Boomerang kids: How to handle them returning to the nest

Nearly 1 in 7 parents with grown children had a “boomerang kid” move back home last year, according to a new Pew Research Center report.

One in 7 parents of adult child have had a "boomerang" child return to the home last year.

In case you have been hearing the buzz about “boomerang kids”, be aware that grown children returning home is not a new phenomena; it is a cyclical trend common with recessions, job losses and simple financial survival. According to a poll by Pew Research Center, nearly 1 in 7 parents with grown children had a “boomerang kid” move back home last year.

This happened to us a few years ago when our college graduate son (and his two dogs) moved back to our hometown and needed to live with us while he found new work and a place to live. For us, things worked well – he was highly motivated to get back on his own so our time under one roof was a relatively stress free two months.

Has one of your children moved back home for financial reasons? Have YOU moved back home for financial reasons? Whether you are the parent or the child, my guess is that neither of you are thrilled by this development. Parents have become accustomed to the empty nest and kids have embraced their independence. But reality being reality, all of you need to work together to not only make the best of the situation, but actually turn it into a win-win. These tips should help:

Start with mutual respect.

Parents: put yourself in your child’s shoes; this time in his life is traumatic. Being unemployed is tough for anyone’s self esteem, but moving back home can cause him to feel like a failure. Affirm him as a person even if his career track is in limbo.

Child: respect your parents. Yes, you are in a time of confusion but they are too. You are now a guest in their home. Don’t take it for granted.

Clarify Expectations.

The better you understand what you expect of each other, the less you both will feel pinched when things don’t go as you thought they would. You are all adults and you can’t read each other’s minds, so speak up.

These issues are essential:


Parents: ask Junior his goals about work. This one may be testy; you want to support him as he gets back on his feet but you don’t want to enable laziness. He needs to be sending out resumes, knocking on doors and requesting interviews every single day. And he needs to be willing to take a menial job or doing anything to make money in the meantime.

Set a timetable.

Parents: ask what kind of timetable your child thinks is reasonable, then come to an agreement. He needs to understand that you are not kicking him out, but setting some boundaries to ensure that he doesn’t become complacent. It may be a few weeks or it may be a few months, but if he is honestly pursuing full time work he will find it. A timetable will help.


Yes, the adult child is used to his independence, but he needs to be sensitive as to how his coming and going could upset the household. This is especially true when other siblings are still living at home. Discuss and agree.

Household chores

As a member of the household, our boomeranger needs to pull his weight. Certainly he should be responsible for doing his own laundry, but he should also be doing yard work, helping clean the house, etc.

Meet with other siblings still at home

Without revealing confidentialities, you should keep your other children informed as to what they need to know and what is expected of them. Ask for input from them and respect their thoughts.

Plan regularly scheduled family meetings

No matter how clearly you think you have set those expectations, you can be certain that everything will not go as you envisioned. Therefore, agree up front to have regularly scheduled meetings so all parties can discuss and renegotiate anything that needs to be brought up. Why do I emphasize scheduling these meetings up front? Because it is easier to resolve conflict if you plan to discuss it ahead of time than trying to work things out while in the heat of battle. Depending on ages, you may want to include other siblings in these meetings.

Concluding thoughts

Adult children sometimes need to move back home. This can be traumatic for both child and parent, but open communication should clarify expectations of each other. Ongoing meetings for the purpose of renegotiating those expectations will keep conflicts from festering. Hopefully, you will all be able to some day look back on this time and remember how you all pulled together to create a win-win.

How about you? Have you had boomerang children move home? Have you been a boomerang kid? How did it go? What advice would you give others who might be going through the same thing?

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