My 22 year old daughter and 21 year old son just moved out of my house. This is my son’s second time moving out, and my daughter’s third. Will it stick? Who knows?
I am officially a parent of boomerang kids. It’s becoming so common that it now has a name, and we all know what it means – they’re home, they’re out, they’re back, they’re gone. Leaving parents dizzy and spinning from all the action.
These days, it’s tough out there for young adults. Education is becoming more expensive every year, and the job market is narrowing. Unemployment is high for Millennials (that’s what they’re called, right?), job security is low, and even young people with jobs still struggle with job insecurity and high debt loads. Adult children are living at home longer, or needing to move back home after a setback. This delays their path to independence and can take a serious toll on parents as they try to navigate the back-and-forthing of their children.
The nest empties out, then fills back up. You’ve just changed Susie’s room into your craft room; re-painted the walls, installed that shelving unit from Ikea you’ve had your eye on for the last year, and stocked it with all your favourite goodies for those new projects you’ve been itching to start. Then you get the call.
“Mom? I just can’t do it anymore. My roommates are driving me crazy, school is stressing me out, and work is cutting back my hours, so I’m not sure I can even pay rent this month. Can I move back home? Just until the summer?”
And, of course, we say yes. The craft room moves into the garage and Susie moves back in. Only this time she’s older and we are weary of the uncertainty of our household situation.
This type of transition can be tough on us parents. We love our kids, that goes without saying. But when do we get a guarantee that the nest will stay empty? When do we know for sure that we can sell the house and buy that cute one bedroom condo downtown? It keeps us feeling stuck paying a mortgage for a big house that may or may not have one or more kids residing in it at any given time. We start to feel resentful and weary of the mess, the late nights, the drama and the massive grocery bills (if your son is anything like mine. That boy can eat.)
I wonder if my kids will ever be able to land a great job and create a life for themselves. I worry that they will struggle for years trying to get established. And at the same time I cherish the time I have with them living at home, because I know that it will not last forever (although it might feel like it somedays). And when I come home and the kitchen is a disaster, again, I wonder if I’m really doing them a favour by keeping the door open, or am I enabling them in staying dependent?
If you have boomerang kids, it’s important to have a clear plan set in place before they move back home. The dynamics will be different; your child is older, and has had a taste of independence and freedom. You have gotten used to a quiet – and probably cleaner – household. There will be adjustments on both sides, and the more you can plan right from the start, the smoother the transition will be.
Here’s some things to consider incorporating into your Boomerang Plan:
-sit down as a family before your child moves back home and have an open and honest conversation. Share your thoughts, feelings and concerns and allow them to share theirs. The more communication happens at the start, the less chance of tension and conflict down the road.
-ask your child what their needs, wants and expectations are. Perhaps they are hoping to use your vehicle, or want to have parties every Friday night. Let them share everything without judgement. (doesn’t mean they’ll get everything they want, but at this point it’s important that they feel heard).
Make A Plan.
-have a clear plan that outlines your expectations. You could even draw up a contract that you all sign if you want it to be super clear. Here’s some things to consider when making your plan:
-do you want them to pay rent, or contribute towards groceries or utilities? Specify what and how much. It’s important that they have to contribute in a tangible way. If they are in school full time, then it might be through household duties. If they are working, determine what their rent will be. Letting them freeload is not serving them and will only enable them to stay dependent on you. If they have a realistic view of how much it costs you to operate your household, they will be more appreciative and will have a better understanding of what it’s like to be an adult in the real world.
-What are your guidelines for having friends over, parties, and bringing girlfriends/boyfriends over? Consider what you feel comfortable with and be specific.
-Do you require them to have a job? Save a certain amount each month? If so, how much and what are they saving for – school, a car, paying off loans?
-What is your policy on drugs and alcohol in the house? Zero tolerance, or responsible use of alcohol if they are of legal age?
-What do you require them to contribute to around the house? Write up a list of household tasks that they will be responsible for.
-Will there be a vehicle available for them to use? If so, how often and what are the requirements that they meet in order to use this vehicle? Perhaps they need to return the car at an agreed-upon time, or replace the gas that they use.
-Agree upon how long they are going to live at home. If, at the end of this time period, they want to extend their stay, you can re-negotiate your terms.
-Consider requiring them to commit to some goals and intentions while they are living at home. Perhaps they will save for school, or for a vehicle. Get them thinking about where they want to be in six months or a year. Or better yet, make it a requirement that they meet with a coach on a regular basis. This will move them towards independence and clarity much faster than they would on their own.
-Lastly, have a clear plan in place for when your child doesn’t follow through on their commitments, because they won’t. Not always. They aren’t perfect, and neither are you. Be prepared for this with some consequences that reflect what they are learning….independence. Perhaps they lose the use of the vehicle if they don’t replace the gas that they used. Or they lose kitchen privileges if they don’t clean up their mess. Get real and make it serious enough that they don’t take you, or your home, for granted.
Okay. You’ve got a plan. You’ve had the talk. Everythings in place and your kid moves in.
And…you’re struggling. It’s great to have them around again, because you missed them. You really did.
You’ve lost your privacy, your peaceful, quiet household, and your freedom. You’re irritated when he watches movies till the wee hours. You’re annoyed when she has a meltdown over a failed test and needs to talk it over with you. What happened to walking around naked whenever you felt like it, or knowing where the remote is at all times?
Make Yourself A Priority.
No matter how prepared you are, it’s a transition. You’re going to have to adjust, again, to a change in your home life. Acknowledge how you’re really feeling about it. It’s not a betrayal of your love for your child to admit that sometimes they annoy the hell out of you. Talk to a friend, someone who’s going through the same thing you are and can relate. Or invest in a coach who can help you make sense of your feelings and keep you accountable to meet your own needs and care for yourself. And if your kids see you making yourself a priority and communicating your needs and feelings, it will remind them that you are a human being, not just a parent, and it will encourage them to do the same for themselves.
And remember. One day these boomerang kids will be standing on their own two feet, making their own way in the world, and flourishing as responsible, independent adults. This season won’t last forever, so do the work to make it an enriching, enjoyable and (hopefully) sane experience for everyone. And then enjoy seeing their face every morning over the breakfast table, and kissing them goodnight.
As for me, now that my boomerangs are out of the nest (for now), I think I’ll go dance naked in the living room. While I still have the chance.