When Your Empty Nest Refills

Has your empty nest been refilled in light of this year’s unprecedented events? Guess what, you are not alone! According to a recent survey by Country Financial, 1 in 5 parents have had adult kids move back home in 2020. For younger millennials (24-29 year olds), 39% of them are either planning to move back home or have already done so. In some cases a child who was supposed to move out is staying home instead because their university is currently still remote-only. Whatever the reason, having a kid or two at home when you were expecting to be an empty nester is probably a surprise. We’ve got some tips on how to keep things positive and harmonious while enjoying this extra time together.

Set Expectations

Your kiddo is now an adult, and not only should you treat them as such, but they should also behave accordingly. Let them do their own laundry, give them chores, take turns doing groceries and making dinner—you get the idea. Unless you want your house to feel like your adult children’s personal “bed & breakfast,” set these expectations early on. It’s easy for your relationship to regress to the parent-child dynamic, but really try not to let it. Instead, move it towards more of an adult-roommates dynamic.

Communicate Needs

Everyone will have specific needs and these should be addressed and agreed upon. For example, if you and your spouse are accustomed to having dinner at 6pm but your late-working daughter likes to eat at 9pm, work out a compromise involving cooking and heating up leftovers. If your son has a daily 8am call with his boss, move your daily morning treadmill date with Van Halen earlier or later (or get AirPods!). It’s also important to communicate about finances. If your child is working, do you want them to help pay for utilities and groceries? If not, do they need financial support, and how much? Talking about it and clarifying details will make it a bit less stressful for both of you.

Create Spaces for Everyone

If you still have your child’s room set up for them, or if you have a dedicated guest room, you are one of the lucky ones! However, if you’ve converted their room to a craft room or home office, you may have to return that space to them for now. If you’ve downsized, you will need to get a little more creative with providing them with a personal space—hey, even a wide corridor with a room divider may have to do.

Keep a Family Calendar

Have a calendar, whether in the Cloud or a whiteboard in the kitchen, so everyone can jot down their key events. With everyone at home working or schooling, it’s super helpful to have this information available. For instance, if someone has a team Zoom at 2pm this Tuesday, then it’s good to know not to vacuum then.

DIY Meals

With all the varied schedules, it’s most practical to let everyone make their own breakfasts and lunches. Keep the kitchen stocked with plenty of basics so it’s easy to make one’s daytime meals. Dinner is an opportune time for everyone to sit down together and catch up. Make a larger batch for dinner if you can; leftovers are awesome for quick-heat lunches. You can take turns picking restaurants for designated takeout nights.

Expect Them to Live Their Own Lives

Just because they’re back home it doesn’t mean they want to spend all their free time with the parental units. They may not even eat dinner with you most nights. They will also likely have their own social distancing plans with friends. So go ahead and make your own plans as well (read: Happy Hour). Here and there, though, you’ll be able to get in a game or movie night with them—appreciate that time together and enjoy it!

Remember, This Is a Surprise for Them, Too

Keep in mind that though it’s an adjustment for you to have your adult son or daughter back home, it’s also a huge adjustment for them. They may feel embarrassed or ashamed or saddened; they had their own life plans, too. If their job has been furloughed, or they’re unemployed, then it’s even tougher. Support them emotionally, and keep the conversation open on their mental health. You may be the sense of normal and comfort they need right now.


In other parts of the world, such as Europe and Asia, it’s totally the norm for adult children to live at home until they marry or move to a different city. Americans are much more independent at an earlier age. The pandemic won’t last forever, but you will be parents forever, no matter how old your children become. Take advantage of this situation to enjoy them and get to know them as adults…as well as your lifelong friends.


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