Not since the Great Depression have so many fledgling adults moved into the empty nest with mom and dad. This cyclical trend has accelerated along with the economic crisis. Faced with school loans, debts or no job, it makes sense to head for home – with its emotional security and financial safety net. If you’re a member of the Sandwich Generation, caring for parents growing older as well as kids growing up, adding a boomerang kid to that mix can increase your stress level.
Recently the statistics have changed markedly. Monster’s 2009 annual entry level job outlook reports that 40% of 2008 college graduates moved in with their parents and 42% of 2006 graduates were still living at home. The data from Twenty-Something, Inc. indicates that 85% of 2011 college seniors planned to move back in with their parents. This is attributed to a 15% unemployment rate in the 20-24 year old cohort as well as other economic factors postponing financial and residential independence.
The huge boom in boomerangs has generated its fair share of pop culture angst. This phenomenon really doesn’t reflect failure on the part of parents or the laziness of kids today. Transition to adulthood just seems to be more fragmented and complicated. And who wouldn’t take advantage of a warm, comfortable and familiar port in the storm?
But coddling can stunt development and over-managing isn’t the best way to monitor the investment you’ve made in your kids. Here are some ideas that will eventually help you reap the dividends:
Have a serious conversation. Try to understand why your emerging adults are moving back home and how you feel about it. Avoid triangulation as your relationship with your spouse has to accommodate to the changes. Be prepared for less privacy and spontaneity as well as new patterns of parenting and interacting. Ensure, early on, that everyone has similar expectations.
Establish accountability and boundaries. Negotiate household chores and financial obligations upfront. Having rules in place will ease the transition and smooth out the day-to-day interactions. Since your kids have been living independently, clarify issues around curfew, checking in and sleepovers – and set limits together, as adults.
Determine a time frame. Their ultimate goal should be to live on their own. Encourage your kids to set short term objectives and work toward this. Dependency comes with a price – lack of control, potential conflict and unsolicited advice. Having a mutual agreement about when to move out will help you avoid resentments along the way.
Hold to your commitment. Try to keep limits and deadlines in place. You can arrange a family meeting from time to time and check in with each other. Is the arrangement working out? Do you need to clear the air? Should you negotiate ground rules? If you can work as a team, you’re all more likely to be willing to compromise.
Although living together again after living apart has its set of challenges, there’s also a bright side. You have the chance to help your kids get a head start. Consider how you’re supporting them as they find a job, get into grad school or save money and develop skills that will facilitate their moving out on their own.
If you’re a multi-generational household, your boomerang kids can ease your load by helping to care for their grandparents. Their relationships will deepen while both will learn from each other’s experiences and wisdom. So enjoy parenting the second time around as you give your boomerang kids a sense of security in their time of need. And relish the family closeness while creating shared memories.
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