Pandemic Phenom: Adult Kids Flocking to the Nest

IMG_6112One thing that’s happening now during the pandemic is adult kids returning to home. Many universities offer classes remotely so kids aren’t going off to school. Other kids are working remotely and no longer have to pay for expensive apartments but can work anywhere, including at home with mom and dad. Unfortunately, some young adults new to the work force have lost their jobs because of COVID-19 shut downs. The end result is adult kids who normally would be out on their own have returned to live with mom and dad.

I’ve read several articles about his phenomenon and have included excerpts from two articles below.

From Lemore Navy News, The Meat and Potatoes of Life: The impossible task of parenting young adults by Lisa Smith Molinari, she talks about how parenting adult kids is different from having toddlers and babies, but just as hard.

I used to have a good grasp on parenting. From the time our three children were infants, all the way through toddlerhood, the primary school years, and even the dreaded teenage years, I used a fairly successful combination of expert-recommended techniques, mother’s intuition, and common sense to raise our children.

But now that they are adults, I am dumbfounded.

No one ever told me that my job as a mother would become immensely more difficult once my offspring turned into adults. In the last few years, my husband and I have discovered that, although parenting individuals over the age of majority is absolutely essential to their safety and well-being, it seems frustratingly fruitless.

To complicate matters, the global pandemic brought young adults back to their parents’ homes for the foreseeable future. College students have been forced to take classes remotely, summer jobs have been cancelled, and hiring has been suspended. With two of our three adult children back at home, we can no longer take comfort in “out of site out of mind.” We face the daunting task of trying to enforce rules and standards of conduct for two financially dependent legal adults.

Put a screaming infant having a diaper blow-out on my lap while strapped into coach seating between two grumpy business men on a turbulent nine-hour flight. Challenge me to negotiate the check out line at the commissary with a premenstrual migraine, a cartload of groceries, and a toddler having an epic tantrum over Goldfish crackers. Force me to give a lecture on why one should not wear booty shorts and a crop top to school to a smirking, gum-chewing teenager who won’t stop watching TikTok videos long enough to acknowledge me.

Pardon the pun, but that’s child’s play.

But present me with a resident 22-year-old — who wakes up at one in the afternoon, eats all the deli meat, takes a 30-minute shower, packs a duffel full of bikinis and spiked seltzers, announces that she is taking Dad’s car to visit sorority friends in Vermont for a few days, and can someone please do the laundry while she’s gone because she’s completely out of bras? — and I’m paralyzed with fear. After two and a half decades of tackling the full spectrum of child-rearing challenges, I find the task of parenting our three grown children about as easy as winning a chess match against Bobby Fischer.

Molinari talks about the issue of having different goals than our kids. This is how she lists it. It’s quite a funny list such as our kids wanting unlimited full tank of gas and the latest iphone. Parents want prohibition reinstated and a worry-free night of sleep. You can read it on her article here.

IMG_7880In How To Cope With Having Your Adult Kids Back Home from Katie Couric’s Wake-Up Call newsletter, experts give advice on how to handle families being back together due to the pandemic.

The coronavirus crisis has upended all of our lives in unthinkable ways, and for many of us, that means a rearrangement of our living situation. To help our Wake-Up Call newsletter (subscribe here!) adjust to this unique situation, our good friends Mary Dell Harrington and Lisa Heffernan of Grown and Flown spoke with us about the surprising number of adult children they’ve seen moving back in with their parents.

Together, they offered some advice on how to make the most of this transition — plus psychologist Lisa Damour jumped in to explain why some adult children may tend to act a bit less like adults and more like children when they first move home…

Wake Up Call: You both have adult children. Have any of them moved back in?

Mary Dell: I have two young adults who have moved back home with us, and my nephew, who’s in college and who we are guardians for, is also with us. It’s five people… so that means it’s 15 meals a day. It’s shocking! I don’t actually have to cook 15 meals a day but I am cooking a big huge dinner every night, and it’s something I am so out of practice with. It’s a really full house.

Lisa Heffernan: We’ve actually done the reverse. I had my mother move in, because I was so worried about where she was living, and the chance of infection. Since older people are much more susceptible to this, our kids have had to stay away. But they will come over and sit at the end of the garden, about 20 feet from us, to say hello.

What advice do you have for parents hoping to set boundaries and establish rules with their adult children?

Lisa Heffernan: Our natural inclination as parents may be to go back to “our house our rules,” because last time your child lived with you they were a child, both in maturity and in the eyes of the law. It’s really important in this moment that we come to agreements with our kids about what the rules are going to be and how we’re going to do things, as opposed to flipping back in time to the moment when we made the rules.

So instead of laying down the rules like you may have done with a 15 year old, try to present it as: How can we solve this problem together? For example: “I need quiet in the house between 2 and 4 p.m. because I am doing Zoom calls, and no matter where you are, when you’re blaring YouTube, I can hear it. So how are we going to make this work so I can do my work and you can do what you want to do?”

It’s almost like your kids are now your roommates, but more importantly, they’re other adults. It’s hard for a lot of parents to come to grips with this, but it’s also incredibly important to remind kids of how they’re going to fulfill responsibilities as adults in the household. Those can be things like, cleaning, shopping, and cooking. Or with my kids, I’ve said, “Here’s something you need to do for us: Grandpa is quarantined alone, so you each need to call him once a day.”

It’s about figuring out what the most important tasks are, putting those in front of your kids, and talking to them like the adults you want them to be.

Your friend and Grown and Flown contributor, psychologist Lisa Damour, also had some interesting thoughts to share with us on why our adult children might not always act their age when they move back into the house. Let’s check in with her on this…

Lisa Damour: It’s not at all unusual for young adults (and even middle-aged adults!) to regress a bit when they are around their parents. We all have well-worn patterns for how we interact with our parents, and those patterns took the form of a parent-child relationship for a long time. Put simply, it’s pretty easy for high-functioning, self-sufficient young adults to slip into acting like teenagers when they’re with their folks.

The challenge here is for the parent to not regress back to old patterns along with the young adult — especially if doing so takes the form of slipping into unhelpful interactions, such as coming down on an adult child for not helping out around the house. To do this, we should remember that all young people have two sides: a mature, thoughtful, and altruistic side… and an immature, impulsive, and self-preoccupied side.

In my experience, the side the parent addresses will be the side that shows up for the conversation. If the parent launches in with a lecture, they’re likely to get a snarky adolescent response. If the parent says, “I know you were doing a great job of splitting dorm/apartment responsibilities with your roommate before you had to come home. Now I need you to do the same thing here with us,” they’re likely to get a mature and helpful response.

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What experiences have you had with adult children returning home because of the pandemic?