Most parents look forward to a visit from their adult children…but what if that visit includes all their worldly possessions, two grandchildren, a ten-week-old puppy, two hamsters and no plans to move out?
There are any number of reasons adult children may move back home but by far the most common one is money. A listener to our radio show recently asked the following: “My husband and I are finally empty nesters. Now our oldest daughter is experiencing financial problems and wants to move back in with us bringing her spouse and two kids. As a couple, they are very poor money managers. The combination of mortgage, school loans, credit card debt, and an unexpected job loss has overwhelmed them. I feel sorry for them, but I know they are spending money on frivolous items, and I resent them asking to move in with us.”
If this situation comes up, the first step is for parents of adult children to have a conversation with each other about how much to help and how much to let adult children handle on their own. It is important to have a united front as this decision is more an art more than a science. And both mom and dad will experience the results of their decision. As with most things in life, the resolution to this problem is made easier with much prayer and discernment.
Maybe this state of affairs is an opportunity to influence your daughter and her husband to be fiscally responsible. On the other hand, having them move in with you may just make a bad situation worse. There is a fine line between helping and enabling, but that line blurs when your child suffers from something they caused vs. a situation that was out of their control.
You and your spouse should also consider the following:
- How much can you afford to do?
- Is your child and/or their spouse working or actively seeking employment?
- Will the problem be resolved relatively quickly or is it a long term issue?
It also helps if you and your spouse talk about ways you can help without having them moving in with you. This again takes lots of open discussions and your daughter and her husband need to share their whole financial situation with you.
I believe that we should do whatever we can to help our children when something challenging happens to them that is beyond their control. However, if they caused their own problem, having them work through their problems on their own will make their marriage stronger.
Perhaps parents can lend a hand best by providing something, but not everything. If their situation is easily remedied, you may want to take the grandchildren shopping for school supplies or school clothes, give your daughter and her husband gift cards for items such as gas and groceries or pay them to do work around your home that you would normally pay someone to do (as long as they are qualified.) This gives them some temporary relief, but you are not totally rescuing them from the circumstances they caused.
If, after much prayer, the Lord makes it clear to you and your spouse that your daughter and her family should move in with you, establish ground rules for them staying in your home—and have both husband and wife sign it. If they are poor money managers, the ground rules may include having them work with a budget coach or credit counselor. The ground rules also contain detailed living arrangements such as who does what around the house, an estimated timeframe for them to move out, and financial arrangements. What tasks will they do around the house, what will you provide, will they pay rent, how long will they stay, what are they doing to improve the problems they incurred, etc. Once the ground rules are established, welcome them, just as the forgiving father welcomed home the prodigal son.
- There are some guiding principles to keep in mind during this situation.
- Don’t usurp the spouse if they are married – your advice is secondary to their spouse.
- Don’t use your money to control their lives.
- You and your spouse should be of one mind.
- Encourage them to be dependent on God and each other.
If you decide to give them money instead of having them move in with you, be clear if the money is a gift or a loan. If it’s a loan, draw up paperwork with the amount, interest rate and expected payback plan. If you are helping them financially it is important to distinguish between a gift and something that has strings attached—many hard feelings on both sides can be avoided by being sure this is understood clearly by both parties from the initial stages.
Adults moving back home presents a strong case for teaching young children how to be responsible with money. Teaching children to handle money God’s way is part of a parent’s responsibility. Teaching them how to save regularly, spend wisely and give generously when they are children will prevent many heart and head aches when they are adults.
Proverbs 22:6 “Train up a child in the way he should go; even when he is old he will not depart from it.”
It’s not easy, but it could be a good experience if you are able to help them learn to be independent. If you are just increasing their dependence on you, it’s going to be trouble!