It’s important to have a clear set of rules for 20-year-olds living at home. You want to foster independence as you deal with your adult children living at home, yet still, keep the peace and be comfortable in your own house. Living with their parents can save kids thousands on room and board as they navigate college, careers, and transitioning into adulthood.
It can be tricky to handle when you have an adult child living with you. You want to help them get on their feet and find their way, but don’t want to enable them. Nothing is worse than a 20-year-old that needs their parents to handle difficult situations for them. Your adult child needs to respect your home and rules until he/she physically leaves the nest.
A 20-year-old living at home may go more smoothly for some families than others. They may enjoy having instant access to emotional support and advice from you. They’re probably more comfortable living in your home, using their old room and bathroom, than being in a shared space with peers or a strange dorm at college.
Your child should be sharing the burden of household responsibilities with you as well. They can help out financially with bills or complete some chores to lighten your workload. Either way, your adult child should be contributing positively. Let’s talk about some rules that can help parents dealing with 20-year-olds living at home.
1. Pick Your Battles and Loosen the Reigns
Get out of Mom mode and try to let things go a bit. You aren’t a machine and can’t take care of everything for your child forever. Let their laundry basket get full, they can wash their own clothes. Have them pick up the phone and schedule their own appointments. Let them search for job opportunities that they think are a good fit, don’t constantly make suggestions.
Allow your adult child to select his/her college or vocational courses and take care of registration requirements themselves. Let your son/daughter make their own choices and back off as much as possible. You can take a hands-off approach and communicate to them that you are available if needed to answer their questions or provide help if needed.
2. Don’t Stress Over Meals
Trying to schedule mealtimes and decide on dishes that please everyone is a big challenge. Don’t stress yourself trying to make everything align perfectly. You and your spouse’s schedules and the schedules of the kids all vary. A 20-year-old may be going out and spending more time with friends, not as focused on having dinner at home or making it back to eat it at regular mealtimes. Make dinner when you’re ready and put the leftovers in the fridge. Your adult child is capable of reheating food or making something for themselves when they get hungry. When you’re all around the table for dinner, enjoy it.
3. Don’t Become a Taxi
Your time is just as valuable as theirs. If your 20-year-old is constantly asking for a ride, don’t give in. They should be able to arrange their own transportation. Your adult child has to make their way, you can’t be expected to run them around all the time. There are bicycles, buses, and they have two legs to walk on. Unless they have an interview or important meeting to attend and can’t find another way, don’t become a ride service for your adult child.
4. Don’t Nag About Their Whereabouts
Even though your 20-year-old lives at home, they are still adults. They’re exploring young adulthood and making new relationships. Social activities could keep them running in and out leaving you left in a flurry, wondering where they are, who they’re with, and what they’re doing.
It may be a guess as to when they will come home and what friends they might bring over. Try to respect their privacy, but don’t allow them to have free reign. If they will be out extra late or staying over at a friend’s house, ask for the courtesy of a text or call to let you know so you aren’t worried sick all night. You can’t expect to keep track of their whereabouts like you did when they were teens.
5. Keep Room Clean
You can’t run into your 20-year-olds bedroom all the time and clean up all their messes. They should be keeping all trash in the trash can, dishes washed, and cleaning up after themselves regularly. Try not to harp about them cleaning their room.
It’s their space and they should get tired of the mess eventually. Once they realize you aren’t going to run behind them cleaning everything as they dirty it, they will have to take care of it themselves.
6. Pitch In
There are chores you have had to take care of in the home for the past twenty years as your child was growing up. Now that they’re adults, sharing your space, they should have set tasks to complete just like you and your spouse.
All adults need to learn how to be good housemates. Household chores like grocery shopping, making meals, cleaning the kitchen, doing dishes, doing laundry, taking out the trash, cleaning bathrooms, and yard work are all jobs that have to be completed by someone. Your adult child should be contributing and sharing these responsibilities with you. Young adults have to develop life skills to become successful.
7. Expect Your 20 Year Old to Keep a Job
If your adult child isn’t too busy with career training or schoolwork, they should be working. Don’t let your child sit around all day having fun and wasting time. Every adult needs to develop a strong work ethic. Don’t just hand out spending money.
If they want to have money to do fun things, they will have to work to get it. Life is a struggle and hard work and effort are rewarded. Don’t provide open-ended financial support, your 20-year-old needs to be working to make their cash.
8. Address Overnight Guests and Partying
Adult children may have friends that they hang with constantly. If you don’t want extra people sleeping over, let them know you aren’t comfortable with them having overnight guests in their room.
Young adults are known to experiment with drinking, smoking, and sometimes drugs. If you don’t want your son/daughter bringing or using drugs and alcohol in your home, make it clear to them that you will not tolerate it. Come up with a fitting consequence like throwing out any banned items you find, calling the police, or making them find somewhere else to live. You don’t want to enable risky, unhealthy behavior.
It can be very difficult to let go of parental control when your child is becoming an adult, especially when they live with you. Creating a good set of rules to keep your household running smoothly is important. You may be tempted to step in and rescue them when they’re struggling or correct behavior you don’t agree with. Try to step back and see your 20-year-old more as an adult.
They are still your pride and joy, but you can’t micromanage. You want to foster growth and development in your child rather than enable them to live comfortably without having adult responsibilities.
This is an important time of transition into adulthood for your son/daughter. Having fixed rules and expectations for your adult child living at home is important for keeping you and the rest of the family comfortable, and for keeping your 20-year-old on track for success and independence.