Relationships

How to deal with adult children who move back home

Grown offspring commonly return home these days, but they must respect that rules have changed

Special to The TribuneJanuary 7, 2014 

20090505 Adult child

MCCLATCHY TRIBUNE

Boomerang kids are grown offspring between the ages of 18 and 31 who move back home after living on their own.

They’re a formidable group.

According to the August 2013 Pew Research Center Report, “A Rising Share of Young Adults Live in their Parents’ Home,” 21.6 million millennials lived with their parents in 2012, a whopping 36 percent of all people that age. It represents a 40-year high.

Their numbers have been steadily climbing. Before the Great Recession of 2007, 32 percent of adult children in this age group lived at home. When the recession officially ended in 2009, 34 percent were doing so.

Many of these offspring return home with a specific plan. Perhaps they want to quickly pay off their student loans before getting their own apartment. Or they have a few more classes to finish up on their college degree.

Others have less direction. They may be unable to land a job in their field and, after a few month of trying, decide they no longer need to look. Some lack any goals for themselves or continually promise they’ll start looking for work. Others appear unable to fend for themselves and may use drugs or hang with friends who are equally underperforming.

Mothers and fathers find themselves caught in an odd parental dilemma. Sure, it’s fun to have Junior home for awhile. But they frequently wonder if they’re making things too cushy. He’s got a room, a packed fridge and a big screen in the den, and he’s not contributing a dime.

To make matters worse, some boomerang kids arrive home with a sense of entitlement. They last lived at this address when they were in high school, when Mom and Dad footed all of the bills. They can quickly fall back into familiar patterns. The folks, meanwhile, watch incredulously from the sidelines, gnashing their teeth about the next move.

As with all challenging stages of life, this one provides opportunities for emotional growth. Parents begin the process by reminding themselves of their primary goal: to raise competent and independent offspring. Next, they must realize that their kids aren’t fully grown. They lack the sensitivity and insight to understand how their behaviors affect the rest of the family.

Finally, parents can teach their Gen Y-ers what’s expected of them and how they can contribute to the clan. When all family members work together, it’s a chance to reconnect. If they don’t, the kids can always live elsewhere.

Tips for dealing with returned children

  • Know that you’re in charge. It’s your home. You pay the bills. Don’t play the role of helpless victim. You actually hold all the keys.
  • Assess your situation. Each boomerang arrangement is different. Some kids are all business. Others need a boot to the behind. Understand where your millennial could use guidance or structure. Then take the crucial steps.
  • Set household rules. Decide how your adult child can be a better housemate. You may have concerns about music, hours, friends or cleanliness. You pick what needs to change.
  • Charge rent. You don’t want boomerang kids to get too comfy. Charging rent says, “It’s a privilege to live in our house.” Consider charging 10 percent of the millennial’s gross income. Some parents secretly stow the money away and gift it back when the children move out.
  • Assign chores. If your offspring aren’t employed, they can ease your burden at home. Have them pick up younger siblings after school or plan, shop for and prepare dinner. You’ll be teaching them what it takes to run a household and how all members pull their weight.
  • Split costs. If you don’t charge rent, you can ask them to pay their share of expenses. Buying groceries or paying the cable bill is an appropriate way to chip in.
  • Set a departure date. Decide together when your boomerang kids will leave. You don’t need to rush the process. But you want them to recognize that this arrangement is temporary.

Linda Lewis Griffith is a local marriage and family therapist. For information or to contact her, visit www.lindalewisgriffith.com.

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