Tough Love Parenting For Adult Children

Tough Love Parenting For Adult Children


It can be very stressful for seniors who are retired, or are planning retirement, when grown kids move back home. They are often blindsided with the need to establish tough love parenting for adult children.


Not only do these older parents not understand the statistics of just how many young adults do return to their parents’ home, but they may have developed a completely different lifestyle since their kids left.


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I came across this article recently that opened my eyes about this situation.


“Adult ‘boomerang’ children who return to family home ruin parents’ quality of life: study”. You can read it here.


The study was done by The London School of Economics.


The results showed that young adults return home for two main reasons:

  • Unstable job markets
  • Rising housing costs


Looking back at my generation (baby boomer and we’re quite irrelevant it seems) most kids wanted to move out right after high school. I recall that kids from all economic strata were willing to squish three to four pals into a one bedroom apartment. Some were in college, some worked and many did both.


students around study table


Naturally this got old after a couple of years. Those times were however, brimming with excitement and expectations of things to come.


I’m so sad to think that young folks don’t feel that way now. Because I don’t think that kind of energy comes again, in life.

Stress Affects On The Body


“While the report acknowledges that co-resident adult children can be a
source of emotional and practical support for older parents, it says
they are also a source of conflict and stress in the family home.”


The report even goes on to say that the return of a child or children disrupts and negatively impacts the parent or couple. The consequence is “similar to what might be seen when someone develops an age-related disability.”


Most parents will have passed into a different stage of life that will involve:

  • Saving money for retirement
  • Saving money for more education/starting courses or new training
  • Planning for travel
  • Remodeling the family home for their new and exciting hobbies/needs
  • Down sizing – selling the family home for a lower maintenance dwelling
  • Enjoying a new found privacy and renewing intimacy
  • Attending to any health concerns


When these visions for a well planned and exciting future are interrupted by children showing up (sometimes for years) it can be distressing and depressing (even though we love our kids!) for parents to have to delay or cancel a new life.

Not only that, but if the adult children remain unemployed for a prolonged period of time, their senior parents can’t stick to their new budget that is designed to give them a better shot at retiring.

                 couple sitting near water

When Grown Kids Move Back Home


The study’s numbers show that twenty-five percent of young adults in the UK live at home with their parents.


Another report from the US says:


“One in five people in their 20s and early 30s is currently living with
his or her parents. And 60 percent of all young adults receive financial
support from them.”


A little pressure maybe for those older parents? Any stress effects on the body?


The US report tells us


“In 1968, for instance, a vast majority of 20-somethings were living independent lives; more than half were married.”




By 2007, before the recession even began, fewer than one in four young
adults were married, and 34 percent relied on their parents for rent.”

The Historical View Of Childhood


I have to say I was amazed to read about the historical view of childhood that the US report recounts:


“Childhood is a fairly recent economic innovation. For most of recorded history, a vast majority of people began working by age 4, typically on a farm, and were full time by 10.”


Whoa. That’s a huge leap to the eventual acceptance that children should be protected, and school attendance became mandatory around the 1850’s.


Just after the US Civil War it became a widely accepted notion that children, until about thirteen years of age, should be kept out of the economic family needs altogether.


Toward the end of that century, labor laws began to appear.


I do recall that it was in the 1890’s when killing your child for annoying you, became illegal in the US..

Help Adult Children Become Independent


This a huge issue for parents, and a great stress when they want to help their adult children or child become independent.There is no way they’re not wondering

  • How long will I live
  • Will my child be all right?
  • Will the world get even worse?
  • Will they ever get married?
  • Will this happen to my grandchildren too?
  • Will I even have grandchildren?


This kind of worry knows no bounds! You know right, if you’re a parent?


worried teddy bear


To add to the stress, adult children don’t really want to be parented. They’re grown ups, right? They may have a degree or two. They have been beyond advice anyway, since their early teens lol.


It’s not that I’m making fun of them, oh no. I know a few. They experience a lot of self-doubt and anxiety. The world, and the current economic complexities don’t make much sense.


They may, or may not be aware at how their parent(s) are stressing about their own futures. And the kids are not all right!

Rules When Adult Children Move Back Home



I’m not sure that the majority of parents would think about enforcing this beforehand.


It would depend on whether the parents were business oriented, boundary oriented, and good at negotiating.


It could depend on how much warning a parent gets, whether there is any time for thought!


There certainly are young adults who will flip burgers if they have to while the resume sits on Monster dot com. Yet the 27 year-old Annie, (from the US article) a college graduate, paralyzed by student loans,


“has been living in that old bedroom for four years and is nowhere closer

to figuring out what she’s going to do with her career. “Everyone tells
me to just pick something,” she says, “but I don’t know what to pick.”


Personally I can’t relate to that. Keep bagging at Whole Foods or whatever. What about your mom who is housing you?


Are you ready for tough love parenting for adult children?


lion cub
Hi Mom! Hi Dad! I’m ba-a-a-a-ck!


Do you have kids at home after college? How does this play out for you? Do you and your spouse need more money in retirement?


Need a new idea? You can learn how to write a blog like this one, and maybe make some money too!



And please leave your thoughts about this topic below!

Related material – Retirement Money Needed



12 thoughts on “Tough Love Parenting For Adult Children”

  1. I got married young, it will be 20 years this year. My kids are teenagers. I hope they will live at home into their early to mid twenties and save up for a down payment on a home. I want them to have more than I did and to not go into life burdened by student loan or other debt. That we are still trying to climb out of. I can see that it would be stressful to have to completely change your plans after your kids leave the home and were prepared for adulthood and need to return home. Boundaries are important so everyone knows what to expect, having an open and honest conversation. Thank you for bringing up this important discussion.

    • Hi Tara. Your family plan is a good one. You all know how it can play out in advance. Your children are lucky that you can do this for them. Accumulating student loan debt is what brings a lot of young adults back home. I’m glad yours can avoid that burden. Cheers!

  2. Both my girls came home at separate times for four to 5 months. I dreaded them staying indefinitely, even though I love them dearly. One had been in Honduras for a gap year and the other had finished an internship. I suggested they move back to their uni cities. I didn’t want them to feel as if didn’t want them, but I earned my responsibility-free retirement. It worked for the best, because both got jobs and really couldn’t wait to get away from home soon enough.
    Now I have my blog to zone out on.

    • I’m glad your girls found employment! And I’m very happy for you that you’re back to enjoying your well-earned retirement. Thanks for your input here.

  3. Dianne,
    I did not have any children to come back to my home. I do have a great Nephew that is 12 that has lived here since he was 3 weeks old. His mom died and he had no where else to go. Now that he is older, I find that many of his friends at school are raised by grand parents or the parents live with their parents. So many older people still raising kids when they should be enjoying retirement.
    Having a source of extra income when you are helping others is a great idea. I just wish this generation was as independent as we were after school, I did not want to live at home, I did what ever it took to live on my own.

    • It really is different now isn’t it John? I knew kids my age who moved out after school, when their parents lived just a few blocks away. Definitely another mind set! And here you are, a grand dad to your nephew. I hope you have contact and moral support from those other grandparents.

  4. wOW!!! A real eye opener. I wish there were more informational atricles like this.
    For some adult children returning home, it says a lot about the wonderful parenting received while growing up. They seem to emotionally be comfortable to return and regroup. As parents, we are ALWAYS connected to our children regardless of the age. Depending on your point of view, is one of the blessings of children.
    Gail Bernstein

    • Hi Gail. Thanks for adding your thoughts here. Having grown up kids at home can be stressful. Hopefully, feeling that they are indeed being helped to move on in life will balance out that stress!

  5. I think this is an important article for many parents out there today. I know I am looked at a bit harshly by some other member of my family when I raised and educated my children clearly from the beginning. I always made it very clear to them that as long as they were in school (high school or college) they never had any at home expenses. After school, they had 6 months to get jobs and start making plans for their future which meant getting a place and budgeting for expenses. If not they would pay rent that is typical of a studio apartment at home. It is not and was not a lack of love and care for them but a high LOVE for them and wanting them to be successful adults. That means taking responsibility for yourself. Overcoming obstacles and challenges is a part of life that I feel they cannot be sheltered from their entire lives. I am proud of my adult children success thus far. My eldest daughter is a working chemist at almost 26. She went to out of state university and decided to stay there after graduation from college. She is looking to buy a home in the next few months. Our second oldest is in her final year at University out of State. Our two sons decided college was not for them and took trade certification in school. Both have been working and living together to share responsibility the last two years after graduation. We have one daughter who just turned 21 that has taken a bit longer to find her feet. She has been in and out. She now has a full-time job and moved to her own place. One left in the nest and graduates next year. Yes, we have a Brady bunch 🙂 I am proud of them. They are all finding success in their own way and tough love has not hurt them but helped them!
    Thank you for the great article, sorry for the long reply!

    • I love your long reply Christina! You have parented very well for your “Brady bunch”! I’m glad that your kids understood your position and acted accordingly. It sounds like they are sensible like you!

  6. Engrossing and somewhat heartbreaking article…

    Gotta say, even though we weren’t short of complaints, we were more fortunate with our “Brave Old World”!


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