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Boomerang Kids: Sharing Your Home With An Adult Child

Navigating the return of adult children can be challenging. Nonetheless, it can also be a blessing for both generations if you start out right.

Estimated reading time: 6 minutes

Debbie’s daughter never expected to be a boomerang kid. But, when travel was curtailed during the pandemic, Debbie’s daughter was laid off from her job with the airline. With no return-to-work date in sight, maintaining her rental was a problem. So her parents invited her to move home until she could decide what to do next.

Debbie’s situation is far from unusual. According to the U.S. Census Bureau, one in three adult children live in their parents’ home. The numbers are slightly higher in Europe. According to Pew Research, “Both in the United States and Europe, young men are more likely than young women to live in their parents’ home. In 2021, 36 percent of young men in the U.S. lived in their parents’ home, compared with 30 percent of young women.”

“Nearly a third of Gen Z is living at home (And they plan to stay)” reported the New York Times.

Currently, parents are welcoming boomerang kids back home during transitions ranging from changes in employment to gaps between college and career, and as a bridge during a relocation. Author of the popular children’s book, Alexander and the Terrible, Horrible, No Good, Very Bad Day penned a delightful account of the months when her adult son boomeranged home for three months with his family of five.

Alexander and the Wonderful, Marvelous, Excellent, Terrific Ninety Days: An Almost Completely Honest Account of What Happened to Our Family When Our Youngest Came to Live with Us for Three Months is an adult memoir of Judith Viorst and her real son, Alexander who moved home with his family while their own home was renovated.

Boomerang College Graduates 

Similarly, for the season between college graduation and beginning that new job while securing their own address, many adult kids boomerang back home for a segment of time. A couple of my adult children chose a local college experience. While earning their degree, they were adults living at their parent’s home.

Raising children is a continuous mentoring process teaching them skills they need as adults. As they grow, parents release them to do the tasks and make the decisions they are capable to do at each age and stage. To mutually recognize that I saw my 18-year-old as an adult, and to encourage them to see themselves as a fully responsible, self-governing grown-up, we created a contract. Agreements are customary in the adult world. There were differences between being a minor under parental authority and living as adults together in my house.

My boilerplate looked like this:

Congratulations! You are an amazing young person, and you and I recognize that you are an adult. 

You already manage your own schedule, your finances, your dog, and your car. 

House rules include:

            Daily do your service (we all took turns with household chores)

            Help with yard work in a timely manner

            Clean up after yourself regarding dishes, laundry, bathroom, etc.

            Be respectful of your roommates – me and your siblings.

            We keep one another up to date on our general whereabouts out of courtesy and safety. Let one another know if we will not be home at traditional times.

As an adult, your medical and dental visits, prescriptions, clothing, personal items, and gas are your responsibility. I will provide food, shampoo, toilet paper, and laundry soap.

Economics of Boomerang Kids

My college graduates took on responsibility for one of the household bills such as the power or internet as a way of contributing. They easily slipped into purchasing their preferred personal products. On their way home, they often sent a text asking if we needed anything. Picking up a sibling from sports practice and needed grocery items were part of doing life together.

While their home was staged and put on the market, Marcy and Joel’s daughter and her family of four plus a large, drooly dog boomeranged back to the parental home. “The dog was the one who had the hardest time,” Marcy said. “Everyone went to work and school during the day, and the dog quickly recognized I’m not as much fun.”

When Ricci and Denny’s son married, there was no way the newlyweds could afford to purchase or even rent a home. They both had jobs in the California Bay Area, but the cost of housing made it impossible to get their own place.

With their son and daughter-in-law’s help, Ricci and Denny converted a level of their home into an in-law unit. The couple lived there rent-free for two years while they saved a down payment. Ricci and Denny repeated the situation for their daughter when she married. In both instances, Ricci and Denny had the opportunity to be supportive when those first two grandbabies arrived.

Boomerang Differences

For their temporary homecoming, Marcy and Joel’s daughter and husband talked about how they could best support restful routines for all three generations. How would they coordinate meals? The best way to do bedtime. Both households agreed they would continue their normal routines.

Like Judith explained in her memoir, Marcy watched how her daughter’s life was different compared to when Marcy had parented young children. The baby equipment, from car seats to sleeping monitors, to the little plastic duck that reported the temperature of the bath water, were far more complicated and efficient. Careful decisions went into food choices. Parenting roles were more equal.

“The key was communicating often and clearly about plans and schedules,” Marcy noted. “Kindness over commenting, respectfulness over comparing. I let annoyances go, always remembering this was a short season.

The goal was to laugh often and create good memories with my kids and grandkids.”

Items to clarify when boomerang kids move in include:

  • How long will they stay?
  • Will rent be paid?
  • How will household chores be divided?
  • Who pays for food?
  • Who prepares meals?
  • What are quiet hours for the household?
  • What are the agreements around when the television is on and what is watched?
  • What about guests?
  • What are the rules around pets?
  • When and how will you check-in with one another?
  • How will you handle conflict?

Beyond Boomerang Kids

Ironically, not long after Debbie’s daughter moved back home, her adult son telephoned. “Mom, work gave me two weeks off to comply to new pandemic requirements. If I don’t, they told me not to return.”

“That’s a tough choice,” she replied.

“I can’t do what they are asking,” he said. “Can I move home while I sort out my options?”

While no one is probably more surprised than Debbie and her husband, their two boomerang kids are still living in their home. Both found new careers locally and contribute financially to the household because that’s what working adults do.

As adults who lived in their own places, her adult daughter and son returned home with a first-hand understanding of what is needed to maintain a household. Because they are good roommates, their presence is a welcome addition for their parents.

Debbie and her husband continue their busy ministry. The adult kids maintain their own schedules and friends. As fully participating members of the home, the four adults divide the chores. When Debbie and her husband travel for ministry, they leave with confidence that the dogs are cared for, the mail is collected, and the home is maintained.

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