Are you living with your parent after graduating college? Or are you contemplating moving in with your parents?
You've graduated from college and decided to move in with your parents, but now you're worried. Should you have moved in?
Are you wondering how you manage the transition into your family structure and family dynamics after graduating college?
I'll tell you how.
Choosing to return home is not an easy choice, especially if you've already imagined a wonderful life of independence.
But here you are, graduating into a competitive job market during a pandemic with skyrocketing rent prices and murmurs of an incoming recession. If you can move in with your parents, it's a smart choice.
Here are 4 tips to help you integrate into your family structure and dynamics without losing your independence and autonomy.
It’s easy to return to old family dynamics, where you are a child and your parents dictate what you do.
I don't want that. I want you to be an independent adult when you return home.
Tips 1: Arrive with An Action Plan
The best way to return home is to arrive with an action plan.
An action plan outlines how you plan to spend your time while living with your parents. It lays out your personal, professional, and relationship goals and goals around leisure, fun, and rest.
And, it must also include any agreements you've made with your parents before returning home.
Some of you have parents who'll take you back, no questions asked or strings attached. They're thrilled and excited about your return. They'll take care of you, and you're welcome to stay for as long as you want.
Some of you are welcomed back by your parents, but they want to know you have a plan for your career. And other parents will allow you to return home but will have clear rules and expectations for you.
Regardless of which parent you have, I don't want any confusion about your purpose for returning home. And I also don't want you flailing around, directionless at home.
I want you to have your goals and your agreements laid down on paper so they give you direction while you’re there.
An action plan will keep you organized, focused, and accountable to yourself and to your parents.
I created a Google doc template you can download here. It gives more detail and provides examples.
What should an action plan include?
Timeframe: How long do you plan to stay with your parents? Weeks, months, or years?
Goals: What are your short-term and long-term goals while you’re there?
Rest, recover, and reconnect with friends and family.
Work a local part-time job or find a job in your industry.
Timeline: By when do you want to complete your goals? Share months or specific dates.
Goals: Write down your goals then break them down into actionable projects and their accompanying tasks.
A broken-down list will keep you on track. Remember to dedicate time to tackling tasks that help you meet your milestones and achieve your goals.
Example goals & timeline
Rest with family
Start job hunting
Apply to 2-3 jobs a week.
Reconnect with friends
Update cover letter, LinkedIn profile, and resume.
Attend networking events
Reconnect with my local community
Apply to 2-3 jobs a week.
Travel locally with friends and family (It’s summertime!)
Schedule informational interviews
Prepare for interviews
* The downloadable template includes this chart and walks you through the process of breaking down goals into small projects and tasks.
Tip 2: Establish a Predictable Daily Routine
Yes, you need a predictable daily routine.
And, I’m not talking about the motivational routines all over social media. This daily routine serves a different purpose.
The goal of a predictable daily routine is to visibly show your parents that you're actively engaging and moving forward in your adulthood. And to demonstrate you’re making intentional career choices and not stalling or avoiding the real world. I want them to see you thriving.
I, often, see parents tell their grown college-educated children they're not ready for the real world. And that is not true. Once you leave the nest to go to college, you've started "adulting." You'll likely struggle through the entire process, but you've already started the process of turning into an adult that's able and capable.
So, a well-balanced routine will signal to your parents that you are an adult, not the child who left for college years ago. It will also help them reevaluate their perception of you.
Most of us have the tendency to remember our friends, siblings, and children as younger than they are. I once shared a story with my colleague about my youngest brother. When she asked his age, and I was forced to remember how old he was. I realized, my brother, who is about six years younger, was stuck at middle school age in my mind. But he was already in his early 20s. I, however, was still talking about him as if he was a child. Because I had helped raise him, he was a child-like sibling to me. So, I understand how easy it's for your parents to receive you from college and not realize that you've grown and changed and that you are able and capable.
A routine allows them to see you as an independent, autonomous person. This predictable daily routine does not need to be detailed or burdensome. It just sets a rhythm, a pattern to your presence at home and helps your parents adjust to your presence and behaviors.
However, the rigidity of your routine will depend on the type of parents you have and the quality of that relationship.
Parents who perceive lounging, resting, and leisurely activities as laziness will want to see you moving from sunrise to sundown. So, be mindful of their expectations and unnecessary pressure, and carve out space for yourself and for rest and joy.
What should your daily routine include?
Your wake-up time. Are you up at 7 am or noon? Some of you have parents who expect early morning wake-ups. Decide or negotiate your wake-up time.
Working on your job search from the coffee shop?
Lounging at home until the evening and working at night? A note to night owls: let your parents know why the night is your best working time.
Chore contributions. Are you volunteering to do household chores, or are you expected to do certain chores? Decide on a time and do them at the same time.
Dinner time. Will your parents expect you for dinner most days or on certain days? Are you expected to cook on certain days?
Social time: When will you be out? Are weekends for family or friends?
*Don't forget to grab the downloadable template.
Your predictable daily schedule can be as detailed as you want. The goal of the routine is to establish a rhythm intentionally. Often, routines are established naturally. But it’s better to be proactive, especially if you have parents who need control. It will help deal with arguments quickly. (More details about this are in the template.)
PSA to children of immigrant parents. Some of you will need to negotiate assumed responsibilities and unreasonable rules and demands if you're parents default to their old parenting style. So, if you plan to return home, work on this before you arrive.
Remember, the goal of your predictable daily routine is to reduce your parents' anxieties about the future and to show them you can handle real life.
Tip #3 Manage Your Parent's Big Expectations
I'm certain you've already experienced people sharing their expectations with you, telling you what things should look like, feel like, and how fast you should move.
Your parents will do the same.
They’ll give you advice and will make big assumptions about what you should be doing, by when, and even how.
It will be your responsibility to right-size those big expectations, unfortunately.
This is an important message for those of you who are first-generation college graduates, first-generation professionals, and children of immigrant parents.
Your parents will likely not know enough about the job market, your industry, your career goals, or your career path. They may not be equipped to give you very concrete or proper advice on how things should be moving. But they may still put a lot of pressure on you. They'll make big assumptions about how fast things should be going and want to blame you for the lack of movement that's happening.
I don't want you to receive and carry that pressure.
One way to manage their unrealistic expectations and anxieties about your future, or the challenges you're facing, is to share the truth.
Bring them into the process you're experiencing and share the challenges. Since there is no guarantee of a positive outcome for any project, they need to see you are taking action and make it clear you are doing your part.
Hopefully, if they learn how tedious any process you take on is, they'll be able to manage their expectations and rightsized them.
I, for example, as a first-generation professional doing sedentary office work, most of my work is invisible to my mother. When I take on an interesting project or when I need to correct a misconception about a social-political event, I share the nitty-gritty details of my work with my mother. I talk about the goal and broken-down projects and connected tasks as well as the impact of my work on her life. She'll usually respond with an, "I guess nothing is easy."
Nope! Nothing is never easy.
Example: Sample responses to unrealistic expectations
You should be getting callbacks.
That's not the experience in my friend group. We're all submitting applications and waiting.
You should be interviewing already. Hannah's already interviewing.
Actually, it takes 15 to 30 days or longer for resumes to be reviewed nowadays. I completed an application on Tuesday, and the job posting doesn't close until the end of the month. I likely won't hear from X company for 30 or more days.
Marisol got a job last week, and she's in your field.
That's great for her. I should reach out to her and ask her if she did anything different than what I'm doing or if she just did what I'm doing and got a job by waiting it out until the opportunity presented itself.
In these examples, we responded with the challenging aspect of the process or experience.
If you do not share these logistical and procedural challenges, they won't know how hard job hunting is, for example. And it will be hard for them to manage their job hunting expectations. They'll assume a college degree and an interest in the field is enough to get you hired.
That's what I though as naive first-generation college student. I thought that after receiving my bachelors employers were going to looking for me and trying to recruit me. I didn't know I had to put effort into the job search process because no one talked about it until graduation was approaching.
A bright spot about bringing in your parents into the process, even though it can be draining, is that it will improve your relationship and quality of life and their relationship with others like your sibling.
Tip 4: Communicate or Over-communicate With Your Parents
All four tip are, to some extent, about communication. Learning to communicate with your parents is crucial to a harmonious relationship in the home.
Let me make something clear though. Because communicating with your parents is very important, if you choose to live with them, don't make this mistake.
Do not. Do not leave your parents in the dark.
When well-meaning parents don't know what's going on, they get anxious. And when they get anxious, they get nosy. And when they get nosy, they get in your business. They'll start asking questions. They'll start pushing you to take action. They create a sense of urgency and put unnecessary pressure on you to resolve their issue or concern.
This is especially true for those of you who have overbearing parents. Your inclination is likely to keep them at a distance because they’re too much, but it may be more useful to bring them into your life so they don't get anxious.
Your parents day-to-day are going to observe you at home. They're going to track the things they see with their eyes.
You going to the kitchen. You watching TV. You playing video games. You on the computer. You hanging out with friends. You going out. If this is all they see, they will start to panic.
Why? Because all the career-focused work you do on the computer is invisible. They don't "see" that work. You may be working on your resume and cover letter at night, but they didn't see that because you did that in your room, and you didn't share it with them.
You may be going out during the day to socialize and enjoying the freedom you get with graduation and doing the hard labor at night in your room when everybody's asleep.
Parents are observing and judging you by what's visible. So we want to make the invisible visible.
The only way you make the invisible visible is if they know and see what you're doing. When they know and see what you're doing, they see you making forward progress. They'll see you taking action to meet your career goals. Parents don't want to see is a child who looks stalled or they start worrying about their child's future.