The Emotional Cost Of Living With Your Parents As An Adult

Photographed by Meg O'Donnell.
Moving back home after college has its obvious perks: saving money on rent, taking a breather after years of academic rigor, and mooching off of your parents' laundry machine and HBO account, just to name a few. According to Pew data, it's more common for millennials to move home with their parents than previous generations, and about 15% of college grads do it. But moving home can also take a toll on your mental health. At home, you may have less privacy and more rules, which can lead to increased psychological stress during a crucial growth time in your life.
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"It's hard to go from being on your own, doing your own things, and living under the rules that you've established for yourself — to falling back into the old habits and patterns of living under your parents' roof," says Marni Amsellem, PhD, a psychotherapist who specializes in helping people during life transitions. That's why you go full moody teen on your mom if she nags you about cleaning up your room, something she often did when you were younger.
Although you might feel more mature, it's very common for people to "regress" psychologically when faced with a tense situation around their family. "People revert back to the old patterns they know, without recognizing what has changed during that time," Dr. Amsellem says. Between the stress of finding a job, worrying about paying off student loans, and dealing with societal pressure to move out, you'll likely have lots of uncomfortable or strained conversations during this time. "It can feel overwhelming," she says.
In a perfect world, you'd have trustworthy people close to you who can provide emotional support during this transition. But when all your friends are moving out on their own, you might feel stuck in the suburbs, or at the very least, isolated from your peers, Dr. Amsellem says. Loneliness can affect your mental health in a big way, because humans are social species, so it's worth it to find new ways to connect with people even if you feel miles apart.
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So, how can you make moving home not feel like a sad or soul-crushing experience? As for your relationship with your parents, be sure to establish clear boundaries and communicate what's expected of you now that you're an adult living at home, Dr. Amsellem says. For example, if you're not going to be paying rent, perhaps there are ways that your parents would like you to contribute to the household work. "Make sure everybody is on the same page about what's expected and how everybody can feel respected," she says.
From a social point of view, Dr. Amsellem says it's important to stay in touch in whatever ways you can — whether it's regular FaceTime dates or a group chat. Who knows? Maybe living at home will provide financial flexibility for you to take trips to visit friends who moved away, she says. Figure out what interests you, and see if there are opportunities to connect with likeminded young people in the area where you live, too, she says.
Dating is another change to keep in mind. Be frank with your parents about how your dating life has changed since you were a teen. For instance, if you'd like them to keep their distance when you're going on dates, or waive your curfew, you'd want to tell them ahead of time so there are no surprises. And remember that your opinion on all of these is legitimate and valid, Dr. Amsellem says. After all, you are an adult.
Ultimately, not everyone has a positive relationship with their parents, so moving home might not be the respite that that you imagined it to be. This period might be a worthwhile time to seek outside emotional support, such as therapy or group counseling, so that you have someone else in your life to provide input on these issues that may arise. And if the living situation is too difficult, or your relationship with your parents was strained or toxic before, then "it would be good to examine the necessity for you to be living with them," Dr. Amsellem says. Even if it means paying for laundry, it's worth it for the sake of your mental health and wellbeing.
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