Would you charge your adult children rent? And how much would you charge?
Grown-up children returning to the nest need firm guidelines, says Sinead Ryan
You've given birth to them, changed their nappies, educated them and given them the means to become independent. Yet, here they are, complete with their belongings, moving back home just when life as an empty nester beckoned.
According to the 2016 Census, 460,000 adult children still live with their parents; 215,080 of them are working and in their 20s or 30s, and three out of five are men, says Dr John McCartney, chief economist at Savills. "One of the reasons, clearly, is they are struggling in the property market, whether renting or buying," he adds.
They're called 'boomerang kids', because they just can't stay away. But how do you define the rules to live together peacefully? And how much should they be contributing?
EU research by the London School of Economics found "co-resident" adult children can be a source of conflict and stress, while also giving emotional and practical support for older parents. It revealed a substantial negative impact on well-being of parents who were faced with a returning child.
"When children leave the parental home, marital relationships improve and parents find a new equilibrium. They enjoy this stage in life, finding new hobbies and activities. When adult children move back, it is a violation of that equilibrium," the report said.
Stephanie Regan is a Dublin-based clinical psychotherapist. "Children have become adults, making their own decisions and taking responsibility for themselves and parents have got used to that new reality and have become accustomed to their own time, freedom and space," she says.
"When there is a return, for whatever reason, it is important to acknowledge that this is going to be new for both, and that everyone will have to adjust.
"Parents have to resist being the one who does everything for their child as they used to and instead see it as a house sharing situation. Children need to be encouraged to see it the same. It is house sharing... without the big costs."
She says the solution lies in setting firm ground rules. "The first and most important one is time: how long will the new arrangement be in place and if it is difficult, how will issues be resolved?
"A review for all concerned after a month is a good idea. Agree to talk about what is not working - this very act is an acknowledgement that all of you have an adjustment to make.
"Areas of difficulty tend to be around cooking, cleaning up after oneself, use of TV and/or taking over of personal spaces. I would suggest to parents that if you cook for your adult children, then you ask them to cook for you at least one night per week.
"If there is a space where you rest and watch TV normally, then you should preserve some of that for yourself or you will feel resentful over time.
"Cleaning is fairly simple but, again, needs stating - all personal items must stay tidied and the standard of tidiness you hope for."
She is adamant that children should contribute financially (see panel for how much).
"Financial payback is not the only way. Treating you to a sparkling clean house on your return, with dinner made and a thank you are some of the benefits that can be there for the giving parent, but it will not happen if you pretend you are giving nothing."
A thorny issue is how to deal with adult kids having a sex life under your roof.
"If they are in a serious relationship and you know their partner, then the sex is part of life, but I do not think you have to offer a drop down spot for them if they are single and meet various partners," says Stephanie. "There must be motivation to move out and move on!"
How much rent should you charge?
According to the LSE study, parents ask their adult offspring for £68 (€78) on average towards their rent each month, £31 (€35.65) for bills and £33 (€37.95) for food, but of course that's only a fraction of the actual cost, so help towards shopping, laundry and treats, such as a meal out for mum and dad are a nice way of showing appreciation.
Costs you can expect to increase with a boomerang kid are:
- Food: groceries cost a couple an average of €80 a week. An adult child could add €50 to this bill (€2,600 pa). If they are prepared to shop for and cook half the meals, you can lower this.
- Utilities: a modest increase in heating bills and the immersion can be expected, but they'll have their own mobile phone and if they want extra TV channels (e.g. sport), they should be prepared to pay for it.
- Transport: if they use the family car, they need to cough up for petrol, insurance and tax.
- Savings: if you're feeling guilty about charging your child, and are not financially strapped, you could 'save' the contribution on their behalf and return it when they leave.