Even when the arrangement makes perfect sense, “kids don’t feel fully grown-up when they get a text from Dad asking if Mom should turn on the oven for dinner yet,” says Kussman. Feeling stuck or embarrassed to still be living at home can cause a downward spiral. “They start to lose confidence and are less willing to put themselves out there,” says Jenn DeWall, a millennial career coach in Denver. Meanwhile, even super-supportive parents may miss their empty nest at times.
Parents, keep in mind: Everyone survived without you before. Take advantage of the built-in cat sitter and carve out time alone or take a trip, says Fishel. If you notice your child stalling out, it can pique your anxiety—like you are failing the parenting final exam. That’s when temptation is greatest to help fill out job applications or make every breakfast a pep talk. Instead, follow your child’s lead. “Put yourself out there as a resource: ‘If you like, I can look at your résumé.’ But don’t try to jump in and fix things,” says Fishel. If your child does welcome advice, know this: “Young adults who receive financial, practical, and emotional support from their parents reported clearer life goals and more satisfaction than those who didn’t get the help,” says Karen Fingerman, PhD, professor of human development and family sciences at the University of Texas at Austin. In other words, butting in a bit isn’t something to feel particularly guilty about.
Kids, keep in mind: Treat home as a hotel, in the sense that it is mostly a place to sleep and (occasionally) eat while you live your adult life elsewhere—hanging out with encouraging friends or grabbing coffee with a fellow alumna in your field. You may need to get off Facebook for a while, which can take the wind out of your sails. “I would look at my former roommates with their awesome jobs, and it was totally depressing,” says DeWall of her stint back home. “Take at least one small step—networking, updating your website—every day.” Refreshing your childhood bedroom to look more like a hotel suite (calming neutrals, no prom pictures) may also help you feel like an adult passing through on the way to someplace important.