Mary Hunt: Help! My kids won't leave the nest
In Italy, they're know as "mammon" (mamas' boys). The Japanese call them "parasaito shinguru" (parasite singles). In the U.S., they're referred to as "boomerangs." And in Britain, they go by "kippers," an acronym for "kids in parents' pockets eroding retirement savings." As humorous as this may be at first, kids moving home after college is a growing problem for many families.
Growing up is getting increasingly more expensive. Add to this, most young adults believe that to find a rewarding career they must opt for college. Four years later, they have school loans far greater than they can manage. Add on the cost of a car, food, clothing, shelter and a social life, and suddenly moving back in with Mom and Dad (code for: someone else to pay the bills) becomes a financially attractive option. So, what's a parent to do?
Create a contract
Call it a "temporary residency agreement," wherein you as the parents are the "landlord" and your adult child is the "tenant." Err on the side of not cutting your young adult any slack here. This is an excellent opportunity to teach personal responsibility and the fine art of living on a budget. Have a beginning and an end date. Address everything in this agreement and close all loopholes. If you treat this in a business-like way, you'll get a lot more respect in the days (weeks, months?) ahead.
This is about money, so don't skirt around the issue. Whether your kids are still with you because they moved back or because they never left, it's time to lay down the law that says everyone in the household contributes to the expenses and maintenance. This includes paying rent, a portion of the utility bills and food. Determine what these amounts will be, and then make it part of the contract. As for their own expenses, adult children need to pay their own car payments, insurance, gasoline, credit cards and cellphones.
Everyone living in the home needs to participate in its maintenance. What are your minimum standards for laundry and meals? Who gets to park where? What about guests? Don't assume anything. Put everything in writing.
There needs to be a clear cut plan for how long this arrangement will last (do not skip the ending date on that contract) and a plan for its conclusion.
Then make sure everyone is sticking to that schedule.
This is not about how much you love your kids or your ability to support them forever. It's about loving them enough to force them to grow wings and learn to fly on their own, regardless the state of the economy, the load of debt they've amassed or their inability to find the job of their dreams.
You may have to push them from the nest, but if you play your cards right, it won't come to that. Hopefully, through your loving persistence, they will gain the strength and stamina to fly off on their own.