When Adult Stepchildren Are Still Living With You
As our stepchildren get older, many stepmoms envision transitioning to their next phase of life with their partner: quality time as a couple, freedom to come and go as they see fit, no more stepkid and/or ex-drama. Unfortunately, with the growing number of adult stepchildren continuing to live with their parents, the dream of empty nester may seem out of reach for several of us.
According to Pew Research, young adults, between the ages of 18 to 34 living with their parents have surpassed other living arrangements in 2014. This means as a stepparent, you’re more likely to have your stepkids linger on way beyond college years. You might not mind so much if your adult stepchild is off studying, working towards a down payment for a home or getting ready to start their own family.
You’re probably expecting your adult stepchildren to act like responsible adults, right? Well, that depends on many factors, including their upbringing. Remember, in most cases, you weren’t part of their formative years. Therefore, some of their habits and values may clash with your own. What if your stepkids brought their boyfriend/girlfriend for a “sleepover” AKA sex? How about drinking and drugs? As a stepmom, many of us feel we have little say in the matter.
Here are several areas of contention for many stepmoms of adult stepchildren:
Not contributing financially
Not participating in the household chores
Going through personal items of the stepmom
Not respecting or acknowledging stepmom’s presence
Engaging in inappropriate behaviors while the parents are absent
Now here's another thought: what if your stepchildren have no timeline regarding moving on with their lives, determined to enjoy dad’s generous cash flow and your free room and board? How can you move on with your own lives and look forward to your golden years together? Here are some thoughts for you to discuss with your partner and his kids.
New House Rules
It’s never too late to establish house rules in your home. Think of this as a review of how things are going. Most people have yearly reviews for work, so it only makes sense to have yearly reviews for house rules. Sit with your partner and discuss what behaviors and expectations for your adult stepchildren that you both can agree on. Think in terms of what’s acceptable and what are deal breakers and make sure to include the consequences if those rules are broken. Remember that everyone lives by rules and consequence in our lives. School, work, organizations, everywhere, there are expectations as to how to conduct ourselves.
If your adult stepchildren are moving back in the home, set up the expectations up front, before they start lugging in their baggage. Discuss timelines and goals for the future. Have conversations around the What Ifs. Don't be afraid to have frank conversations. Put any decisions in writing. Include things such as chores, meals, financial obligations, shared space, personal space, overnight guests, alcohol and drug usage, length of stay. And most important, make sure that your partner is the one doing most of the talking.
One of the key roles of parenting is to raise our children to become independent, self-sufficient and responsible adults. Despite the growing number of adult children staying in the family home, it’s still possible to have a cohesive stepfamily life. Expectations and boundaries need to be established early on. As a stepmom, you can support dad with positive reinforcement of his role as a father and role model. Remind him that the best way to help his kids is by encouraging them to take charge of their own lives.
If you’re a newer stepmom, coming into the lives of your partner’s adult children can be challenging. Living in the home where everything about it screams “First Family” leaves you feeling like the outsider. Want to change the look and feel of the home? You’re likely to be met with resistance. So many memories are tied to the home and your partner’s kids may resent you for trying to make any kind of change. Consider downsizing where you’ll be able to create a place you can call your own. Not only will this be an incentive for your adult stepchildren to find their own place, but it’s also the perfect opportunity to gift them anything you don’t feel like keeping.
Ask Them What They Want
Relationships with adult stepchildren are different than with younger ones. If you came later in their lives, there’s little history and or shared experiences. As adults, your relationship is dependent on whether or not you want to engage with one another. So why not ask them. Take a moment to get to know one another. Try to understand what’s going on and why your adult stepkids are still living with you. It just might be that they’re scared of what’s there and have no idea what next steps to take. Sometimes a little empathy can go a long way.
No matter what age your stepchildren are, there will always be difficult times as well as joyous moments. This is the nature of families. Having your adult stepchildren living with you is one of the many phases we face as parents in the home. Some of those phases are longer than others. Have an open and honest dialogue with them and you just might foster a lasting friendship.