Health Library

Categories > Mental and Emotional Health > Relationships

Rules for a refilled nest

Gail’s best friend, Pat, is upset because her youngest child is moving out. Ironically, Gail is struggling with the opposite problem. Just when she and her husband had begun relishing their child-free home, their 26-year-old son asked to move back home for a while. Besides feeling guilty about her lack of enthusiasm, Gail is anxious about laying the groundwork for stress-free cohabitation. These days, her dilemma is hardly unique.

How can you cope when the child you thought you had raised comes home to roost? Here’s help.

Accept your feelings

Your job was to prepare your child to go out into the world. Now that he or she is back, you may be wondering where you went wrong. These feelings are perfectly normal.

Allay tensions

Discuss expectations from the start, such as:

  • Household chores. Is your new “tenant” expected to pitch in? If so, for which tasks will he or she be responsible?
  • Car use. Will your car be at your child’s disposal?
  • Family obligations. Will your child be sharing meals with you? If so, will he or she be expected home at a certain hour? Will you expect to know your child’s whereabouts so you won’t worry?
  • Financial obligations. Will your child be contributing to household expenses or pay rent?
  • Privacy. Discuss how much privacy you and your spouse require and ask your child to respect it.

Address the future

Make it clear from the start that your arrangements are temporary. Inquire about your child’s long-term goals and how he or she plans to achieve them. In the meantime, enjoy the unique opportunities this time together offers. Many couples find the “crowded-nest” syndrome surprisingly rewarding.