During the COVID-19 pandemic, many 20-somethings have found themselves doing something they didn’t expect: living with their parents again. As of June, nearly 3 million adults had moved “back home,” according to a Zillow survey.

This can lead to challenges and complicated dynamics. There are “issues of independence, privacy and housekeeping to navigate,” the New York Times reported. Equifax wrote, “You may worry that your child will grow accustomed to living rent-free and won’t be diligent in looking for a job or that the unexpected living arrangement will cause conflicts between family members used to more space and privacy.”

These concerns are understandable. But for me, the experience was wonderful. Amid an awful time for the country and the world, my 25-year-old son Cam and I had the chance to bond and build a new relationship as adults. It’s been so successful for us that, although he recently left for Colorado (I live in San Francisco), we plan to continue spending time together in both cities.

Our experience was helped along by a series of steps we took — steps I recommend to anyone else in a similar situation.

Go on a health kick together

Cam and I used our time together to go on a health kick. We kept each other inspired to chase our fitness goals.

Since we have been avoiding gyms during the pandemic, we turned our garage into a gym. I set up an elliptical machine on one side, and Cam set up a full-size boxing bag hanging from the ceiling on the other side. He signed up for online workouts through an interactive app called FightCamp. We put thick pads on the floor, so there’s room for yoga and stretching.

We generally worked out at different times, but would reconnect after the work day to see how we were doing with our exercise plans. 

We also turned to healthy eating. We both enjoy cooking. So after the first several weeks of too much ice cream — part of what some doctors are calling the “quarantine 15” — we went on a clean eating plan. 

Together, we prepared meals like shrimp tacos and Chicken Caesar salads. In the mornings, we made smoothies with bananas, frozen strawberries, yogurt, and almond milk.  Of course, we also had some cheat days.

Discover shared interests

Part of the fun has been in discovering activities we can do together that we both enjoy. This is especially true for movies and TV shows. We created a watchlist of things we both want to see — mostly independent films and documentaries. We spent a few weeks watching the Michael Jordan documentary The Last Dance, one episode every few nights. We loved it. Our list also includes some comedies and Netflix series, just to mix things up.

This is something I never expected would happen, and something many adults never experience. When our kids are little, we watch movies and read books with them. But as they grow up, that happens less and less. Now, laughing together in front of the TV has been a great way to momentarily forget the stress of this time we’re living through.

Co-own pets

When Cam moved back in with me, he also brought his Golden Retriever, Honey, so now we had two dogs. Caring for them together has not only been a bonding experience for us and the dogs, but it’s also given us two other characters in the house to interact with, broadening our experience.

Of course, we also made sure not to spend too much time together. We were both working from home, in separate offices with lots of Zoom calls, so we were interacting with other people. The company I work for, the upskilling platform Degreed, has been very supportive about staff working from home, and the keynotes I usually travel to deliver have turned into webinars.

Cam and I each have made sure to give ourselves solo relaxation time as well. And Cam remained very social with his friends through Zoom and video games.

We’ve both been very conscious of how fortunate we are — to have a home, our health, our jobs, and what we need to get by. It’s a trying time. But I’m a big believer in doing what you can to make the best of it. So rather than being off somewhere celebrating my birthday, I was perfectly happy to spend it with my son.