to move out sooner or make it easier to live under the same roof. Here are some tips on ensuring this goes smoothly.

  1. Listen closely. Provide your children with a sounding board rather than trying to fix their troubles for them. They’ll learn more by coming up with their own solutions.

  2. Expect contributions. Depending on the circumstances, you might ask your child to pay rent or cover additional expenses such as food and utilities. It’s also reasonable to share household chores. Here’s where it can be easy to fall into old patters, for instance, let them do their own laundry now!

  3. Make investments. Attach some conditions to your financial support if you think your child needs more guidance. You might pay for certain expenses, such as tuition or the deposit on an apartment.

  4. Set goals. Work with your child to develop a plan for them to become self-supporting. Discuss the consequences for failing to stay on track.

  5. Consult your partner. Ensure that your spouse or other relevant family members are on board. You’re more likely to succeed if you present a united front.

Dealing with Conflict

Do you feel like your adult children are pulling away, being rude or hostile towards you? Although it can be uncomfortable, addressing and resolving conflicts promptly may help you to avoid more serious estrangements. So go ahead and be honest—try to find a middle ground or negotiate some of the small issues.

  1. Hold yourself accountable. Your child may need to vent about your past performance as a parent. Just remember to treat yourself with compassion while being open to what they have to say.

  2. Be flexible. What if your child wants some time apart? Maybe you are crowding them. Let them know that you’re willing to work on your differences and eager to figure out what compromises need to be made. Listen to their issues openly and see if you can change, give them more room..

  3. Set limits. At the same time, you may need to decide what conduct you consider intolerable. There may be some non-negotiable rules for you whether around alcohol or having a significant other stay over. If there are areas you feel strongly about be clear as to what those are and why.

It can be amazing shifting the relationship with our older kids. But it can take a little time to adapt and find what that sweet spot. So just spend some time thinking about what you want your relationship to look like. Respecting each other’s boundaries will help you to draw closer together and improve the family dynamics immensely.And then you just enjoy the summer together!


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