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Adult children still living at home? How to help them leave the nest.
By Tammy May

Teaching children financial skillsLast week I wrote about helping ageing parents with their finances. This week I want to talk about the other end of the spectrum—adult children living at home. At MyBudget, we regularly help people who are trying to prepare for retirement but still have grown-up kids living with them. They love their kids, but they worry about what it means for their finances.

It’s a complex issue. For the most part, young adults want to be independent and there are a variety of reasons why they might stay at home. The over-representation of young people in unemployment and low wage conditions is one factor, but there are also those who see living at home with Mum and Dad as a sweet deal. (You’d be surprised how many big kids are living rent-free.)

My kids are only nine and 11 years old right now (I can’t imagine what it will feel like when they’re ready to move out), but I know I want them to grow up to be self-reliant and fulfilled adults, more for their sake than mine. I keep reminding myself that the world keeps changing, but the skills and attitudes it takes to be independent and self-reliant remain the same. It’s those unchanging principles that we need to model and teach. The best advice I can give is from as early as possible let kids do as much for themselves as they are capable of doing and let them solve as many problems as they can on their own. It teaches them to be self-reliant and become good problem solvers—two great qualities to possess.

If you’re supporting grown-up kids at home and you’d like to encourage them to leave the nest, here are some suggestions:

  1. Expect them to pay their way. Every adult in the household, even those on a government benefit, should pay their share of bills, food and other costs. It’ll help the household budget and teach your child about financial responsibility. If they’re cash-strapped, there are other ways they can earn their keep—cleaning the house, gardening, taking care of younger siblings etc.
  2. Be encouraging. Young adults often suffer poor confidence and need help to develop the self-belief that they can succeed on their own. Focus on your child’s strengths and abilities rather than their weaknesses and mistakes. Encourage them to believe that they have the skills and attitude to live a happy, independent life.
  3. Help them develop a plan. Talk about your household budget with your kids and help them make a personal budget of their own. Many young adults stay at home because they lack the necessary savings to become independent, and without savings they can’t afford a car, bond payment or other expenses that come with going-it-alone.  With a plan in place, you can gradually withdraw your financial support.
  4. Model positive behaviours. We can teach our kids (even big ones) about financial independence and responsibility by modeling positive behaviours ourselves. Some simple ways to demonstrate financial responsibility include household budgeting, meal planning, saving to buy things, financial goal setting, and reducing household consumption.
  5. Don’t make it too comfortable. A healthy household has clear and reasonable rules, and all members should abide by them. Adult children should be doing their own washing and ironing, cleaning the bathroom and toilet, doing their own dishes and complying with your expectations about tidiness, visitors and curfew times. Boundaries do wonders for young people’s independence because they make them want to break free!
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