When an adult child moves back home, it can be a wonderful, fun experience. The gang is back together again under one roof! However, the arrangement can also put up some roadblocks to familial relationships, which may create stress, chaos, and negative feelings. To help avoid the latter from occurring, it can be helpful for families to introduce an adult child living at home contract so that everyone in the house knows what is expected of them.
Why Contracts Are Needed for Adult Children Living At Home
It is a good idea to have a contract for an adult child living at home because it creates clear and consistent expectations. If your kid is back home claiming to be grown, but not acting like a grown-up, it is high time to introduce a contract with expectations, guidelines, and consequences. Think about what you want from your adult child while they reside with you, and work those items into a printed contract such as the one provided below. Printing contracts can be made simple by using a guide for Adobe printables.
Leave No Gray Area
Keep the contract very black and white. Everything that goes in there should be explicit so that no gray areas exist. Write contract components out so that all parties can understand them. Avoid language like:
- Come home at a decent hour.
- Contribute to the grocery bill.
- Help with yard work.
The type of language above leaves a lot of wiggle room, and contracts should be ironclad in nature. Replace such requests with:
- Be in the home by 12 a.m. Sunday through Thursday and 2 a.m. Friday and Saturday.
- If you are not returning home for the evening, notify your parents by 12 a.m.
- Contribute $200 per month for groceries and paper products by the 1st of the month.
- Mow and edge the lawn on Saturday or Sunday. In the event of employment on the weekend, yard work must be completed by Tuesday at 7 p.m.
Contracts Help Teach Independence and Responsibility
You are not using a contract to make your kid's life unpleasant or difficult. You are creating rules and boundaries for them so they can continue to live responsibly outside of your four walls. When adult children know what is expected of them, they can practice skills like time and money management. They earn respect and grow their confidence and self-worth. Contracts aim to foster responsibility in adult children, and teach them how to conduct themselves for the rest of their lives.
Holding Adult Children Accountable
Accountability is a key aspect of adulthood. People depend on you for all sorts of reasons, and you have to come through for others, not solely for yourself. Contracts create accountability for adult children who are not taking that step independently. Once they can consistently display accountability via their home contract, they will be able to better transfer this skill to the work environment, an independent living environment, or personal relationships.
Contracts also highlight the respect that adult children have for their parents. They respect their wishes and rules regarding their parents' home when choosing to honor the contract requirements.
What Contracts for Adult Children Might Include
What goes into a contract for an adult child residing at their parents' residence is ultimately up to the parents who own the home. While parents can draft up any expectations they deem appropriate, contracts that include some input from the adult child and are created collaboratively have a better chance at working in the long term. Consider including the following elements in your contract:
- Chores to be completed around the residence
- Financial contributions by the adult child
- Restrictions and expectations regarding the private property of the adult child
- Guidelines for use of the family vehicle
- Guest restrictions and permissions
- School and employment expectations
- Fines and termination grounds
Meeting Resistance Regarding the Contract
If your adult child has been living the good life under your roof, eating your food, sleeping all day long, staying out with friends, and driving your vehicle, there is a very good chance that they will not be too happy about the introduction of a contract. In their eyes, the contract will signify more work and fewer freedoms for them. Don't be surprised if your adult child throws the following fight words your way.
Falling Under Fire: Comparisons and Accusations
"But Kari's mom lets her live at home and doesn't make her pay anything!"
"Why do I have to buy groceries? I barely even eat! Mike's mom makes him dinner every night."
Good for Kari and Mike's parents. They are doing things their way in their home. Your child probably has friends living with their parents, and those families likely have different arrangements than your family. Be prepared for your child to bring up these perceived utopian arrangements and throw them in your face. Don't let the comparisons and accusations deter you from your end goal: which is to create a healthy and productive environment where you are comfortable and where your adult child moves towards complete independence. You want your kid to fly the coop with the skills and tools to support themselves. Mike and Kari's parents are going to end up with a roommate for life if they make living at home too comfortable.
Resistance and Rule Breaking
Rules are often met with resistance. Your child probably won't like these new impositions you have placed on them, especially if they are not yet mature enough to see that it's all for their benefit. Expect some resistance and challenge in the early stages of the contract. There will be some growing pains with this new arrangement, and when aspects of the contract are shunned, privileges have to be revoked.
Action and consequence are crucial to all children, but especially adult children who are going to enter a world that will not be showing them half the mercy you do when they break a rule. If you don't address rule-breaking and resistance regarding the contract and the expectations for living under your roof, then you are doing them a disservice in the long run.
Stay Neutral and Calm
If things start to go sideways during the discussion of the contract, and your child becomes emotionally heightened and agitated, remain calm and neutral. Keep your tone from reflecting any stress, frustration, and anxiety you might be feeling, and tap into your posture. Make sure your hands are not clinched into fists, and your arms are not crossed. Look at this exchange from a business perspective. Yes, this is your child, your baby, but you want them to take this contract as seriously as they would a contract in the work environment. Set the example with your tone and posture for how you would like the discussion of the contract to go.
When Introducing a Contract for an Adult Child, Stay Firm and Direct
When you present a family contract to your grown child, remain firm and direct. Don't beat around any bushes or falter when met with resistance, anger, or hurt. Present your expectations and explain calmly what will happen should any component of the contract be broken.
Choose to discuss the new contract during a time that works for everyone involved. Don't choose to run over the basics right before one of you walks out the door or during a time of hustle and bustle in the home. Ensure you leave ample time for your child to process the contract and ask questions about it. The more clarification that can be established upfront, the better.
Have a Plan if the Contract Fails
Make sure that your contract addresses the possibility of failure. When you introduce a contract to your adult child, there is a risk that they won't rise to the occasion, and you will be forced to make some uncomfortable decisions for both of you.
If a contract fails, and you choose to ignore it, then it was all for naught. When you create the contract with the stipulation of them leaving the home should the contract requirements be broken, you have to follow through. It will be hard, even devastating, to see them go before they are fully ready to take care of themselves, but rules are rules, and agreements must be honored. That is a real-world lesson to be learned.
Sometimes, there is a reason the contract was broken, for example, substance abuse or severe depression. In the event that your child is experiencing one of these negative setbacks, try to get them help before the contract crashes and burns. If you are noticing underlying factors affecting their ability to hold up their side of the bargain, be an ally. You can't make them get help, but you can give them the resources and tools to help themselves. Now that they are adults, they will have to take it from there.
Come From a Place of Love
Love is not a one size fits all emotion or action. Depending on the person or the stage of life, love can look very different. The introduction of a contract should come from a place of love, albeit tough love. Your child is a grown-up, living in a grown-up world with grown-up responsibilities and expectations. There is less room for the sweet, squishy nurturing at all costs love that you showed your child when they were young. Your love now says, "Kid, I love you and want the best for you, even though you might not want that for yourself right now. If you won't take this step yourself in order to grow, then I will help you." It pushes your child in the right direction so they can live confidently, productively, and independently--and the ability to do that is quite an incredible gift, whether they can see it or not.