Advice Abounds on Boomerang Kids
By Kathryn Marchi
For years now, we’ve become aware of a new phenomenon. Kids are returning home to live after having been “on their own” for a period of time. In the United States, they’re called “Boomerang Kids.” (In Australia, they are called Kippers (Kids In Parents’ Pockets Eroding Retirement Savings).
Reluctantly parents or even grandparents have opened the front door and let them in. It’s an utterly foreign experience to this generation because we had never entertained the idea of returning home to our parents. Once we left home, we were “on our own” and had created our own life. Times were definitely simpler, if tougher, then.
Reasons for this migration home after either college or high school graduation, have included, but have not been limited to: low wages, high cost of living, scarcity of jobs, college tuition, credit card debt and health issues. According to studies in 2010, 80 percent of college graduates now plan on living at home for a period of time. These migrations begin in May and June when students graduate and enter the job market, where fewer and fewer jobs are to be had.
In the United States alone, a 2007 Census Bureau study showed that 18 million people, ages 18-34, were living at home with their parents. Since then, these numbers have continually increased and graduating students aren’t the only ones returning home to live. Sudden lifestyle changes such as divorce, job loss or foreclosure can bring folks back to the nest, which often means they arrive with “baggage.” The ongoing recession has affected entire families who are now moving back in with relatives or elderly parents.
Multifamily living is not such a new concept. In the early years of our country, that was the norm. Grandparents lived with their children and helped raise the grandchildren. It seemed to be a “win-win” situation for all. No one spoke about any problems in the arrangement. In Europe, families of several generations have lived under one roof for centuries. Often, the upper floors of a house were specifically intended for the grandparents. In many cultures, even in the United States, this is still the norm.
So, what then, can be done to make this “returning to the nest” a pleasant and positive experience? Family dynamics are complicated at best. And living together again under one roof, after having lived independently, can strain relationships and drain family finances. It’s safe to say that most boomerang kids would want to be on their own if they could afford it. In the meantime, living together as harmoniously as possible is the challenge.
Here are some helpful hints to facilitate this return to the nest:
If your returning child is single, some of the same patterns you formed when they lived at home will emerge. You’ll have to resist becoming the “parent” again. You do have to remember that this is an adult child who is used to coming and going freely and with whomever they please. Before moving back in, it’s best to discuss this and set some guidelines that suit all concerned. Common courtesy should prevail here and the goal is to preclude parents from having to monitor these activities.
If your adult child comes home and brings a spouse and/or a child, you have to resist the urge to become a parent to all of them! Another thing to remember is that today, children are not being raised the same way you raised yours. You’ll have to bite your tongue to keep some peace in the house, but again, common courtesy should prevail. After all, it is still your house. One huge benefit from having the small ones come with the boomerang kid is that you can develop a wonderful bond with your grandchildren.
So now that your house if “full” again, what about the matter of domestic chores or “room and board?” Some compensation is important to ease your physical or financial burden. Your boomerang kid should take responsibility for part of this. If finances are an issue, the “barter system” can be very successful. Whatever special talents he or she possesses can be utilized. If a talent is gardening, farm out the landscaping and tending to your yard. A friend of mine did this with her son-in-law and now has lovely gardens to show for it. If cooking is a strong point, you can enjoy some great meals. Another tradeoff can be babysitting your pets or housesitting while you take a much needed vacation.
Some boomerang kids get so comfortable that they don’t want to leave. In this case, more drastic measures must be taken. This is where “tough love” comes in. You may have to find your child an apartment, pay the deposit and help with the move out. All of this presupposes that a job has been found. If not, you may have to get into the job placement business.
I believe that parents and boomerang kids start out with sincere intentions of living compatibly together. Some succeed — though even in the best situation, tensions can arise over the smallest issues — and others sadly find that it simply does not work. If this is the case, there is help on the Internet. The website www.boomerangkidshelp.com will help you with a customized contract for setting clear expectations and boundaries for your boomerang kid.
Is there a way to predict how your situation might turn out? Thankfully, there is. Your instinct and this rule of thumb: Chances are if your boomerang kid was considerate, cooperative and somewhat responsible before he or she left the nest, then most likely the same will apply now. Of course, many children who might not have possessed these qualities when they left home, miraculously mature into a more responsible young adult. This will make the transition much easier, but rules and boundaries still need to be set. One goal is always to ensure that your family can live together in an atmosphere of mutual respect and harmony. Another more overlooked goal should be to prepare your boomerang kid to move out at some point.
We all know that nothing in life is easy or perfect. Anyone can become a casualty of the ongoing recession and the lucky ones have a family home to return to if need be. So, if your doorbell rings around May or June, go ahead and open it! You have many sources of help and trust me, you are not alone.
For more information either do a Yahoo search or Google boomerang kids.
Or log on to www.boomerangkidshelp.com or www.responsibilityproject.com
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