If You Have An Adult Child Living At Home, You Need To Read This List Of House Rules And Boundaries

It’s not just your family.

More and more adult children are sharing a roof with their parents.

Sometimes it’s a matter of economic logistics because the cost of living has risen exponentially, but wages haven’t increased in decades.

Other times it’s a matter of senior-care costs.

Families consolidate when elderly parents have reached the “need help” stage of their lives.

Whatever brought you back together, it works best to have a set of rules for adult children living at home.

So let’s dive in. 

Should Adult Children Contribute to the Household? 

Due to a multitude of reasons, adult children are moving back home with their parents at increasing rates.

A Pew Research study revealed that in 2020 about 52% of young adults were living with at least one parent.

When families consider the switch, one of the first questions that pop up is whether adult children should pay rent and household expenses.

The answer, of course, depends on the circumstances. The rules for 20-year-olds living at home look very different than 40-year-olds or elderly parents moving in with their children.

But generally speaking, it’s smart to work out a contribution agreement. Why?

  • Responsibility: Paying rent or mortgage is part of adulting. Sure, some people luck out and have properties handed to them, but most of us must pay our way. If your child is moving back home because of financial hurdles, submitting a small monthly stipend gets them in the habit of paying rent while also shielding them from real-world consequences if they mess up. 
  • Lessens Resentment: Whether you admit it or not, resentment can metastasize and fester if your kid starts freeloading — especially if they’re working. Financial contributions to the household will make parents feel better about the situation.  
  • Self-Esteem Booster: If the adult child moving in has had a hard time getting their act together, getting into the routine of successfully paying their own way can do wonders for their confidence. Our bodies release feel-good chemicals when we achieve a goal. Building on that positive feedback can help a person dig out of a rut.
  • The Greater Good: Everyone pays less when more people contribute to a pot. After all, three people contributing is better than one or two. Use the saved money for things you need or want. Or, you can stash it away and watch the interest grow.   

Other Financial Considerations

You should take individual circumstances into account. Is your kid moving back home because they lost their job due to an economic downturn in their industry?

older man and adult son playing chess list of house rules for adults living with parents

Under those circumstances, you may not want to charge them the going rate in your area. After all, they are your kids, and parents helping their offspring get up after a fall is fine.

If you, the parents, are financially secure, think about creating a secret savings account for your kid. Their monthly rent goes into the bank or a portfolio.

When it’s time for them to move out, present your child with the little nest egg you compiled on their behalf. 

The Essential List of House Rules for Adults Living With Parents 

Every family has a different dynamic. What works for some could be a disaster for others. As such, not every one of our rules for an adult child living at home will be a fit for everyone.

But they’re a good starting point. Take what works and leave the rest.

1. Chore Delineations

If you want to live in a clean place that runs smoothly, delineate chores for adults living at home.

Grown children are not above pitching in and doing chores. Frankly, it’s the only polite and respectful way to go. 

Be careful, however, not to put everything on your kids’ shoulders. That’s a bit unfair, too. But splitting the domestic workload makes sense. Having an extra pair of hands around gives you more free time to indulge in your hobbies. 

If you’re taking in a senior parent, though, they’ve earned a “get out of chores free” card. Unless they want to do stuff, don’t force them.

2. Food Arrangements

How will food work? Is it every person for themselves? Or will you share cooking responsibilities? Who pays for the food? Will you split weekly grocery bills, or will everyone shop for the nights they're cooking?

Food is a big topic in a home full of adults. Make sure you hash it out in advance; that way, everyone knows what's expected of them.

Does anyone have allergies? If so, be mindful of dishes that you cannot make in the kitchen. You don't want to send someone into anaphylactic shock over some peanuts. Moreover, if religious or dietary laws are already in place, the person moving in must respect those.

3. Respect Above All Else

Adults living together need to respect one another. Yes, the person moving back in is your “child,” but that doesn’t mean you can control them like minors. Everyone must be willing to acknowledge their family members’ autonomy.  

That doesn’t mean anything goes. But neither can you carry on like they’re 12 years old.

mom and adult daughter clearing dishes list of house rules for adults living with parents

The same goes for kids taking in a parent. Yes, they may be using diapers again and need help making food, but they’re still adults who can make their own decisions and enjoy a safe amount of autonomy.

4. Working People Pay Rent

Every gainfully employed person in a household should contribute to expenses. It’s the fundamentally right thing to do.

Plus, since costs are split, in theory, everyone should be able to save more money. Beyond the money issue, resentment is curbed when everyone pays their fair share.

5. The “Overnight Guest” Rule

Overnight guests can be a sticking point when it comes to parent-and-adult-child cohabitation. Nobody wants to think about their family members’ sex lives.

It’s not unusual for parents to make a “no overnight guests” rule. We’re not debating whether that’s right or wrong.

It is what it is, and adult children moving back into their parents’ homes need to accept what mom or dad decides on this front.

Hotels are always an option for intimacy if overnight guests are a no-go.

6. Don’t Share a Bathroom

If possible, use separate bathrooms. It’s better for everyone’s health — mental and physical. There’s not much more to say than that. The reasons are self-evident.

7. Establish Quiet Hours

Establishing quiet hours is wise. That way, everyone’s bedtime is respected, and having a set routine helps prevents arguments.

Of course, there will be times when flexibility is needed and appreciated, but try to discuss any changes ahead of time.

8. Declare Television Rights

Is there only one large-screen television in the house? If so, you may want to set up a schedule for it. That, or the person moving in must get a set for their room.  

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9. Determine A Cohabitation Timeline

How long will you be living together? Some people like to set an exact date. Others are fine working with milestones (i.e., you find a new job and save X amount of dollars), whether it takes one year or five. 

You may want to revisit this decision a few months into cohabitation. Sometimes, it takes living together to see how it works out.

You may loathe it and feel the need to accelerate the time frame. Or, who knows, you all may find that you love living together and make the arrangement indefinite.  

10. Be Communicative

Bottling emotions is a recipe for disaster. Brushing things under the proverbial carpet only breeds resentment. Living with parents or adult children takes maturity and open communication.

To that end, make it a rule. Sometimes, it’ll be difficult to voice your concerns and gripes. But keep at it. After a time, clearing the air will become second nature.

11. Remember You’re a Family, Not Roommates

Technically, yes, you’re roommates. But it’s a different dynamic than roommates you’re not related to. It makes sense to factor your history and closeness into the rules unless you’re the type of family who wants to think of each other as roommates.

But generally speaking, no other people on the planet have significantly impacted your life as much as your family. 

young adult hanging laundry list of house rules for adults living with parents

So the situation may require a gentler touch. Plus, the boundaries will be a bit different than regular roommates.   

12. Tell the Truth

Don’t start lying to each other. Sure, a little white fib here and there to keep the peace is perfectly acceptable.

But prevaricating about big things could lead to a massive fight and falling out. You owe each other the truth. Besides, honesty mitigates drama, and it really is the best policy.

Believe it or not, most people handle bad news better than they do lying.

13. Replace What You Finish

If you finish the communal milk, juice, pasta sauce, or whatever the case may be, replace it as soon as possible. Moreover, when it happens, let your family know ASAP.

You’d be surprised how many knock-down, drag-out fights are rooted in kitchen cohabitation conflicts. Avoid an argument by being detail-oriented about kitchen use and fridge status.

14. Create a Check-In Policy

Nobody ever stops being their parents’ children. It even persists after death. And as such, you’ll probably worry about each other more.

So it’s kind to establish a check-in policy. You don’t need to reveal every detail of your whereabouts. But it’s nice to let your folks know you’re fine if you don’t come home when expected.

And parents, this applies to you, too. If you’re out later than anticipated, give your kid a call and let them know. Don’t forget, they’re adults now, too — and worry as much as you. 

15. Hold Monthly Meetings

It’s helpful to have a monthly meeting. It’s a time to make adjustments, fill each other in on any significant scheduling changes, or air any grievances.

Do it over a meal to make the occasion more relaxed and friendly.

At first, the idea of a monthly family meeting may sound overly regimented. But many folks grow to love these times together.

What to Consider Before Living with Adult Children 

In addition to the detailed rules for millennials living at home delineated above, it's also vital to consider a few general topics. 

Length of Stay

Before letting an adult child move back home, seriously consider the length of time that you're willing to accommodate and then clearly communicate it.

There's no “right” timeframe because families' situations vary — financially, logistically, and emotionally. Whatever the case, dedicate serious thought to this question.

Will your physical or mental health suffer if another human upends your home routine? Or maybe you've been dreaming about your “baby” moving back, and you hope they never leave.

Whichever side you think you fall on, give it a second and third thought. Talk to friends and family members about their opinions. They may raise points that haven't crossed your mind.

Financial Contributions

We touched on it above, but it's so important we're mentioning it again. Financial contribution decisions are a big, huge deal that can make or break the arrangement.

family doing laundry list of house rules for adults living with parents

When determining your deal, think about income and expenses. The goal is to lessen everyone's financial burden, not create more monetary stress. 

Health Considerations

Do any of you have health considerations that you must weigh? Is another person's presence going to jeopardize you or them? Does one of you have a habit that could put the others in danger — like smoking?

If so, establish firm boundaries around these issues.

Lifestyle Conflicts

You may love each other to pieces, but you may not adore each other's lifestyles. Music, food, and vices should all be considered and weighed. 

The goal is to help each other out, not stress each other out.

Regarding these decisions, the people moving in should always be more flexible and deferential. As the old saying goes: beggars can't be choosers.  

Consequences for Breaking Rules

For rules to be effective, you need consequences. 

This can get a bit tricky when adult children live with their parents. After all, you're probably not going to kick them out if they don't pay rent on time or are noisy at 11 p.m. 

But sometimes, expressing disappointment calmly can be even more devastating than a yelling match. So don't be afraid to say when you're not impressed with their behavior.

How to Communicate the Rules for Adults Living at Home 

Once you've made the rules, it's wise to solidify them tangibly, in writing, so everyone is on the same page. Folks do this in various ways, including:

  • Signing an agreement
  • Keeping a chore chart
  • Maintaining a group text or WhatsApp group about house issues

Living with adult children can be a rewarding experience. As long as everyone leads with respect and patience, it usually goes better than expected.

Family can be annoying, but you'll likely look back and be glad you got to spend more time together than you would otherwise. Who knows, you may discover that you like them more than you thought. 🙂