Will I ever be able to retire? Many seniors are asking this question as adult children move home, adding to the emotional and financial burdens faced by families these days in a recession. How can folks reduce the stresses this may cause?
A family in Natchitoches, Louisiana faces these challenges. Richard and Micki Snyder are in their mid-sixties and had hopes of a casual retirement. These hopes were undone several years ago when they assumed the responsibility for the care of two grandchildren, after their adult daughter left the home to make a life in New York City. She is now arriving home, but not to assume the burden of child care. Instead she needs a place to live before she marries again and moves to England. All of this, plus the history of disappointments earlier, combine to create a problem situation for this family.
As a personal and rehabilitation counselor for many years, I have advised families how to interact in these situations. The steps to take are several and most involve the assumption of responsibility on several levels.
First, communication must occur immediately when an adult child comes home. This isn’t the time for the blame game to ensue. Instead it’s a time to begin to label what the assumptions need to be and what each person”s responsibility is in this new arrangement.
Entitlement is a big issue and has to be faced right away. The message is: “You are here for a purpose, to get your life and situation in order. We are here to help. We will want to see you contributing to the family and assuming responsibilities within it. ”
What are those responsibilities? These should be labeled too. The adult child needs to know the living arrangements, why they exist as they do, and what tasks should be assumed within the home to ease the burden on other members. In the Snyders case, their daughter will be sleeping on a bunk bed and told the whole situation is a temporary one. There is no expectation of a special room or other arrangements the family can’t afford. It’s important, as the Snyders have done, to establish the parameters for living early on.
The family host, those responsible for now caring for an adult child, with or without grandchildren, has to prevent those issues of entitlement. Perhaps this had been an issue at one time, as it often is when families sort out their relationships, especially in an economic climate that had once been prosperous and now presents financial challenges for everyone. Is the young adult expected to work? What efforts will be made to locate a job? The parents should establish this and ask for documentation as well. This helps to create a relationship where responsibility is assumed soon.
Finally, and most problematically for many families, is the financial arrangement. If the adult child has savings, some percentage can be applied for support, especially in those situations where parents have limited or fixed incomes. It’s beneficial for everyone to contribute what they can, as this adds to an adult child’s sense of independence and plays down any issue concerning entitlement that might prove detrimental to family relationships later on.
It isn’t easy for extended families that are unplanned, but with proper accommodations and an understanding of responsibilities outlined at the outset, many misunderstandings that could develop might be prevented early. In the midst of financial crisis and unsettling situations, having a plan in place and articulating it is the best way to manage when adult children return home.