There's a higher percentage of young adults aged 25 to 34 living with their parents than at any time since the early 1950s, according to the Pew Research Center. It’s more than 20 percent and rising quickly.
For high-school grads, the numbers are even worse. The Economic Policy Institute says that the underemployment rate was more than 50 percent last year.
No matter what the cause, moving back in with your parents can be a traumatic crossroads experience. Your life can get much better (or worse) depending on how you handle the situation. So here are 15 ways to turn moving back in with your parents into a positive experience:
1. Expect them to treat you like an adult. You don't need a curfew anymore. Have that discussion before you move in. Some parents may have been in the habit of waiting up for you, so talking about it upfront relieves them from that responsibility.
2. Expect them to treat you like an adult (part two). Mom may have done your laundry and prepared your meals when you were 8. If you allow her to do that for you now, you're subliminally telling her that you're still a child, so don't be surprised if she treats you like one.
3. Pay some rent. This is more important for you than for your parents. Income might be helpful for their budget, but knowing that you have rent due will force you to look for work. You'll be eliminating an excuse to just hang.
4. Negotiate house rules in advance. Can you invite a group of friends over for dinner? For a party? Know what's allowed before you move in.
5. Ask for a lease. Negotiating a lease will force both you and your parents to think through some of the questions/difficulties that your new relationship will face. If you wait until there's an incident, it will be harder to find a good solution.
6. Expect your parents to supply a pathway, not a destination. Their job is to help you become a fully functional, self-reliant adult—not someone who's dependent upon them forever.
7. Be willing to help with routine family chores. If you're not working, it only makes sense that you help with the family grocery shopping or vacuuming.
8. Offer to pay part of the utility and grocery bills. You'll be using electricity and hitting the fridge; it’s only fair that you should pay for it. Plus, when you do start getting your own utility bills, it won't be such a shock.
9. Have a plan that goes beyond playing video games and Facebook. Create a detailed plan on what you'll need to do to get your career started and branch out on your own. Make sure that the plan contains specific things that will move you closer to your goal. Then work on at least one item on the list every day.
10. Be willing to take a job that's 'beneath' you. You could wait years to find a job that your education/training prepared you for. You need money now. Take a fair job today, then look for a better one tomorrow.
11. Don't ask your parents for money. When you were a child, you might have gotten an allowance. As an adult, you don't get one.
12. Don't take your parents' support for granted. To assume that you can stay as long as you like is to assume that you'll never grow up. Part of your goal should be to have a target of when you'll be able to afford an apartment. Your plan should keep that target date in mind.
13. Disagree like an adult. It's not easy to redefine a relationship with your parents. One way to guarantee failure is to continue to relate to them in a childish way. Some adults have a habit of stomping their feet if they don't get their way. Don't make it easy for your parents (or anyone else) to treat you like a child.
14. Your parents may want to protect you from any hardship. Don't let them do it. You'll be locking yourself and them into a dysfunctional relationship. Rather look at the hardships as opportunities to grow and survive. You’ll be able to relay these things to your kids 20 years from now.
15. Don't get too comfortable. Comfort is your enemy! You shouldn't be comfortable until you've reached your goals. To get comfortable now is to accept that you'll always be dependent on your parents and will always need to hold their hand when you cross the street.
Gary Foreman is a former financial planner who founded TheDollarStretcher.com website. The site features many personal finance topics, including more information on adult children living with parents.