Ground Rules for Boomerang Children


You may have heard about "boomerang children," which refers to this generation's proclivity to flee the nest, only to return a few years later like a boomerang.  A recent report from Pew Research has quantified the power of the boomerang generation: for the first time ever, more young adults are living with their parents than with a spouse or partner. In 2014, 32.1 percent of adults, ages 18 to 34, had returned to their parents’ home, while 31.6 percent were residing with a spouse or partner in their own household. This is quite a turnaround from 1960, when 62 percent was living with a spouse/partner and just 20 percent with their parents. The trend is tied to a few factors, one of which is postponement of marriage. The median age of first marriage has risen steadily for decades, as many couples live together before walking down the aisle. Still, many more Americans are eschewing the traditional coupling arrangements seen in the past -- the overall share of young adults either married or living with an unmarried partner has substantially fallen since 1990.

If postponement of marriage is one factor, so too is the economic reality that many families have faced over the past decade. The severity and length of the recent recession caused adult children to flounder and many had to take lower paying jobs than they had expected when they were in school.

Even now, as college graduates are enjoying the best job market since the recession, many are choosing a more financially prudent life, where they can accumulate assets, pay down debt and secure their financial futures. Most parents would applaud such parsimony; but the reality of having the kids return home is not always the easiest transition for the older generation.

Communication is key - parents need to outline their expectations. Will your child do housework, contribute to groceries and bills, and pay rent while living home? How long will the arrangement last? If the child is unemployed, what must he do to show that he is actively looking?

For the child, it is tough to feel like you have any say in this situation, but you must discuss your concerns. You are an adult now, so remind your parents that you will behave like one and hope to be treated as such. One friend tried to impose a curfew on her 24-year-old daughter, harkening back to the old “My house, my rules!” mantra. Guess how well that went over with the younger generation?

After both sides openly and honestly discuss the ground rules, agree to revisit the plan in three months. There obviously can be some flexibility, but to make sure you are both on the same page, put the agreement in writing.

Finally, I found some tips from The American Grandparents Association, which provided a few terrific reminders for multi-generational households:

  1. Make room. It’s not the amount of space, but the respect for independence and privacy. Make sure all members of the family have a spot they can call their own where they won't be disturbed.
  2. Make Time. Some families hold regular meetings, others leave notes/text. Whole direct, face-to-face contact to catch up each day is preferable, there are many ways to stay connected – just agree what works for your family.
  3. Treat your family like your friends. You treat your friends with patience, listen to what they have to say, provide advice/feedback only when asked and you give them the benefit of the doubt. Try to treat your family with as much consideration and multigenerational living will go much more smoothly.