Do you want to know the secrets of parenting twenty somethings? Then read on to discover what it is really like when you parent young adults. I have worked with older teenagers for many years as a teacher and coach and I also have my own adult children who I have really enjoyed parenting.
There is plenty online about parenting toddlers and children from potty training and sleep training, then there is less when you start searching for parenting teenagers advice and then next to nothing about parenting twenty something year-olds who live at home with you.
Yet at this stage of parenting, we find ourselves searching for advice about parenting twenty somethings. But how much parenting is too much? Should we intervene in their day to day lives, do we charge them rent or board? These are just some of the questions that you may have once your 20 something-year-old is still living at home with you.
One thing that is for certain is that childhood has been extended, ever since the 1950’s childhood has lasted longer, with more and more expectations put on parents, we are now financially responsible for our young people for much longer. For many twenty something-year-olds, they will not be able to afford to move out of the family home at a young age and will need financial support for longer than we may have had.
This is very different from previous generations who would have become financially and emotionally independent at an earlier age. It is common now to have what Sociologists define as boomerang kids, they leave home but come back, again and again! They may come back after university or after a relationship breakup.
Adult responsibility and twenty something year olds
Did you know that the brain doesn’t fully develop until about age 25? What woah!
Teenage mentality lasts from early adolescence until 22 or 23 years of age and this is especially true for a young man. Women do seem to mature faster than their male counterparts but this developmental stage does apply to all genders. Most of the research shows kids are still using the same parts of their brain at 22 that they were using at 15. Their brain is still developing in their early 20’s.
So your twenty-something is not that much more prepared for adult situations yet and still need guidance and support from their immediate family members. What this means in practical and emotional terms is that they may still make mistakes in their life choices and that they may still lack common sense.
The amygdala still controls their impulsive reactions which can still make young adults a little bit reactive. This is not to excuse any negative behaviours but it can help us understand why they react the way they do.
Why parenting twenty somethings is challenging for families?
Parenting adult children is a whole new ball game, just think back and remember yourself at that age, you probably thought you had life nailed, that you knew exactly what was what and it is only now with hindsight that you realise your early twenty’s is still so young!
Formal Education will be finished and your young adults are exploring their place in today’s world. If they have been away to University and then come back home they will be used to living independently, eating when they want, coming and going as they please. Yet when coming back home to live, they will need to adjust and so will you.
As parents, you may have got used to your empty nest and find having an adult child at home challenging again. It can be easy to fall back into treating them as a teenager who is still very reliant on you rather than the adult they have legally become.
The first thing to acknowledge is that parenting at this stage requires new boundaries and new negotiations for everyone to get used to. If you had been a helicopter parent and very involved in your child’s life as a teen it may be difficult to step back. Sharing your home with an adult child is different to sharing it with a younger child or teenager and requires a different approach because unsolicited advice is often the last thing adult children want and look for, therefore you need to approach parenting twenty somethings in a different and new way.
University and parenting twenty something year olds
Many teenagers head off to University at the age of 18 or so and won’t finish their formal education until they are in their early 20’s. Due to the way funding now works, parents of twenty-something-year-olds will be financially responsible for these adult kids for much longer. When your college students apply for university they will complete an online form to see how much student loan they are eligible for. This form takes into account the parent’s earnings for the previous year.
Parents will also complete an online form which then informs the student and parents of their expected financial contribution. It may be a surprise to some to realise just how much they are expected to contribute to these adult children. I wrote about the true cost of university in this post.
When our daughter was at University her student living loan did not even cover her accommodation costs, therefore we needed to bump this up with a weekly contribution of £50 for her food and living costs. The student loan does cover the fees for the degree course and this is paid back, almost like a graduate tax after the young person has started a paying job.
My daughter had a job in the university holidays and this helped bridge that financial gap, but parents do need to be aware that they will be financially responsible for their twenty-something whilst they are at university.
We now suggest starting to save for this cost in advance, my son is currently applying and we will need to financially support him too. I am just glad that they were not both at university at the same time!
Career Plans and adult children
Starting on a career path and getting that first job is a huge milestone for young adults. Whether the job is a post A-Level, a graduate role or an apprenticeship it will be a time of personal growth for an emerging adult. It will bring unexpected challenges and great rewards. Many parents may feel qualified and invested enough to ask questions and want to know everything about the new role but you must remember that this is their journey and their path to tread.
When the children were at school, parents would know what was happening and whilst the older teen was at university many parents were still financially invested but a first job is a time to back off. Let your adult child take full responsibility, no more waking them up and planning things for them, let them work it out but be there with a supportive ear. The same with fostering new friendships, you will have a lot less influence on their friendships.
I did discover that my daughter wanted to offload when she got home from work, however, she didn’t want my opinions, just a listening ear and sounding board so that she could process her day. You may find that your twenty-something will want words of encouragement as they are likely to be feeling a little vulnerable and use you as their safe space to talk about the new things they are learning and also how to manage situations they have not experienced before.
Your twenty-something may also need some help understanding their wages, for example how the student loan is paid back, how much tax and national insurance is deducted. These financial lessons are really important and will help today’s young adults master good financial habits and understanding.
It is also good to remember that many of us now have a portfolio career and may work in a different field in the future. Job changes are more acceptable and there really are no jobs for life anymore. Encourage your adult child to try different things if they are not fulfilled. We work longer hours and more years than ever before so it is acceptable to have a number of different careers.
Managing personal finance
I have always known that teenagers and young adults want to understand personal finance more and in my opinion, schools really let us down in this respect. Maths just doesn’t teach financial education and unless your child has done business studies or economics they probably have very little understanding regarding personal finance. However, as parents of twenty-somethings, we can offer support in this area, money management is often picked up and replicated in families. the best way to teach good financial habits is by modelling them. If you are a saver then your child is more likely to be.
During their teen years, it is a good idea to discuss financial products like managing a credit card or explain buy now pay later. Unfortunately, there has been a huge rise in pay later products that are aimed at young adults and many don’t have the knowledge and understanding of how easy it is to get into debt with these products.
If your twenty-something is still living at home then they may have more disposable income so help them by discussing savings options which could include using premium bonds to save. My daughter like these and has ‘won’ a fair few times. Again you can support your adult child by talking about the best type of bank account for their needs, again some have insurance for cell phones / mobile phones included or car breakdown recovery.
Another financial issue to be aware of when parenting twenty somethings is many will need a much larger deposit when moving out either for rent or a mortgage, A down payment is often required and parents of teens can help by explaining this to our young people. It has become more common for parents to be a guarantor for their adult children, this means that if they defaulted on a payment we would be liable.
This can be helpful for getting our young adults on the property market or even to get a rented property, if you can help financially it is beneficial. If you have younger children, you may be in a position to start a savings account for these future costs.
One question I see popping up again and again in Facebook groups and forums is the question of adult children paying rent if they live at home. This is a personal choice but there are a few different approaches worth considering. Some families will need the financial contribution from their adult children if budgets are generally tight. Once child benefit has stopped there becomes a bigger cost to having children living at home.
If a family doesn’t ‘need’ the rent money then there are still good reasons for charging rent. One reason is that it helps prepare young adults for future financial responsibility. It will help prepare them and teach them how to budget their wages and that accommodation, be it rent or mortgage is one bill which you will need to prioritise throughout your life in the real world.
Another popular approach is that the parents charge rent but keep it set aside in another savings account ready to give back to the child when they do leave home. It can then be used as a deposit or a lump sum that enables them to buy new furniture or whatever else they may need. Finally, some parents will just encourage their adult children to save for themselves. The advantage of this is that once again it encourages financial independence rather than the parents needing to save on their behalf.
This final approach is my preferred approach, our daughter is good at saving so we don’t need to take any money off her. Instead, I know that she is using this time to build up a great nest egg ready for when she does leave the family home.
As daft as it sounds food is probably one of the biggest issues in our house with older teens and adult children! You will need to decide your approach on this one, will you be providing meals and snacks or will your adult child fend for themselves. I cleared out a cupboard that I gave to my daughter for her personal food as I had said that she can help herself to breakfast things and I’d still cook the evening meal. However, I suggested she buy her snacks and things to make lunch for work to which she agreed.
Although what happened was that when we had nice snacks she’d help herself to them too as they were nice! This wound up the tween and teen who couldn’t touch her stuff! So I did have to say no to that unless she asked first!
One ground rule I have is that I expect both the teen and the oldest to let me know in advance if they are not eating an evening meal as I don’t want to waste food. I don’t mind if they are not eating at the same time as us though as I plate it up ready for when they are home. Quite often they are not home to eat at the same time because of going to the gym, or my teen works part-time in a shop.
I also encourage my twenty-something and older teen to both cook for the family one night a week. This gives me a break from cooking but also ensures that they are learning to cook family meals that will help prepare them for when they do eventually leave home. I am all about teaching those basic life skills so that when they do leave home they are more self-sufficient.
Owning a Car
Owning a car provides individuals with much greater freedom in their daily life. Your twenty-somethings may want to look at leasing a car as opposed to buying one, There are advantages and disadvantages to both approaches. A leased car where you pay monthly and then give it back or pay it off after a set period (often 3 years) can be a good option for some as there will be no additional car maintenance costs. This makes it a fixed cost that the young person can manage. It will also help them build up a good credit record, assuming they make all the payments on time.
This can allow younger drivers to have a good reliable car rather than an older car that they have purchased. The disadvantage is that they don’t own the car unless they make the final payment. Buying a car outright may work out cheaper but then there is the associated costs of Mot’s and maintenance, changing tyres etc. These costs are not fixed and so could come at a time when your young adult does not have the savings for repairs.
Neither of these options covers car insurance though, so do factor that in. One way for newer drivers to reduce the cost of car insurance is to have a black box, you can also explain to your young adult that car insurance will decrease rapidly at this age as they get more no claims discounts under their belts.
As parents, we can again help our kids save some money by telling them to shop around for insurance and not just accept renewals. New customers are often given the best deals over automatic renewals, also remember to use things like TopCashBack to get good deals.
Social Media and parenting
Social media is something that this generation of twenty-somethings has grown up with, they have had smartphones from their early teens and grew up with all the social networking sites, Whilst social media can be a positive thing there are also downsides to consider regarding their digital footprint. If your young adult is working in certain industries (teaching, public service sector) you may want to talk to them about protecting their personal lives from their public profiles.
Young adults today are influenced by celebrities and social media influencers and may in their early teens have taken photos or posted things that they no longer want to be found on social media. It can be useful for teens to Google themselves and see what comes up and whilst once ‘out there’ on the internet it is difficult to control there are still things you can do to hide previous postings. This is a great post on how to remove yourself from Google and social media sites.
Staying Out Overnight
We stopped having curfews and things when our young adults were about 17 years old and especially once they were driving themselves and not relying on us for lifts. Rather than being authoritarian about what time they are in we just ask that we know if they are not coming home – this is about safety more than anything else. Taking this approach has worked for us, as we always know in advance if they are coming home. We also have a dish in the hallway where car keys are kept and this means I can see quickly who is home if I come in late myself!
I have always subscribed to the positive parenting teenagers approach, for me it is a good thing to create a better relationship with my adult children, I don’t tell them what to do, I suggest and I try to listen more than I talk.
The other thing that goes with this is about having overnight guests, thankfully we have undergone many cultural changes over the years and now it is a norm to live together before a first marriage. There is less stigma about having a number of relationships and that is reflected in how late teens act with relationships, many have a different mindset to how previous generations were bought up.
However, your home means your ground rules so you may have rules in place about overnight partners, especially if you have younger children living with you also. Again it is advisable to have an open conversation on this topic before the situation arises.
The entire family must know what are the expectations for sharing space in the family home. Young adults and parents alike all need their privacy, for example, I would not walk into their bedrooms without knocking or calling out to ask for permission first. I won’t go into their bedrooms to search for washing etc, if they don’t put it in the washing basket it doesn’t get done and they learn for the next time. they want their favourite jeans! Same with changing their bedding, even better I expect them to throw that in the wash themselves rather than just fill up the washing basket for me to do!
Final thoughts on parenting twenty something year olds
Parenting twenty-somethings is challenging in a different way and can be a minefield. As we have shown there are many different things to consider when living with your adult child from helping them financially to putting boundaries in place that everyone feels comfortable with. However, it can also be a wonderful time and a time to redefine your relationship ready for the years ahead. I have enjoyed parenting my teenagers positively and parenting twenty-somethings is offering me the same level of joy.
I will be honest and say that this is a stage that I really enjoy, I don’t look forward to them leaving home and know that over the next year that is a real possibility but until then I will carry on creating precious memories and enjoy the parenting journey! When my children were younger I’d hear such negativity about parenting teenagers and yet that wasn’t my experience in reality.
The hardest years for me were the very early teens and the transition to secondary school, once they were established in high school with the friendship groups my teenagers were settled. We didn’t have rebellious teenagers and I put this down to our parenting style which was always about open communication, we gave them more freedom gradually and tried to listen to what they were saying
We are not perfect and there were a few times emotions boiled over and ran high, but at these times I tried to step back, breathe and behave rationally. It wasn’t always easy but it did pave the way for parenting positively. I have always found if you raise your voice so does the other person therefore I would be very conscious of this when we were discussing things.
Parenting twenty somethings and teenagers can be really rewarding, you don’t have to believe the narrative that you have heard from others. You can continue to build a strong positive relationship that continues to evolve for years to come.