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Graduates shouldn't move back home
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Q: What, if any, ground rules can and should parents set for a child returning to live at home after college graduation. My husband and I are facing this issue with our daughter in May 2010, and we need help.
A:        Just 40 years ago, when a child left home for college, it was assumed by both parents and child that he or she would not come home after graduation. Many of today’s kids assume the opposite. If that’s not problem enough, they often come back home with the attitude “You (parents) have to pay for my food as well as my share of the mortgage and utilities, but you can’t tell me what to do.” In other words, they want their parents to continue treating them like dependents, but they view themselves as independent adults who have no responsibilities to the people paying the larger share of their bills.
This is an example of pigeons coming home to roost. The pigeons in question are kids who grew up without obligation. So, after college, they come home fully expecting to pick up where they left off. Exceptions exist, but they do not abound.
“Hey, mom, did you do my laundry yet? What? Pick up my room? Hey! It’s my room and I’m an adult! You can’t tell me how I should keep my room! When’s dinner anyway?”
This is a train wreck waiting to happen. I could tell you to be proactive and arrive at an explicit agreement with your daughter concerning rules and responsibilities, but countless parents have told me horror stories about returnees who violate these agreements once they’re safely ensconced in their old rooms, at which point getting them to leave creates painful, and often long-lasting family fractures.
I could tell you to levy consequences for violations of the rules. For example, if your daughter doesn’t keep her room clean, take the door off. But do you really want to get into warfare with a 20-something college grad?
A number of folks have told me they had their returnee pay rent, only to realize that this arrangement gave the child tacit permission to be a room slob, come and go as she pleased, be disrespectful and act generally entitled to parental servitude.
It’s probably going to cost you emotionally and financially to let your daughter come home in May. So, at least eliminate most of the emotional cost. Help her find a small efficiency apartment and assist with her rent and utilities for a year until she gets on her feet. Pay the first three months completely, then steadily decrease your welfare check over the next nine months until it’s eliminated.

Rosemond, a family psychologist, answers questions at his Web site:
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