What are good strategies for living with my parents as an adult? by Nan Waldman

photo via educationnews.org

Writing from the perspective of ‘the mom’ in the family, and knowing what ‘the dad’ thinks when ‘the kids’ return home for prolonged stays, let me suggest a few things you can do to avoid regressing to the family dynamic when you were an adolescent.

The kitchen. Make your own food. Don’t burden your parents by feeding you, even if Mom or Dad is ‘usually’ the one to control the kitchen. Market/Shop. Call from the market on your way home from class and ask if anything is needed last minute. Plan meals so you are the one providing the meals and/or preparing them at least once a week if yours is a family that dines together at night. If not create a special occasion every once in awhile by suggesting it and inviting your parents to join you, i.e., ‘Mom and Dad, I’m thinking of making dinner next Tuesday night. I’d like to make X, and hope that is a good time/entree for you both.’

The wash. Do your own wash regularly and expertly to graphically demonstrate to them that you can take good care of yourself. Study while the machines are running. Offer to also wash a load of household towels and linens. Fold and put away your things. A picture is worth a thousand words… and seeing the image of you doing something that was done for you a zillion times creates an experience of seeing an adult in action.

Talking. Bring up subjects that teach your parents what it is you are knowledgeable about. So if you are tech-capable and they are not, ask them what they think about their music-listening media and suggest alternatives and explain why the alternatives are better than what exists currently in their home now. Or talk about telephones, computers, social media, Quora or whatever you think will further educate them.

Demonstration of your good judgment. Also talk with them about the issues and poor choices some of your friends or fellow students have made and distinguish your choices from theirs. Use any example showing immaturity, insincerity, illegality, impulsivity, questionable career choices, etc. We always feel best when we know our children are faced with a world we don’t understand, but which they seem to know, and it soothes us when our adult children can demonstrate proficiency in how to navigate well through it all. So hearing one adult child say, “Remember X? S/he is now doing Y. I explained it was the wrong choice.” And parent responds, “Really? What did you say?” Adult child responds with some bit of wisdom. Parent glows, because your Parent knows X and is glad that you know better than to do Y.

Absenting yourself. No matter how much you are loved, your parents are still two people who chose to be together and who need privacy to be alone. Please be an adult and be considerate. During school vacations and weekends — let them know in advance that you’ll be away for a prolonged period of time. This way, they can plan their alone time. Remember that some of their anger is that they thought they did ‘everything’ for you, and now it is time for them to enjoy their time alone together. Yes, they love you and want you to be there. They are glad you are choosing to finish your education. They enjoy your company even more than they need their own privacy. But they feel ambivalent if you’re always there at home, as they do need some time to be alone. It helps if you call before you arrive, and let them know your schedule in advance. Even if it’s “just” a few hours where you are extending their time alone together and studying at a cafe or library or with a friend.

We see our children as adults when roles from years past are reversed, and they are also feeding us, taking care of our dirty laundry, and teaching us something new. That is what adults do for each other — they live communally and with communication.

This new vision of you in these varying circumstances (bolded and described above) creates a paradigm shift in the relationship from the parent’s perspective, providing them with:

  • increasing respect for you as an adult,
  • understanding that you are capable of planning and executing your plans,
  • regular demonstration you can reciprocally give to them as they gave (and give) to you,
  • satisfaction that you understand and appreciate their desire to know more about the world,
  • increased awareness that during the passage of time between your childhood and now, the world has changed and so have they, and so have you.

All together, you all get more breathing space.

As to their negative comments, (which I abhor and I’m sorry you have to experience these — ) I suggest that you do the adult thing and don’t let their unhappiness alter who ‘you’ can be. That is, look in the mirror and be the adult you want to see, the adult son or daughter who is capable, loving, patient, and who earns respect through thoughtful and loving actions. Act as if you are the platonic ideal of ‘adult child of unreasonable parents’ regardless of provocation — and you will be!

What are good strategies for living with my parents as an adult?