Rule No. 3. Don't expect a hot meal every night. Where you were cooking for maybe two, now you have an extra place setting at the table. If Junior wants to eat, he can contribute by (1) cooking on certain days of the week or (2) paying a portion of the grocery bill.
Rule No. 4. Respect the space. Your home is not a frat house. "Sure, friends can visit and even a boyfriend or girlfriend. But don't think for a moment that my home is about to become party central," says personal finance expert Lynnette Khalfani-Cox, an AARP personal finance columnist, who advises parents to put a limit on the number of guests who can visit at any one time.
Rule No. 5. Leave bad habits at the door. Your adult child returned home with a penchant for drinking or smoking? If you don't mind such habits in the house, so be it. But if you do, outline it in the contract. State clearly: "No smoking or drinking on the premises." This goes for keeping a dirty room, leaving towels on the bathroom floor — if you don't want it done, make it clear.
Rule No. 6. Set a deadline. "Don't assume your child will leave when the time is right," Newberry says. Instead, establish a timeline to help the boarder reach independence. An adult child can get stuck if there's no clear expiration date to what should be a short-term living situation.
Rule No. 7. Don't be an ATM machine. Your household expenses are already ticking upward. But on top of that, you're being asked for $20 here and there. Or perhaps your child needs your help getting a loan and asks you to cosign. Don't put yourself in a financial bind to help your children, Newberry says. Have a talk about financial discipline with your child and do only what you can afford.
Rule No. 8. Have an exit clause in place. Make it clear that if at any time your child doesn't agree with your rules, he'll have to leave. "Many parents who have adult children living with them are way too timid and constantly tiptoe around their kids," Khalfani-Cox says. "If anything, it should be the other way around."
In the end, parents should not be enablers, our experts declare. "You can't have kids imposing on your life," Owens says. "What you can do is become their coach, not their friend. Do what you can to facilitate their independence. That is what parenting is about."
Stacy Julien is a staff editor and writer at AARP.org.
Also of interest: Talking to your adult kids about privacy. »