Ground rules for a peaceful home

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Article Marriage and Family Young Adults

With more adult children moving back home with their parents due to the economy, experts agree: Establish guidelines in advance to avoid arguments down the road. Communication is the first key keeping everybody happy. Here are tips to ease the transition of the new living arrangements.

For parents:

1. Set specific boundaries to keep everyone on the same page. If you prefer no smoking, no pets, no overnight guests, and mandatory Mass on Sundays, make those rules clear from the beginning. You may be able to work out compromises if you have different viewpoints on these issues, but get those guidelines established.

2. Have them share the burden. If finances are a problem, charging rent may not be an option. But if your adult child has some income, sharing expenses like food and utilities is fair. If there is no income, pitching in with yard work, cooking, household projects, and other jobs can help your son or daughter feel like a productive family member.

3. Set a time limit. This is not a permanent solution to a temporary situation.

4. Keep the lines of communication open to prevent simmering resentment. A structured home is a peaceful home.

5. Give each other some space and time alone. Privacy is important for both parties. Crowded conditions can lead to cranky housemates.

For adult children:

1. Come up with a personal game plan and keep parents informed of your progress. Set a time limit for yourself and show how you're meeting those goals.

2. Choose your battles. If your parents want you to make your bed, just go ahead and do it. That's not an issue that should take up energy.

3. Initiate family meetings to keep your parents in the loop. Don't assume they know how you're progressing or the difficulties you're encountering.

4. Think of an exit strategy. It's easy to get complacent if your parents make it too easy on you to live there. Keep in mind that your own growth will be stunted if you stay too long.

5. Be flexible. The independence you once enjoyed now comes with some strings attached. All the more reason to work toward the goal of living on your own again.

This article appears in the April 2010 issue of U.S. Catholic (Vol. 75, No. 4, pages 32-36).

Image: Darren Thompson