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Getting adult kids to move out - not always easy

It’s a modern phenomenon. Once upon a time, kids graduated from high school and either went off to college or got a job and an apartment. Not so much these days. 

A recent analysis of U.S. Census Data by Pew Research Center shows that the percentage of adults ages 25 to 34 living in multigenerational households increased from 11 percent in 1980 to 21.6 percent in 2010. 

So nearly one-fourth of all parents have an adult child living at home.

Dr. Nancy Buck, a developmental psychologist from Denver who specializes in parenting skills, has appeared on “Oprah” and is the author of “Peaceful Parenting.” She also writes a blog for Psychology Today magazine. 

Buck says she sees several reasons for the current trend.

“Young people today often can’t find a job to support them,” she says. “I suspect helicopter parents – who do everything for their children – are partly to blame. And it’s just a guess, but I think that young people today are not willing to go back to ground zero like we did. You know, where you don’t have a dishwasher or cable TV.”

Every situation is unique, she says.

But if an adult child wants to move back in, or hasn’t moved out when expected, both the parents and the child need to set ground rules. Does the child pay rent? Buy groceries? Cook for themselves? Do their own laundry? Keep the public areas of the house tidy? 

This needs to be “an out-loud, spoken conversation,” she says.

She also recommends setting parameters: How long will the child live at home? Till they get a job, save enough for a down payment on a house or condo? How long will that take?

The situation gets even more complicated when an adult child is living at home with a spouse and children. Are the parents/grandparents considered live-in babysitters? 

“Those things need to be clear from the start,” she says.

In many cases, an adult child continues to live at home long after it’s a necessity “because both the parents and the child get something out of it. Underneath it all, they both want it that way.”

Do local colleges do anything to prepare students for real life versus academic life?

“I can’t really talk to students about life after college, because I’d overstep my boundaries,” says Bev Kratzer, director of the career center at the University of Colorado at Colorado Springs. “However, we are partnering with Charles Schwab to show them a video about financial responsibility and money management.” 

The College of Business there offers a personal finance course, which is optional, and all students who graduate with loans get an exit interview about repaying those loans. 

Kratzer believes part of the problem is that schools today don’t always teach critical thinking or problem- solving skills. 

A parent in that situation, she adds, should start with asking the student what their ideas are for becoming independent and being helpful but not doing it for them.

In their book, “Smart Money, Smart Kids,” Rachel Cruze and her dad, financial guru David Ramsay, say that it’s acceptable to have a child live at home temporarily after high school or college graduation until they find a job and a place to live, but they must decide what the adult child’s contribution to the household will be and enforce it. Cruze, 25, even recommends having a written contract to that effect, to make it more official.

  If children overstay their welcome, Buck says you may have to be blunt: “Say, ‘We love you and want you to be independent. It’s time to leave.’”