‘We are at our wits’ end. Our adult daughter still lives with us and her boyfriend has started to settle here too’

Tell Me About It: Their plans to go travelling, instead of focusing on their careers, concern us as the current situation will likely resume when they return


We are at our wits’ end and are looking for your advice as to how we could move forward. Like all families these days I guess, our children were late leaving home, and we had assumed that by now they would have all flown the nest. We have our youngest adult daughter in her 20s still living with us and, as a consequence, surely and slowly her boyfriend/partner literally started to settle here.

We felt that we needed to support them to get started on their careers, but what seems to be happening is that the starts we were expecting keep getting pushed back. We had cleared the side area of the house so they could live somewhat apart from us (our garage is converted to be part of the house) but the kitchen/dining area is shared so it’s a mixed bag, literally.

We are both fully retired and have worked really hard all our lives to create this, and we unfortunately are resenting that we cannot really live freely in our own space at this stage. We have confided in close friends, but all we get is to sit down and talk it out with them, but we know the fixed limits, namely they can’t afford to pay rent anywhere should they get an offer on anything. However, they were raising the idea of going travelling for a period, and this has put us into a state of anxiety really, because the future looks like the present . . . that they will return to us after whatever period they are away.

We are unable right now to see a solution and feel that we have to for everyone’s emotional health.




You are right that for everyone’s emotional health and wellbeing a plan needs to be put into place. You say that the advice you are getting is to talk it out with your daughter and partner and there is no way out of this. However, before doing this, you, and your partner, need to be clear what your boundaries are and what your bottom line is. If you are not firm on this, then it is likely that your current situation will continue.

There is a rising sense that young people are being somewhat over-parented and as a result their journey to independence and adulthood is being delayed. Of course, the cost-of-living crisis has created a block that is very real but there is also a behind-the-scenes piece about not wanting adult children to suffer discomfort, failure or strife. Tolerating upset and setbacks is part of growing up and dealing with the reality of restrictions are necessary skills for life. It seems that your daughter and partner are not facing their need to save or to increase their incomes so that they can move into independent living. If they go travelling it is likely that they will be even further behind in this endeavour, and this is why you need to clearly outline your boundaries.

All adults have free choice in what they do with their lives, but the responsibility of the consequences lies with them. This is what adulthood is. This means that you treat your daughter and partner as adults and lay out the issues so that they have clarity on the options that are facing them. Try not to do their thinking for them (assuming you know how they will respond) and allow them time to absorb the situation and make their own choices. This may be very hard for you as to date they have been treated as children that you care for, but this is no longer viable.

It would help if you can own your own role in creating this situation. You may need to explain how your sense of protection, together with your fear of causing upset, has allowed the situation to go on much longer than is fair. You need to help them see their capacity and potential for being in charge of their own lives. Above all you need not to rush in and try fix everything for them. Everyone will be uncomfortable and uneasy for a while and what you want to model is the capacity to tolerate this and take a back seat in terms of their planning.


It is not unlikely that their initial reaction may be of resentment or that the young couple feel rejected, so a calm and firm repetition of your support in creating a plan for independence is crucial

To be fair to them, their move out of the house needs support and they may need to seek professional help to assist with this. Contacting MABS for financial advice could be useful, as would getting independent career advice. Indeed, you might also get some extra financial advice about your retirement so that all of you are looking towards the future with insight and clarity. It is not unlikely that their initial reaction may be of resentment or that the young couple feel rejected, so a calm and firm repetition of your support in creating a plan for independence is crucial.

You will need your own supports to help you stay on track, so speak to those friends who have already given advice and know your own vulnerable points, so that you don’t renege on your plan at the first hurdle. Your friends will be able to tell you what these sensitive points are as they should know you well enough to point out your habitual reactions and what might work to make a difference.

Listen carefully to them and trust that the advice has your best interests at heart. Action is long overdue so do not wait but start the conversations right now.