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When adult children return to their parents’ homes - or if they never leave - all the relationships in the household are put under extra strain. But there’s no need to be caught by surprise when common emotional traps start appearing in your own home.
The top three most common emotional landmines are also the most potentially damaging to your long-term relationship with your adult children living at home, and your relationships with your grandchildren and your own spouse. So don’t take the impact of your new living arrangement lightly. Be prepared for these traps so you can spot them coming and avoid disaster before it strikes.
Emotional Landmine #1: Anger and Resentment
If your adult children are moving back in with you in a time of crisis - or if they’ve never left your comfortable nest - it means they see you as a stable force in their lives, a warm and welcoming parent who will be there for them through thick and thin. And the truth is, you want to be that parent who can solve everything for your adult children living at home.
But when two generations of adults live in one household, it’s extremely easy for anger and resentment to build up on both sides. And once those bitter emotions have crept into a relationship, they are extremely difficult to overcome.
That’s why it’s critical that you and your adult children living at home work together to develop communication techniques and strategies that will deal with negative feelings before they take over - and potentially damage your relationship with your adult children forever.
Emotional Landmine #2: Undermining your adult child's ability to be a good parent
When your adult child moves back home with an entire family in tow, your life changes drastically - and your lifestyle can take a sharp downward turn.
In addition to the other challenges associated with adult children living at home, you may have to deal with the expectation that you’ll be a full-time babysitter - for free. That may be okay if you‘re retired and your adult children living at home are working full time. But what if they take advantage of the free sitting services to start staying out late, partying, or generally shirking their parental responsibilities?
The most important thing for your grandchildren is that your own children continue to be good parents. You can help your adult children living at home to be good parents without damaging their credibility or undermining their authority, but you have to walk a fine line to make it work.
When adult children come home with families of their own, the ground rules and expectations must be crystal clear. And your adult children living at home must understand that no matter what they may be going through in their own lives, it is their responsibility to parent their children - not yours.
Emotional Landmine #3: Damaging your relationship with your spouse
Having adult children living at home puts a strain on all the other relationships you have in your life - especially the relationship you have with your spouse. (And watch out: this emotional landmine is especially dangerous if the adult children are “steps.“)
According to a recent study, parents with adult children living at home have 10% more arguments than empty-nesters.
If your children are moving back into your home as adults, or sticking around longer than you or your spouse thinks they should, your privacy and independence will be compromised. You will no longer be able to dedicate as much of your time and attention to your spouse, and if their needs are no longer being met, they will understandably be upset.
Of course you want to do the best you can for your adult children living at home, but doing so at the expense of your own happiness will not make you a better parent. In fact, if you damage your relationship with your spouse so seriously that they leave you (and this does happen, so don’t think it can’t happen to you), you may end up relying on your adult children for emotional, or even financial, support. Suddenly you’ve created a vicious cycle that is impossible to break.
But by developing some simple coping strategies, and having a few key discussions with your spouse, you can all live together in peace.
There’s no reason your family has to get caught in any of these emotional landmines just because you have adult children living at home. Now that you know what the biggest challenges are that you need to watch out for, you can prepare yourself in advance to deal with problems before they take over your life.
The most important thing to remember when you have adult children living at home is that you‘re all adults - and communicating your needs, expectations, and feelings clearly is the best way to keep everyone happy and sane.
About the Author
Christina Newberry is co-author of The Hands-On Guide to Surviving Adult Children Living at Home. For more detailed communications strategies that can help you avoid the emotional landmines mentioned in this article, along with a customizable "Under one Roof" contract and household budget calculator, visit her website.
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