Boomerang Family: Coming Full Circle with Parenthood

by Joy Loverde

Children grow up, get educated, and leave home for good. At least that’s the way it used to be.

Whether it’s paying off college debt, unemployment, broken relationships, getting divorced, abusing drugs and alcohol, and/or saving money, many men and women over the age of 25 are now moving back in with their parents.  Nick-named “Boomerang Kids,” economics and relationships gone bad are the perfect storm for young adults to find refuge by moving back home.

According to a Pew study published in March 2012, twenty-nine percent of young adults (ages 25-34) who live with their parents are doing so as the result of economics. Many are recent college graduates who are having a tough time making ends meet or finding a job.

The Boomerang Family issue goes far beyond the parent/child relationship. I happen to be in this situation right now. Our unexpected resident is not a son or daughter but my niece who has moved in “for the summer.”

We are now six weeks into this living arrangement and it’s been an interesting experience to say the least. Everything was going smoothly when she first arrived. Before graduating college, she had arranged to be an intern (read: no pay) at a local non-profit organization. But that “job” didn’t last long. She was let go after they discovered she was not qualified to hold the position. No big deal, we thought. Chicago is a big city with many opportunities to secure a part time job. She’ll land something. That was a month ago.

My niece spends hours upon hours at the local Wi-Fi café looking for a job – searching the Internet, filling out job applications, making phone calls, networking, and lining up interviews. It’s just a matter of time; but how much time it will take for her to land a job is unknown.

By now, I have also met several of my niece’s friends who live in Chicago. They are in the same boat looking for jobs and living with their parents. Highly intelligent individuals who have earned expensive college degrees, they are working at tourist gift shops and waiting tables while they search for jobs that will eventually launch their independence.

Having my niece under the same roof as me and my husband, and my 87 year old mother was challenging at first. However making the effort to talk things out was the key to getting over the rough patches. We discussed the basics of living together including asking fundamental questions like: Who pays for what? Who is responsible for doing what? What is the timeframe for this living arrangement?

Laying down the ground rules early on is the key to why things are going smoothly for us. We are enjoying my niece’s company. We understand that this time with her is short-lived, and I will be terribly sad to see her go when the day comes.

Should your son or daughter unexpectedly knock on your front door looking for love and shelter, here are a few tips to help keep the peace:

  • Talk about money immediately.  If you give them money is it a loan or a gift? Even if you don't need the money, charge for rent. They should also pitch in toward household expenses like phone bills, groceries, cable, and utilities. If they use the family car, they should pay for gas and auto insurance.
  • If they don’t have income, they can pay you in services - cook meals, mow the lawn, run errands, clean the house, and so on.
  • Discuss goals and timelines, and stipulate how long they can sustain the living arrangement with you.
  • Mentor rather than manage. Sons and daughters need a life coach not a hovering, negative parent.
  • Discuss specific goals for hours per day that is spent job searching and networking. Suggest they do their job search at the local Wi-Fi café. Make it understood that they have to get dressed “for work” and leave the house every day.
  • Establish household responsibilities - from cooking dinner and buying groceries to running errands for you and grandparents.
  • Lay down ground rules for privacy. How will you ensure your privacy is respected? Will you allow them to have friends over or overnight guests?
  • What are the rules for smoking and drinking?
  • Discuss autonomy. What are your expectations regarding spending dinner time together? What are the rules if they stay out late? Is there a curfew?
  • If they are moving home and bringing a spouse/partner be very clear regarding goals and time frames. If children are involved, discuss babysitting responsibilities.
  • Be patient and kind to each other.

4 Responses

  1. Kaye Swain
    Excellent tips, Joy! And Very interesting to read about your "Sandwich Generation" issues. What a blessing you are to both generations!
  2. You're exactly right, "boomerang" parenting does take a lot of patience and understanding! It took my daughter and I a few months to adjust once she moved back in. I had to stop parenting so much, but she really had to pick up responsibilities on her end. It all worked out, though, and she's finally gotten a couple of leads on great jobs.
  3. Kaye... you are sweet to say!
  4. Joy
    Hello Mortgage Payment- thank you for your kind message. I wish you and your Mom well!