The Empty Nest Revisited

empty nest photoTransitions are complicated and can be hard to navigate. When Millennials first leave home, a lot of moms feel unsettled. What were you more worried about, their adjustment in school or yours to the empty nest?

It’s natural and normal for our college-aged kids to move toward greater independence. Of course you’re still needed, but not in the same way. Letting go of hands-on mothering means creating different relationships within your family. And during those years full of changes  you have an opportunity to write a new chapter in your own life. Whether you’re igniting old passions or embracing deferred goals, there’s the freedom to fulfill your dreams.

Fast forward 4 or 5 years…. Facing huge college loans and high unemployment, more and more graduates with a diploma but no job have headed back home. Where else could they find emotional security and a financial safety net? However, circumstances like these can turn your life upside down.

The huge boom in boomerang kids has generated its fair share of pop culture angst. But this phenomenon doesn’t necessarily reflect failure on the part of parents or the laziness of kids today. Transition to adulthood just seems to be more complex and fragmented.

Who wouldn’t take advantage of a comfortable and familiar port in the storm? But coddling can delay development and stunt growth. And taking control isn’t the best way to monitor the investment you’ve made in your kids. Here are some ideas that will eventually help all of you gain more dividends:

Have a serious conversation. Talk about why they’re moving back home and how you feel about it. Be prepared for less privacy and spontaneity as well as new patterns of interacting. Make sure, early on, that everyone has similar expectations and goals.

Establish boundaries. Negotiate household chores and financial obligations upfront. Having rules in place will ease the transition and smooth out the day-to-day interactions. Clarify issues like curfew, accountability, sleepovers – and set limits together, as adults.

Determine a time frame. The end result should be to live independently. Encourage your kids to set short-term objectives as they work toward this goal. Dependency comes with a price – less control, potential conflict, unsolicited advice. Having a mutual agreement about when to move out will help the family avoid resentments along the way.

Hold to your commitment. Try to keep limits and deadlines in place. You can arrange a weekly family meeting to check in with each other. Is this arrangement working out? Do you need to clear the air?  Should you re-negotiate ground rules? If you can work as a team, you’re all more likely to be willing to compromise.

Enjoy this second time around as your boomerang kidults feel a sense of security in their time of need. Although living together again has its challenges, there’s also a bright side. Find the gifts. And realize that supporting their efforts – as they find a job, get into grad school or save money – will facilitate their moving forward on their own.

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