They’re coming back. Just when you thought that you and the missus were in for an empty nest or at least a few quiet moments, you get the call.

The truth is nearly 25 million adult children are living with their parents in the U.S. alone. A recent Canadian census showed that, of kids aged 20 to 29, 44 percent live with their parents.

Here they come.

Now for an old folks’ conversation, “When your mother and I were your age…” Hell, when we were that age we had been out of the family home for four years, chosen universities or jobs because they were away from home and we actually liked our parents.

One survey reports that some parents are happy to have their adult children living with them. Fully 64 percent of parents with adult children aged 20 to 34 at home were ‘very satisfied’ with the amount of time they spend together, compared with 54 percent of parents whose children had moved out.

Parents who live in a large census metropolitan area, who own a single-family home and who were born in Asia, South America or Europe are more likely to have at least one of their adult children living with them.

Sometimes adult children moving in isn’t so funny. And sometimes it is damn difficult. We know of one couple who sold their ski cabin and gave up skiing because every Friday night just after they arrived at their cabin at the end of a long drive from the city, “Can Bob and Ted and Mary and Joy stay to dinner?” When dinner was finished the same daughter would ask, “Can Bob and Ted and Mary and Joy stay over?”

“Aw.. come on — we are not ready, no sheets or beds made up … we have not planned for this ….”

“Well”, said older daughter, if they can’t sleep inside then they are just going to sleep outside in their car”.

It’s not that these young people do not want to grow up. Many have tried a few different jobs, different degrees, different apartments.

When they find themselves in a professional and personal limbo, the parents’ comfortable house in the suburbs looks pretty attractive: “Financially it would be smarter to move back with my folks while I just got things sort of sorted out.”

Independence, often with a very modest life style attached, has lost its luster. A form of independence with fewer sacrifices can often be found at the parents’ home.

It is a different social and economic climate than their parents experienced. More schooling or training for entry into the labor market is now required. Who pays for increasingly expensive higher education? Higher unemployment and student loan debt provide powerful reasons to return home. Some return for personal reasons, to recover from a divorce or an illness or just because they cannot afford their parents’ lifestyle living on their own.

Recently arrived immigrant populations bring new perspectives. Very large homes in some suburbs house extended South Asian families. These homes revolve around single shared kitchen, dining and living facilities. They are not blocks of separate suites or walk-up apartment accommodation.

Parents are often happy to help out, both emotionally and financially. As a result, the arrangement often works to everyone’s satisfaction. However, there are risks, especially for the parents. These include family tension and misunderstandings, including about money.

There's a movie about it . . .

The return of adult children is welcome for many families. The empty nest again becomes a home with activity. There is a feeling of helping or of working together especially as sometimes this occurs at times of difficult transition in children’s lives.

Parents may take on too much, often at a time when they need to be downsizing and economizing to meet retirement needs.

This sense of a common good does not always last. As with starting any new co-operative endeavor, making clear

. . . and books.

understanding at the beginning is extremely important. Make no mistake: The return of adult children to live with parents is a new beginning and a new set of relationships. If some of the parties start to feel that they are being imposed upon or taken advantage of tensions will rise quickly. The load, expense, chores and courtesies have to be shared by all or the arrangement will soon be perceived as not working for everyone.

The familiarity of a family is not always the best foundation for forming these new relationships. Treating adult children as guests, although recommended by many advisors, may not be the best course because it implies values and customs of hospitality and support that may be difficult to maintain and that may not be shared. Some people and they may be your children, do not know how to be good guests.

Have frank discussions before you consider the return of an adult child to the nest. Make a plan which should include a timeline. The discussion involved in this exercise may well be revealing. Is this, in the mind of parent or adult child, a long-term situation? What circumstances will bring it to an end? How long will (should) it take to undertake some career planning, complete a program of studies or an internship or to find employment? Are these plans realistic?

What goes around comes around, one way or the other.

“What if…?” milestones will help everyone to appreciate difficulties and responsibilities. Frank discussions may bring everyone to understand that the adult children are at a loss about what to do next. These can be very difficult conversations, particularly when expectations are unreasonable, goals unattainable and solutions requiring more extreme measures than subsidized living at home.

You may need some professional help and there is more and more of it to be found for these issues.

To be useful the discussions have to be meaningful. Everyone involved has to mean what they say. They have to keep their agreements. This makes useful ideas like,”…if by a certain date ________” there is a consequence.

Items for discussion and agreement include understandings about goals (why is this happening and what do all parties hope to achieve), guests (including who, for how long? sleepovers?), language and profanity in the house, parties and events, pets, household chores and use of facilities, noise levels and music, drugs and alcohol, status and respect, religious culture and practices, use of automobiles, use of consumables, payment of rent and expectations about communications and about coming and going. Experts say it’s best for everyone to be on the same page in order to avoid the resentment that will arise from vastly disparate assumptions.

There are three very significant underlying issues to consider.

First is what is all of this is aid of? What are you trying to do? What are the objectives to be achieved in permitting your adult children to move in with you?

Second, money: What are the financial implications and terms of this new arrangement going to be? Can you as parents afford it?

Do not provide more financial support than you can afford. You have a financial future to think about and you should not sacrifice your own financial future by providing more support to adult children than you can afford. Decide how much you want to and can afford to help. Children have years to build their financial security, while you may be retired or close to it.

Do not bail them out or you may find yourself bailing again. Talk about how to avoid new debt and to live within their means and save.

Think about when you were on an airplane with children and the safety instructions were that if the oxygen masks drop you are to put your own on first. You won’t be of much help to your children if all of you get into financial trouble.

Third are the expectations. Think ahead. How will living together work? Who is going to do what?

And finally there may be the questions of child care for grandchildren. Taking this on is a huge undertaking for parents and a very very big commitment. Consider this carefully.

There is a balance here and you should make sure that you do not take on so much that you put your own security and peace of mind at risk. This is certainly a time for realism and some tough love. Returning adult children can be a blessing or a disaster. The difference will be up to you.