The “Boomerang Generation” is a term applied in Western culture to young adults graduating high school and college in the 21st century. These young adults choose to share a home with their parents after previously living on their own, thus boomeranging back to their parents’ residence.
A 2015 survey found that almost 40 percent of young Americans are living with parents, siblings or other relatives, the highest percentage in 75 years. A Pew Research survey found that among all adults ages 18 to 34, 24% moved back in with their parents in recent years after living on their own because of economic conditions. Young men and young women are equally likely to fall into this category — 40% of men ages 18 to 34 and 38% of women in the same age group either live with their parents now or moved back in for a time because of the economy.
Robi Ludwig, a psychotherapist, extends the reasons beyond the lack of finances: “The economy is a component in this, but it’s also just taking longer developmentally for this generation to grow up and become adults,” he said. “Because emerging adults are living at home more frequently, there’s been a mind shift, and this is the new normal. It doesn’t seem abnormal or like you’re unsuccessful.”
What is the impact of this phenomenon? When children leave the parental home, marital relationships improve, and parents find a new equilibrium. They adjust to the transition and find new hobbies and activities, focusing on themselves instead of worrying about their children. When adult children move back, it upends that equilibrium.
What strategies can parents use to deal with the “boomerangers?” AARP shares the following:
Don’t share the wealth. Many parents worked hard to earn a comfortable life, and their children expect them to share it. When you hand them those comforts, you’re cheating them out of gaining self-confidence and pride when they achieve those things by working hard themselves.
Lose the guilt. We sometimes are held hostage by anger, disappointment or fear of what will happen if we don’t bail them out. Children are very good at pushing those buttons to make us feel responsible for their happiness and emotional well-being.
No excuses. The adult children may claim their boss doesn’t like them or they’re not happy with their work and want to jump ship. They don’t need to come home to do that. They can find a new job while continuing to work or go to school part time to get new skills.
Make a plan. Adult children will claim they need to stay for only a short time while they save for a down payment or get back on their feet. Demand a written plan with goals and time-sensitive deadlines.
Threaten eviction. Draw up a contract with specific terms. This is an agreement between two adults. Don’t think of her as your child; picture her as a tenant. Set a move-out deadline and no matter what happens remind them 60 days out, and then 30 days out, that you are holding firm.
List expectations. Make them contribute by paying rent or helping around the house and yard. Be specific about expected responsibilities. List your rules, from what time the front door is locked to no food in the bedroom.
Boomerang kids can strengthen family ties, provided the occupancy is limited and a structure and expectations are put into place when they return.
Mary Migliaro is a veteran educator, parenting mentor and consultant. She is a longtime resident of Cherokee County.