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5 Tips for Managing Your Boomerang Children

Insights & Ideas Team •  May 23, 2016 | Home and Family

More adult children than ever before are living with their parents. The number of multigenerational homes in the U.S. has doubled since 1980, with the greatest increase coming in the years during and after the Great Recession, according to the Pew Research Center. Younger adults represent the largest portion of the spike, with Pew saying one in four Americans ages 25-34 now lives in a multigenerational home. The phenomenon even has a name: boomerang children.

Student debt, the cost of living, a lack of jobs and even parents avoiding an empty nest are all contributing factors to boomerang children. So how do you make this living situation work? Dr. Alexis Abramson has some ideas. She’s an internationally recognized author and expert on aging issues and how they affect everything from work to family life. Here are her five tips for dealing with the boomerang effect, something she’s dubbed the “failure to launch.”

Take the emotion out of it. “You can usually see this coming, so have your eyes wide open and do not be in denial about it,” says Dr. Abramson. Parents need to release any guilt or shame they may have associated with allowing an adult child to move home. Dr. Abramson says if you see your children struggling to make a living, support themselves and succeed at their goals in life, start conversations with them right away. Try to determine why they want to return home. Is it strictly a financial need? Dr. Abramson says, “You really need to analyze where they are coming from.” Once you understand their position, you will be better able to counsel them and help them find solutions to get back on their own as quickly as possible.

1. Create a game plan. “Come up with a game plan before they step foot in your house,” says Dr. Abramson. “You need to outline what’s going to happen, discuss it before they move in, get it down in writing and sign it. I feel it’s a contract.” Some of the topics she suggests you cover include house rules, offering rent, doing chores, setting a move-out date and establishing personal goals for your child (gaining employment, saving money, looking for housing, etc.).

2. Set priorities. Consider what you are and are not willing to give up. “I think it’s really important you refuse to give up your dreams and your personal freedom,” says Dr. Abramson. “You need to think about what you want in your life right now, and make sure you are clear with them. Freedom, safety and security are the three things you can’t give up.” There will be other things that you may be willing to sacrifice, such as space and noise. Once you’ve set your boundaries, share them with your children, and make sure they understand that these things are not negotiable.

3. Don’t get sandwiched out of your dreams. People in the sandwich generation are being asked to care for a child while also caring for an elderly parent. If you are struggling with balancing these two situations, Dr. Abramson cautions you to set your financial priorities carefully. She says this is clearly a very personal situation, but families can sometimes serve the needs of all three generations by getting creative and coming up with their own symbiotic relationship. For example, a Millennial child could help take care of his or her grandparent as a way of contributing to a multigenerational home.

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4. Consider your spouse’s desires. If you and your spouse disagree on whether to let a child boomerang home, Dr. Abramson says, you may need a third party to help you sort it out. She says the decision can be particularly tough if you remarried. Dr. Abramson adds, “A therapist could help you determine (if you move forward) the amount of time the child stays with you and the rules of the house. These things can be resolved.”

Once the decision is made, it doesn’t have to be awkward, either in the home or as you explain the situation to your social circles. Dr. Abramson says, “As long as you’re approaching things from a logical point of view and for the right reasons, then no one should feel ashamed. They have a need that you are fulfilling.” She says if something feels odd, talk about it and make a plan to fix it.

Having a child who has boomeranged home may not be ideal, but with tens of millions of American families in this exact situation, it’s definitely more common than ever before. Dr. Abramson believes you can create a successful living experience for both sides, but only if you are open and honest about every aspect of the situation along the way. No matter how or why your adult children came home, it’s now your job to work with them to create a livable and manageable home life.

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