5 Strategies for Keeping the Peace When Parents Move Back in with Their Adult Children

As much as parents love their children, some parents prefer that their grown children fly the coop and don’t come back to live. 

Having adult children move back in with you can be challenging and often requires that you establish firm boundaries and ground rules so both generations can live in peace under the same roof.

While much has been written about the boomerang generation, not much has been said about the reverse trend–parents moving in with their adult children thanks to an inadequate retirement or health problems.

If you foresee that there may be a day when your parents could potentially move in with you, it is important to begin preparing now, years before it may actually happen.

Here are some strategies to help keep the peace when parents move back:

1. Decide which adult child will have the parents move in.

If you are not an only child, discuss with your siblings who would be the best choice to have your parents move in and who will shoulder the financial burdens.

My cousin and her husband, Steve, have always been hard workers; Steve is a vice president in a large company, and he travels frequently for work.  He knew he wouldn’t have time to care for his parents, so his sister, Jeanette, agreed that she would be better choice.  Meanwhile, my cousin and Steve have agreed, since they have a large income and are quite frugal, that they would gladly provide Jeanette with the money to care for their parents.  They decided this over 10 years ago, and just last year they reached the time when their mother had to move in with Jeanette.

Gregory French, president of the National Academy of Elder Law Attorneys warns, “It’s not a decision to make quickly or in a crisis.  Having good visits with your children doesn’t necessarily promise a good co-living arrangement” (AARP).  If you are comfortable doing so, you may want to broach the topic with your parents long before any action is necessary so everyone is in agreement.

2.  Consider buying a home to accommodate your parents.

parents moving in with kids

Make sure you have a plan in place when parents move in with the kids.

If you are fairly certain your parent may need to move in with you eventually, you may want to buy a home to accommodate them.

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I am now an only child, and I know that my mom probably does not have enough retirement to see her through if she lives a long life.  My husband and I both take it as a given that she will eventually move in with us or that we will have to help support her financially.

When we buy our home, we will buy one that can easily be renovated or already has a separate space that could double as an in-law suite.  Knowing this in advance will save us the cost of a large renovation when the time for her to move in actually occurs.  John Graham, coauthor of Together Again:  A Creative Guide to Successful Multigenerational Living states, “Some form of privacy is essential.  You and your child’s family each need a place to retire to” (AARP).

3.  Consider helping your parent pay for long-term care insurance.

Long-term care insurance is not cheap, and many seniors are reluctant to pay for it.  Even Suze Orman mentioned that her mother did not pay for long-term care insurance because she thought it was a waste of money.  Unfortunately, in that situation, the child is often left with the financial burden.  Suze Orman paid for care for her elderly mother for years before she passed away.  Of course, Orman had the money to do so, but not all of us do.

My mom is now 63, and my husband and I would like to split the price of long-term care insurance with her because if we don’t and she needs to enter a care facility at some point, the entire financial burden will fall to us.

4.  Consider creating a mutually beneficial arrangement.

If your parents are still in good health but just low on retirement funding, consider developing a relationship that can benefit both parties.

If you work every day and don’t come home until 6 p.m., maybe your parents can be home when the kids return from school and drive them to sports practice or extracurricular activities.  You will no longer have to hire a sitter, and you could pay your parents some of that money, if they will take it.

5.  Think about signing a contract.

Signing a contract may seem formal and uncomfortable, but it can keep all three generations–the grandparents, parents and grandchildren, in agreement about rules of conduct and what is expected from each party.  This may actually be a way to make the household run more smoothly as you all adjust to living under the same roof.

Finally

Americans are independent, and having parents move in with their adult children can be challenging for both parties.

However, there can be real financial and relational benefits.

My grandparents lived next door to us in a trailer 6 months of the year for 25 years until my grandpa got very sick, and I cherish the time we had together.  I was blessed to be much closer to them both physically and emotionally than many of my other cousins.

Would you consider moving in with your own adult children or having your parents move in with you?

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Published or updated January 22, 2013.

Comments

  1. My parents often talked about everyone pooling in all there resources and buying a huge house for all the family to share. We never did this as they died at a relatively young age, but I think it could work if you have the space and some basic rules in place.

  2. Christian L. says:

    Melissa,
    My sister — five years older than me — and I have talked about this. She’s a better fit since I’m the wild child who prefers tiny living spaces. She has a home with three extra bedrooms. That alone puts her in the lead for having the ‘rents live with her. But I’d be happy to contribute financially and invite them to visit me or me visit them.

    -Christian L. @ Smart Military Money

    • My cousin and her husband have a similar arrangement for his parents. They live across the country so my cousin and her husband pay the financial burden to help care for the parents, and his brother and sister split the physical care. Unfortunately, the parents are not very self-sufficient at this point.

  3. My mother in law is moving in soon. Not because she is old but because she wants a fresh start in a new city and I wanted an opportunity to get rid of my debt. So it is almost like a win win. At least that is how I am going to look at it. Visit my blog and watch me blog debt away.

  4. It can be a difficult situation for all parties. When we purchased our home my mom joked that the basement apartment would be the perfect “in-law suite” for her. It made me realize that I would be more than happy to have her live with us – in a separate suite. However I could never have her living WITH us day in and day out, sharing a kitchen, living room etc. My husband and I need our privacy…

  5. Financially I can see people moving in together and sharing expenses. Actually makes a lot of sense. I will suggest a set of rules to follow, for everyone. if you are a close knit family or not. there will be occasions when there will be disagreements about something. I know first hand the things that can go wrong. Financially it helped us all, and in my mother’s later years, we were there to help. It was a good decision for us!

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