11 ways to make moving back to the family home as an adult easier for everyone.
Moving back in with your parents indefinitely, whilst only being allowed out for essential shopping and exercise. That was so not top of anyone's ‘to do’ list for 2020. But many university students, millennials whose travel plans were cut short and renters have had to do just that during the coronavirus lockdown.
So how do you make the best of being under one roof again and avoid regressing into old patterns and/or killing each other?
And that goes for parents too, who – much as they may have welcomed back their darlings – miss having their own space with the telly to themselves and being able to fridge graze instead of cooking large meals.
1. Set boundaries
Setting spatial boundaries is ground rule number one for enforced boomerangers.
"I didn’t want my parents or sisters just to walk into my bedroom, so I was open and honest about that from the start and it’s worked a treat in avoiding frustration and arguments," says Will Carrington, 21.
Food is another factor to consider. "I enjoy eating altogether in the evening, but I eat little and often during the day so I made it clear that everyone does their own thing around breakfast and lunch, then we take it in turn to cook dinners," says Joy Ford, mum to 25-year-old twins.
Working from home? Establish boundaries for this too, especially if you don’t want to be disturbed – agree on a designated working space and potential interruption from vacuuming and loud tellies.
2. Try not to mooch
Even if you’re not working and you're missing your girlfriend, boyfriend and friends, don’t be a mooch. Getting up at 3pm every day, then slouching on the sofa, will annoy your parents even if they're biting their lips.
"I’ve landed myself a job in Morrisons – it gets me out of the house, gives me some space and enables me to contribute financially," says Kay Appleby, 23.
Already got a job and being furloughed? "I’ve signed up as an NHS volunteer and am going to do an online Spanish course – I think it’s much easier for my mum having me here if I’m being proactive," says Anna Beech, 28.
And if you’re studying? Then study – find yourself a work space and create a daily routine.
You don’t have to be super-busy – we’re living through a pandemic, after all, and there’s no shame in slowing down and feeling sad but try and give some routine to your days.
3. Eat dinner together
There’s plenty of research about the advantages of families eating together when children are growing up. But the same is true when you’re all adults, particularly under current circumstances, reckons Emma Mitchell, mum to 20 and 22-year-olds.
"We find it really helps with handling the stresses of daily life, the challenges of our newfound existence and our wider worries about what’s going on in the world," she says. Bottom line - families that eat together talk together.
There’s are further benefits, she reckons. "Inevitably, it helps promote more sensible eating habits, which in turn helps us all stay healthy – and it gives us a structure to the day too."
4. Treat each other like flatmates
"I remind myself that Tilly would be living independently if she wasn’t here – doing all her own cleaning, cooking and everything else. So it would be wrong for us to slip back into treating her like a child," says Catherine Duce, mum to 21, 18 and 15 year-olds.
"The last thing I’d want her to feel is that she’s lost her personal freedom and walked straight back into adolescence. So we respect her as we would any other adult and avoid smothering her, telling her when to get up or shouting when mealtimes are ready."
If this comes less naturally in your family and the old parent-child dynamics start slipping back, have a conversation about treating each other like flatmates for a more equal footing.
Catherine and Tilly Duce
5. Help around the house
Put simply, clean up after yourself – and that goes for your bedroom too. And not passive aggressively.
"Simple gestures like making the bed, vacuuming, emptying the dishwasher and leaving the living room how you found it means everyone is pitching in and no one individual gets lumbered with more than their fair share," reckons Kath Williams, mum to 25 and 21 year-olds.
If you think it will help, draw up a rota.
6. Re-evaluate your habits
Do you drink or smoke? Do you like playing the drums to release stress or often strum the guitar in the early hours? Do you shower less (or more) often than you should?
Now is the time to take a long, hard look in the mirror and think about how such behaviours might affect others you’re living with. It doesn’t necessarily mean stopping (although it might mean pausing them) - you could just adjust the timing or volume.
You may even reap benefits yourself. "I’m a night owl and like to stay up really late catching up with friends on the phone, now more than ever. But my parents go to bed at 10.30pm so I’ve had to re-think that and actually it’s made for a much better night’s sleep on my part," says Will Carrington.
7. Not the time for arguments
"I think we’re all biting our tongues a bit more than usual," says Simon Collins, 30. "My dad is usually quite sarcastic but is trying to catch himself.
"My mum has a short fuse but I see her trying to adapt too. And when they both annoy me, I really try to let it go because – as I keep reminding myself - this really is no time for arguments."
There’s no need to walk on eggshells. Be frank if you think it’s constructive – but only when you know the outcome will benefit you all.
8. Exercise (and other me-time)
No matter how small or undesirable you consider your parents’ home town or local area, use your allocated hour for exercise. Find the nearest open space and walk, run or cycle. "I honestly believe it’s the daily exercise that keeps us all sane," says Kath Williams.
If that doesn’t prove enough me-time, take some more within the home. Just tell your family you’re shutting your door and having some time to yourself.
"Our kids are devastated that this great summer they had planned has come to nothing – one of our sons was going inter-railing and our daughter was due to graduate from university," says Catherine Duce.
"Talking about it helps them come to terms with it and us to help find solutions. 'We will try to make some of it happen when things are back to normal,' I tell them."
Talking about the wider world can help too. "We regularly share thoughts and views about what’s happening out there with coronavirus – I think it helps stop it become overwhelming," says Kath Williamson.
10. Stay in touch with friends
Let’s face it, we’re all dying to see our mates – and that goes for whether you’re the parent or offspring. Whether you Zoom, Facetime, Skype, message or phone, it’s essential to stay in touch. Perhaps spice it up with a virtual quiz night or book club.
"When I was at uni, I was living with six people of a similar age and so my life suddenly feels really different. I can’t imagine not being in contact with them, and my other friends," says Cameron Moon, 19.
11. Stay positive
It’s easy to feel embarrassed, even a bit ashamed, that you’re back living with your folks despite being a grown-up. But millions of young adults are in the same position under lockdown and it’s almost certainly the safest place.
It’s also easy to focus on the negatives. Living back at ‘home home’ can bring young adults down, especially if they don’t have an ideal relationship with your parents or it all feels very claustrophobic. Not to mention what’s going on in the outside world.
"Avoid becoming a news junkie and make a concerted effort to count your blessings," advises Lucy Friend, 31.
"Having food on the table and good health is more than a lot of people do, the same with having outside space and family time you might not otherwise.
"The virus will pass and I personally like to think our family will come out of it being closer and stronger than ever."
Time spent back in the family home may also give you the impetus - and perhaps the ability to save more - to start looking to buy your own first home.
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