They are called “boomerang kids”. Children who leave home to go to college or get married and end up living with their parents again as adults. This phenomenon seems to have gotten more common in recent years with the down turn of the economy and the rising costs of just about everything. Students are graduating from college and are unable to find a job that allows them to both pay a rent and their school loans. We see it more and more in our therapy practice. When adult children move back home there are a lot of unique stressors. This is a new subset of people seeking help and little research has been done in this area.
There are some statistics: According to Monster about 42 percent of 2008 high school grads are still living at home. The national Bureau of Labor Statistics says that 16% of people between 20-25 are unemployed. National estimates tell us that nearly 53% of people 18-24 are living with their parents.
So what can be done to ease this often necessary step in launching your young adult child?
Communicate! It is essential to have a discussion that sets out clear expectations for both the adult child living in the home and the parents who own the home. Several things should be addressed and written down. Periodically you should sit down as a family and review how things are going and what needs to change to make it successful.
Address the following:
What is the time frame going to be? How long do you expect the child to remain in the home? This can be adjusted if needed but it is important to talk in time frames vs indefinite. Periodically discuss and check in on the exit plan.
What expectations will there be for contributing to the household? This includes the question of whether or not rent will be paid and what kind of help that adult child should provide to the household. It is a tricky role to negotiate but if an adult child wants to be treated like an adult in the home they need to do the work of the other adults in the home. Simple concept but I have found that young adults do not usually think this way unless it is pointed out to them. It is hard to switch roles but a more business like arrangement is more likely to succeed then trying to act like nothing has changed and you are the parent and they the child.
Courtesy issues? Discuss ahead whether the adult child needs to let others know if they are not going to return home at night. Is that adult child allowed to entertain guests? What about overnight guests? What about noise issues? Family members need to discuss and negotiate something that works for the new household. The adult child should behave like they have adult roommates (which they do) not like a teen on spring break.
Don’t nag but also don’t be afraid to use tough love. If it is not working, do not be afraid to ask them to leave. Often parents jeopardize their own financial future and or emotional health by letting an adult child remain too long in the home without making any significant progress or contribution to the household. If they can’t stick to the contract they need to leave.
Work on your relationship. You are roommates now, get to know this adult child of yours. Treat them like an adult and expect them to behave like an adult. Take an interest in who they are. Accept their differences. Tattoos, gauges and body piercing may not be your style but this is a whole new generation. Try not to parent them but to live as mutually respectful roommates. If they make a mistake try not to speak scornfully or scold but respectfully point out the difference between your expectations based on the agreement made prior and their behavior.
Deal with special issues. If there are issues of drug or alcohol abuse, or mental health issues etc. these issues will need special attention. Sometimes a professional is needed to help manage these.
Be Patient. This is hard for both of you. As young people try to find their feet in the world they can use friendly support. Try to ignore minor things and focus on the big things, such as the agreements you have made. Above all, be respectful to each other.
Boomerang kids is a new phenomenon and not much is known about how to negotiate this difficult challenge. The key is use common sense, respect, good communication, and see it as a transition.