Development Family

Ten Rules For 18 To 21 Year Olds Living At Home

If you’re reading this then your adult child most likely still lives at home.

Nowadays it’s more common for older children to flee the nest later, particularly if they are still studying or are yet to find their feet in the world.

However, just because this situation is becoming more normal doesn’t make it any easy.

Particularly as mom and dad have already had 18+ years of looking after their child up to this point, so you may be a little tired of full-time parenting by now!

To help ensure things don’t get heated in your household, and that everyone is respectful of each other, it’s important to create some ground rules so you all know where you stand.

So let’s take a look at some helpful house rules you may want to set in your bid to create as stress-free and comfortable environment as possible.

Why Set House Rules?

If your family is the type that prefers to go with the flow, you might find it strange setting house rules for your 18, 19, 20 or 21 year old.

That doesn’t mean you should avoid setting rules and boundaries however, because this sort of structure is extremely useful in creating a home that everyone gets along in.

Typically the rules you set for your grown up child will need to be created with their input, because that will help them see this as a mutual co-operation rather than a dictatorship!

If you can all buy-into these rules and understand why they are in place, everyone will benefit.

That’s because your child will understand what you value and find important, you will understand what’s important to your son or daughter, and they will develop skills and responsibilities that they will find useful once they do leave home.

10 Rules For Older Children Living At Home

1. School Or Work

If your adult child is still in full time education – for example finishing high school or in college or university, then that’s one thing.

If however they aren’t studying, it a good idea to encourage them to get a job, even if it’s part time or relatively low paid, while they figure things out.

Nothing in life come free, and as your child is now an adult it’s good for them to realize the value of a dollar for themselves, and that adults need to pay their own way.

It’s fine to subsidize their living cost if they’re still under your roof, but if your child is able to work but chooses not to, then this might be one of the first things you create rules around.

2. Contribute Financially

While we’re on the subject on finances, a good rule for an 18 year old living at home is to help contribute towards what it costs to maintain a home.

Some parents like to charge their adult child rent, and see this as a way to help pay for things utilities, household maintenance and the mortgage.

Even if you don’t need the money, it’s still a valuable introduction to the fact that it take money to have a roof over your head.

A great tip here is to ask your child to set up a recurring payment or monthly debit, so you won’t need to chase them for the money each month.

3. Help With Chores

Some parents like to start their child off doing chores from a very early age, and if you’ve adopted that stance then helping around the house shouldn’t be anything new for your son or daughter.

A child who is old as 20 and still living at home should really feel obliged to help out, but sadly as that’s not always the case, you might want to create rules around chores.

Things like cleaning the house, doing laundry (especially their own), mowing the lawn and cleaning the yard are all simple things that your older child can and should do if they are living under your roof.

After all, if they are benefitting from these activities, they should be helping with them too!

4. Contribute To Grocery Shopping & Cooking

We’ve listed grocery shopping and preparing meals as a separate point, given these chores are inescapable for most of us.

When your child does move out they’ll have to do their own food shopping and cooking, so again it’s another valuable skill they can develop while living with you.

If mom or dad love to cook then you might not actually want their help preparing meals, but even things like washing the dishes and popping out to the local store when you’ve run out of vital ingredients can all go a long way to your child paying their way.

5. Respect The Curfew

If you are a parent to a 20 or 21 year old, there’s a good chance you live by different hours to your child.

Not all young adults like to stay up late, but when they are out visiting friends or have guests over, it’s only natural for them to want the fun to continue until the early hours.

This is however your home, so that’s where having a curfew that you both respect comes in.

You’re not trying to take all their fun away by saying they can never stay out late, but in general you might like to have a normal curfew of say 11pm, and returning home after that should be something discussed and agreed upon beforehand.

Aside from being woken up, you might want to explain to your child that as a parent you naturally worry when they are out until the wee hours, and that’s not fair for mom and dad.

It’s not fair for parents to have to be concerned and worried on a regular basis, so having a sensible curfew that is adhered to can go a long way to eliminating these worries.

6. Clear Stance On Substances

When a child becomes a young adult they are often tempted to try things like alcohol, cigarettes or recreational drugs.

Depending on their age and your stance, you may have a firm opinion on whether some of these substances are acceptable for your son or daughter to consumer while in your house.

Either way, it’s important your child knows exactly what your stance is and what the deal breakers are – that way there is no guesswork and they know what the penalty would be if they break these rules.

7. Permission For Overnight Guests

Some parents expect their child to ask permission before they invite anyone into your house, but if that’s just a friend or two during daytime hours, you may be pretty relaxed about this.

Overnight guests or a more intimate nature are another story however, and depending on what you’re comfortable with, this can range from something you won’t tolerate under any circumstance, to something you’re fine with provided permission has been sought in advance.

Again, this is one of those areas that should be clearly defined so your child know exactly what is and is not acceptable while living in your home.

8. Open Communication

Open and positive communication is helpful in most areas of life, and if you have a older teenage child living at home then this is one area in which it can be particularly useful.

Living under the same roof as an older child isn’t easy for either party, and sometimes you will come to blows.

That’s when things like a weekly or monthly family meeting can be helpful, as it’s a chance to review things and practice positive communication.

Related: Why Is My Grown Son Or Daughter Mean To Me? Here’s What To Do

9. Respect Each Other’s Privacy

Your child has grown up a lot over the past few years, and as a result some things that were fine when your child was little are no longer acceptable.

The rules for a 21 year old living at home are therefore going to be different to those of a 10 year old.

For example, as adults you both need to respect each other’s privacy, which means not disturbing each other when someone is busy, and being respectful of someone’s particular living or sleeping space.

Remember to always knock before entering their room, and expect your child to do the same before entering yours.

And if you don’t expect them to go through your personal belongings or check your cell phone messages, then it’s not fair to be doing that to them either.

Respect is a two-way thing, and your best chance of having a respectful child is to treat them with respect too (keep in mind that policy might need to change however if they’ve shown they cannot be trusted).

10. Same Wavelength Regarding Timings

Lastly, you probably don’t want your child to live with your forever, and it’s likely to be the last thing your child wants either.

You don’t need to have a timeframe set in stone, but you might want to both earmark a date when the current living arrangement might come to an end – for example after graduation, once they get a permanent job, or after they’ve saved a certain amount of money.

A child living at home in their late teens or early twenties can get quite comfortable and accustomed to the situation, so discussing a timeline as to when this will come to an end should help keep everyone’s expectations aligned.


No two parent-child dynamics or relationships are the same, so you might find that some of the rules above work well for you, while others are best ignored.

Ultimately you should create a list of rules that are best suited to your specific situation and that will help everyone live harmoniously in your house.

You don’t need rules for everything, but by defining boundaries within those areas that you and your child find most important, you can hopefully avoid those big arguments and with any luck enjoy having your adult child live at home with you!

Tori is mama to 3 year old Isabella and co-founder of Rockinbaby. She has a BSc in Psychology, is a certified yoga teacher and is a working mom. In her free time Tori loves cooking delicious foods and baked treats, entertaining and working out. Learn more about Tori here.

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