Blame the economy. And get the spare bedroom ready.
The recent wave of young adults returning to live with their
parents has spawned the term "boomerang generation," named for the
object that turns after you throw it and sails back to you -- a
painful event if you weren't expecting it. Similarly, if you've
recently found your grown children asking to move back in, you may
be experiencing pains of your own.
Naturally, most parents are more than willing to make sacrifices
for their children, and will make accommodations for them when they
are in need. However, when young adults return home, it shouldn't
be to experience a second childhood. Parents need a game plan to
make the arrangement bearable, get the kids on track to move back
out, and most of all, help them finally achieve financial and
In other words, parents need a plan for straightening their
About the boomerang trend
According to a
recent study by the Pew Research Center
, 29 percent of young adults (ages 25 to 34) have lived with their
parents at some point in recent years years. As of 2010, 21.6
percent of that age group was living in a multi-generational
household -- which typically meant living with their parents.
High unemployment is one reason, but there is more to the trend
than that. The percentage of young adults living in
multi-generational households has been steadily rising since 1980.
Back then, this percentage bottomed out at 11.0 percent, and
remained well below today's levels during the early 1980s, even
though the unemployment situation back then was even worse than it
has been in recent years.
Also, while the trend slowed during the economic boom of the
1990s, the percentage of young adults in multi-generational
households continued to rise. The rate of increase has accelerated
again as the economy worsened in recent years.
In other words, while the Great Recession may have exacerbated
the situation, a long-term trend toward this kind of living
arrangement has persisted through multiple economic cycles.
Seven ways to straighten a boomerang
Whatever the reason young adults have for moving back home, some
parents may welcome it, while others may view it as a necessary
evil. However, in no case should it be an excuse for the younger
generation to lapse into adolescence. So, to help make the living
arrangements bearable, to keep the kids focused on moving back out,
and to help them develop a stronger sense of independence, here are
seven tips for straightening out the boomerang generation:
Come up with some kind of rent arrangement.
Naturally, this should be on more favorable terms than it would
be out in the cold, cruel world of landlords, but the young adult
should not be absolved of financial responsibility. With so many
older Americans behind on their
, this extra income might come in handy for the parents. If you
don't want to take money from your kids, have them put the
equivalent of rent into a
, so they start building up the resources necessary to live more
If feasible, put young adults who return home somewhere other
than the rooms they grew up in. This will help send the signal
that this is not a second childhood.
Establish ground rules for personal behavior.
Your home should not be treated as a dorm or a hotel. Rules
regarding noise, visitors, and hours for coming and going should
be established so as not to disturb your peace.
Monitor job application activity.
Make sure your son or daughter is applying for work every day --
and keeping an open mind. Chances are, mommy and daddy didn't
start out in their dream jobs, and young adults need to
understand that they can't be too choosy in a tough economy.
Make volunteering a substitute for work.
If your adult child can't find a job, have them volunteer for a
regular set of hours instead. This will help them build a resume,
make contacts, and avoid slipping into the habit of
Formulate a financial plan.
Once your son or daughter starts working, help
create a budget
that will prepare them to move out. This will make sure they
don't take advantage of your cheap lodging to simply spend what
they earn, and will teach them principles of goal-setting and
budgeting that will help them maintain their financial
independence once they're back on their own.
Discuss all these expectations explicitly and up
You don't need a formal contract or rental agreement -- though
some might prefer that -- but you do need to set and reinforce
these expectations. If they protest against "being treated like a
child," point out that you would lay down formal terms for any
adult who sought to rent a room for you.
With the baby boom generation now entering its retirement years,
the percentage of multi-generational households may continue to
increase, but for a different reason: Many aging parents will have
to move in with their children for a combination of health and
financial reasons. When that happens, perhaps it will finally be
the kids' turn to make the rules.