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Kids returning home in droves



Helping young adults adjust to being back home

Helping young adults adjust to being back home


Like many parents of young adults, March 2020 found us scrambling to create space for our twenty-two-year old son. Due to the coronavirus, his university abruptly sent everyone home. He was joining the 26.6 million 18- to 29-year-old Americans now living with their parents. That’s 52% of young adults, a percentage that surpasses the previous 48% peak at the end of the Great Depression.
According to a Pew research study, that’s an increase in 2.6 million from February. 

We drove from the Hudson Valley to Connecticut to help him pack up the first house in which he’d ever lived independently. It was a somber affair, rife with anxiety and a new type of grief – of lost opportunity, narrowing options.

Luckily, as a senior, he’d been able to enjoy most of his college experience, losing only the last three months of a four-year stint. But there would be no on-site commencement, no late nights with friends, no long goodbyes. Instead came zoom classes, Facetime chats, a clunky, fitful online graduation “ceremony,” and a degree in the mail.

Also, fortunate, of course, is that none of us was ill – the new yardstick measurement for what “OK” means – and we were able to give him space in our 1910 Victorian house in Phoenicia. It soon occurred to all of us that this house was, in fact, designed for a multigenerational family.

Wilfred Farquharson IV, PhD, Director of Child and Adolescent Psychiatry Outpatient Clinic at Stony Brook Medicine, advises parents to do just what we did: give space, both physical and emotional. He also stresses flexibility, and, above all else, communication about the boundaries of that space.

Farquharson notes that while a young adult needs elbow room, they and their parents/housemates also need to be clear regarding expectations. Getting to these understandings requires engagement. In other words, parents must re-adjust to “walking the line,” as they did during their child’s teen years, and be prepared to pivot, to make mistakes, to apologize for not knocking, and to move on due to inevitable infractions and misunderstandings.

Not surprisingly, Dr. Farquharson strongly advises against helicopter parenting. For some, that’s a hard habit to break, especially in the era of Covid-19, when the desire to protect one’s child is intensified.

While I knock wood, I can speak from experience and say that, seven months in, our unexpectedly multigenerational home has been mostly harmonious. All things considered that is no small thing at all. The challenge is in appreciating it.



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