In 2011, Galia Abramson found herself moving back to her parents’ house in Princeton, NJ, at age 22. She spent a year living in an a studio apartment in New York City’s East Village after graduating from New York University—until her rent was raised by $750 a month.
“I bit the bullet. If I couldn’t support myself, there was no way I was going to stay in New York,” Abramson said.
Abramson’s situation is not unique. In the past several years, more young adults have been living with their parents, enjoying the comforts of home while improving their finances. According to a U.S. Census Bureau report released in 2012, the number of adult children living with parents rose from 1.2 million in 2007 to 15.8 million in 2010.
Moving back to your parents’ home longer carries much of a social stigma. Young adults were supposed to fly the coop after high school, go to college and then have their stuff together—or at least scrape by with a little help from their parents. But the situation has changed; living with parents has become more acceptable, in large part because of the still-recovering economy.
“There’s been a big cultural shift,” said Susan Newman, a social psychologist who authored the book “Under One Roof Again: All Grown Up and (Re)learning to Live Together Happily.” “Not since the Great Depression have we seen so many young adults moving back home.”
She attributes this to a scarcity of well-paying jobs for college graduates. Also, many young adults move back home because they’ve lost a job, want to stash cash to buy a house or are going through a divorce.
Abramson wound up living with her parents for 10 months. She eventually found a job at New York’s Guggenheim Museum and commuted five days a week from Princeton to the Big Apple until she saved enough money to cover a year’s worth of apartment rent on New York’s Lower East Side.
We asked Newman and Christina Steinorth, a licensed psychotherapist and author of “Cue Cards for Life: Thoughtful Tips for Better Relationships,” for their advice about moving back in with your parents, and asked Abramson and other young adults to weigh in as well. Here are their tips.
1. Hold a Meeting With Your Parents.
Discuss hours for visitors, privacy, financial expectations and so on with your parents before moving back in with them.
“It makes it as harmonious as possible for both parties to come to an agreement,” Steinorth said. “Everything is negotiable.”
Abramson negotiated one rule for herself: She was allowed to sleep in over the weekend. “I was just so exhausted from commuting,” she said.
2. Be Considerate.
Remember: Once a parent, always a parent. Steinorth recommends calling your parents if you’re going to be late for dinner or to let them know you won’t be home at all.
“My parents knew I was grown up. They weren’t going to tell me that I had a curfew, but they are worriers, so they wanted to know where I was going,” said Samantha Meador, 31, who moved back home to Odessa, TX, in 2006.
3. Don’t Be a Slob.
Taking on household chores instills confidence in your parents that you’re not a kid anymore, Steinorth said.
Meador was mindful of not taking advantage of her parents. “I did my own chores and my own laundry. I house-sat when they were out of town,” she said. “I wasn’t expecting them to do anything for me.”
4. Don’t Waste Time.
If you’re hunting for a job, don’t spend all day on the couch watching game shows. It’ll only annoy and frustrate your parents, Newman said. Spending your time looking for work or even holding down a part-time job shows that you’re not a freeloading slacker.
Abramson kept busy during her free time, but she said she couldn’t have done it without having a designated space to work on her computer at home and access to transportation. “Make sure you have an Internet connection,” Abramson said, “and remind yourself you’re not paying for that.”
5. Pay at Least Part of the Expenses.
Paying a portion of the rent, or even just the cable TV or electric bill, will show your parents that you’re aware of your responsibilities, Newman said.
Chris Wood, a 24-year-old student who recently moved out of his parents’ house in Lewisville, TX, lived with his mom and dad for five years without paying rent. But he helped out financially by becoming his mother’s business partner.
Wood took care of dogs for his mom’s dog-breeding business and attended dog shows two weekends each month. Last year, he joined his mother at the Westminster Kennel Club Dog Show. “That was a big accomplishment,” he said, “and we had a lot of fun together.”
6. Carve Out Time for Your Parents.
Simple things like having dinner with your parents alleviate tension, so it doesn’t feel like you’re on the spot every time you talk with them. “I think a lot of time people think, ‘Mom and Dad are just trying to pry into my life,’” Steinorth said. “They just really want to be in the loop.”
After Wood moved back home, the relationship with his parents matured. “I went from being their kid to their roommate,” he said.
7. Live With Less.
Avoid trashing your parents’ space by leaving your stuff scattered around, Newman said. Moving back home means you’re going to have to share your parents’ space. In some cases, that means sharing the same bathroom, kitchen and living room. Being inconsiderate about shared space will ruffle your parents’ feathers, she said.
One way to address limited space is to consider putting items you won’t be using into self-storage.
8. Maintain Boundaries.
Be aware of slipping back into old parent-child roles, Steinorth said.
Abramson set aside 30 minutes of “me” time when she arrived home after work because she was drained by her commute and her job. “The only time I was guaranteed to get in a fight with my parents was when they were all in my space when I’d get home from work,” she said.
Steinorth said that if a parent raises his or her voice to an adult child who’s living at home, the child should say something like this: “When you do that, I feel as if I’m 15 years old again” or “When you say that, you make me feel as if you are judging me.”