Eight Win-Win Tips For Boomerang Kids and Their Parents

by Joe Plemon on October 27, 2010

Grown children returning home is not a new phenomena; it has historically complemented recessions, high unemployment and simple financial survival.  As you might expect, boomeranging children have become more common in recent years.  According to a poll by Pew Research Center, nearly 1 in 7 parents with grown children had a “boomerang kid” move back home last year.

Our Boomerang Kid

This happened to us a few years ago when our college graduate son (and his two dogs) moved back to our hometown and needed to live with us while he found new work and his own place.  For us, things worked well – he was highly motivated to get back on his own so our time under one roof was a relatively stress free two months.

How About You?

Has one of your children moved back home for financial reasons?  Have YOU moved back home for financial reasons?  Whether you are the parent or the child, my guess is that neither of you are thrilled by this development.  Parents have become accustomed to the empty nest and kids have embraced their independence.  But reality being reality, all of you need to work together to not only make the best of the situation, but actually turn it into a win-win.

Parents can get accustomed to the empty nest

These Tips Should Help:

1.  Start with mutual respect.

Parents: put yourself in your child’s shoes; this time in his life is traumatic. Being unemployed is tough for anyone’s self esteem, but moving back home can cause him to feel like a failure.  Affirm him as a person even if his career track is in limbo.

Child: respect your parents.  Yes, you are in a time of confusion but they are too.  You are now a guest in their home.  Don’t take it for granted.

2.  Clarify Expectations.

The better you understand what you expect of each other, the less you both will feel pinched when things don’t go as you thought they would.  You are all adults and you can’t read each other’s minds, so speak up.   These issues are essential:

3.  Work.
Parents: ask Junior his goals about work.  This one may be testy; you want to support him as he gets back on his feet but you don’t want to enable laziness.   He needs to be sending out resumes, knocking on doors and requesting interviews every single day.   Many of today’s tech savvy kids can be making money using the internet.  If that great job doesn’t jump up and raise its hand,  he needs to be willing to take a menial job or do anything to make money in the meantime.

Child: make plans and follow through.  Network.  Send resumes – lots of them. Be willing to take a job outside your educational parameters while seeking a better position.

4.  Set a timetable.
Parents: ask what kind of timetable your child thinks is reasonable, then come to an agreement.  He needs to understand that you are not kicking him out, but setting some boundaries to ensure that he doesn’t become complacent.  It may be a few weeks or it may be a few months, but if he is honestly pursuing full time work he will find it.  A timetable will help.

5.  Curfew
Yes, the adult child is used to his independence, but he needs to be sensitive as to how his coming and going could upset the household.   This is especially true when other siblings are still living at home.  Discuss and agree.

6.  Household chores
As a member of the household, our boomeranger needs to pull his weight.  Certainly he should be responsible for doing his own laundry, but he also be doing yard work,  helping clean the house, etc.

7.  Meet with other siblings still at home
Without revealing confidentialities, you should keep your other children informed as to what they need to know and what is expected of them.  Ask for input from them and respect their thoughts.

8. Regularly scheduled family meetings
No matter how clearly you think you have set those expectations, you can be certain that everything will not go as you envisioned.  Therefore, agree up front to have regularly scheduled meetings so all parties can discuss and renegotiate any and all concerns.   Why do I emphasize scheduling these meetings?   Because it is easier to resolve conflict in a planned meeting than trying to work things out in the heat of battle.  Depending on ages, you may want to include other siblings in these meetings.

Concluding thoughts

Adult children sometimes need to move back home.  This can be traumatic for both child and parent, but open communication should clarify each others’ expectations.   Ongoing meetings for the purpose of renegotiating those expectations will keep conflicts from festering.  Hopefully, you will all be able to some day look back on this time and remember how you all pulled together to create a win-win.

Readers: have you been a boomerang kid?  Are you currently one?  Have you been the parent of a boomerang kid?  What additional tips can you help us with?

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{ 5 comments… read them below or add one }

retireby40 October 27, 2010 at 3:27 pm

The opposite happened to me in 2000. My parents’ business failed and they moved in with me and my wife. We just got married and it did not work out at all. They stayed for less than a year and eventually found a different accommodation.
I came from a culture (Asian) that like having kids live at home. The oldest son typically take over the household in time. I didn’t mind living in the same house with my parent at all, but it was a huge deal to my wife.
I think the timetable is the most important first step. As long as you know it is not permanent, you can keep working through it.

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joeplemon October 28, 2010 at 6:18 am

Retireby40,
Thanks for sharing a viewpoint from a different cultural background. Even though 21st century American adults don’t normally like to share their homes with their parents (or vice versa), I think we may need to change the way we think if economic times get tougher, Social Security fails, etc. Necessity really is the mother of invention.

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Dave@50plusfinance October 28, 2010 at 10:28 pm

This happened to me when my daughter came back at age 25. We set down all the rules. She helped out with chores and running errands. And pretty much we followed your list. I was glad to have her back in the house. It had been about six years, she was at school and working. She was having a lot of problems emotionally, financially and academically.

She was one year away from finishing school and I knew if I didn’t help her, in every way, she would never finish. So one long year later she graduated. It took one more year to pass her RN exam. Now she has a great paying job and she’s happy. I know if I didn’t help her she would of never completed anything.

It’s easy to forget your kids have feelings too. Sometimes the baby birds come back to the nest with a need to heal a broken wing. But thats what we’re here for.

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joeplemon October 29, 2010 at 7:21 am

Dave,
What a great story. Yes, those baby birds sometimes come back to the nest with broken wings and it is our privilege to help them mend. Although I have only had one return to the nest (as I shared in this post), my others have needed a hand up on occasion, which we have been glad to extend. Like you say, that’s what we are here for.

Your daughter obviously wanted to succeed; she just needed a boost. I am glad she is doing well today. How do you think it might have gone differently if you hadn’t set down the rules in the beginning?

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