I have two daughters living with me, both close to becoming adults. Unlike their older sister who left home every year from age 16 to 20, these two seem willing to stay forever. And it often bothers me that the conversations around adult children living at home are so negative. So, I am trying to think of different conversations and of ways to make it work.
Everyday conversations about adults who live with their parents
- An adult living with parents is lazy, selfish, or in some other way disordered, and has failed and will continue to fail at completion of an essential life milestone: to live independently.
- Adults living with parents are victims of economic, social and political conditions that do not allow them the opportunity to complete an essential life milestone: to live independently.
- Having an adult child living at home is a burden, and parents who don’t experience it as a burden are themselves disordered in some way and somehow complicit in the failure of their adult child.
These conversations cause trouble. They have me questioning my motives, and second guessing myself. Am I disabling them? I analyse my daughters’ behaviour. Are they really trying hard enough at their studies, in their careers? My partner gets grumpy if he sees me vacuuming – the girls should be doing more work around the house! And to be honest, it’s issues around housework and who does what that generate the most heat.
What if we could wipe the slate clean and remove this commentary from the situation? What new stories could we tell?
Nonviolent communication (nvc) reframe
The questions for me are: How are four adults who are accustomed to thinking of themselves as ‘parents’ and ‘children’ going to manage to live together in a way that everyone’s needs are met? AND How might nvc concepts be used to make this life work?
I guess the first thing we can do is identify needs. Needs change over time, different ones becoming more or less important, and at the moment our shared and individual needs seem to be:
- For all of us: growth beyond the parent | child roles that we are accustomed to playing
- Me: I want order and partnership in creating that order
- My partner: he wants space
- One daughter: she craves privacy and space as well
- The other daughter: she enjoys empathy, affection, and independance
And so what? What can we do with these needs?
I can be explicit with my needs and I can make clear requests instead of expecting people to guess what I want. I can say, I really look forward to coming home to a tidy house and ask others to please put your things in your room, not our shared spaces, or to please vacuum the lounge.
I can encourage others to also be explicit, to create an environment where anyone can say, please do not enter my room without knocking, or I need some alone time, or I won’t be home tonight, I’m going out with my friends or whatever it is that needs to be said. Or even, I’m too tired to help with the house tonight, I will do it in the morning. For peaceful living together, I need to be able to hear that too.
Acknowledgement | Gratitude
We can also acknowledge the times our needs are met, not just when they are not met. I might arrive home from work and appreciate the beautiful smell of a meal being served. I also appreciate sharing that meal at the table together as a family. I could say, Thanks! I am feeling content, happy, optimistic. I enjoy your company and I appreciate this yummy food when I am SOOOO hungry!
We could also remember that we are choosing to take the actions we take. We could even acknowledge the pleasure we get from doing work around the house, rather than whip ourselves into feeling bad because someone else should be doing it. For example, mowing gives me relief from my sedentary job and satisfaction in a job well done, also a little sunshine and the pleasure of being out of doors. Two of us like to cook, it’s a creative pursuit. Not me! I choose to mow because mowing makes me happy. They choose to cook because cooking makes them happy. Usually someone else will choose to wash up – although again we might need to have the needs and requests conversations again.
I’m not saying this will always work. We do get the occasional tears and slammed doors around here (mine included!) But usually because we are operating in the old conversations rather than in the new possibilities of nonviolence. I’m hoping to keep bringing myself back to this new way of thinking, maybe even to start thinking in nvc as a habit – maybe one day 🙂