Jeff: Come in. Hurry up.
Alex: Are you sure this is OK?
Jeff: Yeah, it’s totally cool. Just keep your voice down – my roommates are sleeping.
Alex: You mean your parents?
Jeff: Yeah, same thing.
Alex: …Nice jammies.
Jeff: Thanks! They’re a present from my roommates.
If you are one of the forty percent of twenty-somethings that move back home with their parents, chances are you can relate to this quote from Grandma’s Boy. Although, even this percentage seems like a low estimate, since it feels like at least ninety percent of our friends are currently living with their rents, including the both of us.
Moving back home again can be a slippery slope and an easy re-entry into old (and most likely, bad) habits. When you first return, it becomes apparent just how much you’ve grown. But give it a few months, and it can feel like you’ve taken five steps backwards and are right where you started. Here are some lessons we have learned along the way to prevent just that and use this opportunity as a catalyst for growth instead of becoming Benjamin Button.
Initiate a dialogue.
This is the first step in creating a successful foundation for your time together. Communication is key. It is your responsibility to teach your parents what your needs are and what’s important to you. Expecting them to already know or read your mind will only lead to disaster. In addition, it’s equally as important for you to reciprocate. The conversation will be so much more successful if your parent(s) feel acknowledged and appreciated rather than attacked.
Make sure to plan ahead of time so you aren’t reacting in the moment, but instead approaching the conversation with a sense of calmness so you can respond to issues thoughtfully as they arise. While reflecting on the past is useful in terms of having a reference point for what does/doesn’t work, rehashing emotions will only keep you from moving forward.
Though boundaries might feel like they create walls, in actuality they provide clarity and are a necessary foundation for every healthy relationship. By establishing boundaries, you are ultimately teaching people how to treat you. Boundaries are flexible: they are revolving doors, or doors that are locked after 9 p.m., or an open window, etc.
Boundaries are not mean or harsh; they simplify. For example, to prevent confusion, you can tell your parent(s) not to count on you for dinner unless you say otherwise. That way, every day you don’t have to answer the question, “Should we expect you for dinner?” and they don’t have to plan around you.
The boundaries that existed the last time your family lived under one roof may no longer apply, or at the very least, need to be updated and reaffirmed. Be aware of what works and what doesn’t, and most of all, don’t distress when something isn’t working. That’s a clue that a boundary is needed.
Create new roles.
Our parent(s) want what’s best for us, and they’ve spent most of our lives guiding us/telling us what to do. It’s time for them to switch from the role of our managers to the role of our solicited (or unsolicited) consultants.
One thing that has helped us deal with all the advice and “you shoulds” is by imagining that we have a suggestion box that is either “open” or “closed” to receiving comments. Visualize each comment as a little slip of paper that you can open up and choose to consider or not consider. Share this metaphor with your roommates, so when you are bombarded by their “helpful” suggestions, you can simply state, “Thanks for your comments, but the suggestion box is currently full and isn’t taking any further submissions at this time.” This humorously diffuses the situation.
Your parents are your roommates now, and just like any other person you have lived with, you must set limits to keep you sane. Your current roommates just come with some baggage, and you have a matching set.