Something has gone terribly wrong in our culture in the past decade or so. You love them, feed, clothe and shelter them, and teach them the way they should GO (Proverbs 22:6). But they come back. Maybe we aren’t teaching them as well as we thought. This might describe your adult-age kids or you might need to read this to prevent this from describing your kids when they become adult-age. They have been referred to as the Boomerang Generation because they leave only to come back against your true will. I’m not even at this stage in life as a parent yet, but I have counseled dozens of people who are. Therefore I have seen what works and doesn’t work with regards to the boomerang situation, and I have hopes and plans for how I will manage it when my kids are grown. The ultimate goal is to raise kids that come back to visit but not move in.
Notice I said they come back against your “true” will. We’re parents. We don’t want to reject our children and kick them to the curb during a time of need, but it also isn’t our will to have them back in the house after we thought they were gone. Our true will is for them to stand on their own feet and become productive citizens.
I’m using the word “we” quite loosely because the fact of the matter is most of the time there isn’t much “we” in the decision making process for how to treat the boomerang child. Often one spouse is in favor of allowing the boomerang child to move back in and the other is not so much in agreement. This issue can cause SERIOUS frustration in the marriage of the parents and SERIOUS strain on their finances. Not to mention if the boomerang child is married the SERIOUSNESS is amplified by a lot. Yes – this is a problem that is out of control because parents don’t know what to do.
I’ve read some good simple advice that says to do three basic things: Establish a Time Limit, Set Financial Boundaries, Respect Privacy. Those are very good generalities, but I’ve met with countless parents who know those basic things but have a very skewed perception on how to define them in their situation. For example – a single mom with an average income, a significant debt-load, no retirement savings, and barely living paycheck to paycheck SHOULD NOT be paying ALL the bills and feeding her boomerang daughter – along with her boyfriend and their baby – so that they can use the money they earn at their job only to pay for their fun. Yes – I’ve counseled that person.
Let’s face it. For most people the bottom line problem with an adult child moving back home is the financial implication. Yes – their personal development, everyones privacy, and your sanity are all very important too. But I’d venture to say the only reason they come back is money. They either haven’t figured out how to earn some or they haven’t figured out how to manage it. So here are my more detailed additions to the suggestions of what your expectations might be to be perfectly fair while challenging and encouraging the boomerangers to become independent adults:
Establish A Time Limit:
- 6 months is plenty of time. Given the economy since 2008 maybe a year is even reasonable. If it is longer than that then advantage is being taken.
- If the boomeranger has a job this is their opportunity to SAVE or GET OUT OF DEBT – whichever is preventing them from leaving the house.
- If the boomeranger does not have a job then this is their opportunity to find one. Jobs ARE available unless my brother got them all (averages 3 jobs at a time).
- The boomeranger does not have the option of turning down “crap” jobs if they don’t even have one. A crap job is not as crappy as no job. Beggars cannot be choosers. They MUST get a Job!
Set Financial Boundaries:
- Help pay SOME bills. Limit the “some”.
- Do not put more effort into improving their situation than they are willing to put in their self.
- Do not pay for their entertainment if they cannot pay for their own cell phone. This is a pet peeve of mine you can read about it here.
- If the boomeranger has no job and cannot pay for anything with money require them to earn what they get by doing work around the house.
- Be respectful of the boomeranger’s privacy to the extent that they respect yours.
- Be quiet when they’re on the phone and expect the same, share dinner prep and cleanup responsibility, etc.
- Give them alone time and expect the same.
- Leave their stuff alone and expect the same.
- But if they’re spending YOUR money you deserve to know what they are doing with theirs. When they move out of your house they can have their full privacy back.
I’m sure there is more we could add to these guidelines especially based on everyones unique circumstances. What suggestions could you add?
A blog I enjoy reading regularly has a good related article – Helping vs. Enabling