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5 tips for coping with your boomerang child

Graduating from university, getting an apprenticeship or taking an OE used to be a rite of passage not just for young adults but also for their parents. It marked a glorious time when the young left the nest and the parents’ job was done. The child had been raised to become an adult, and now they were embarking on their own journey in life.

How times have changed. Due to New Zealand’s small population size, data is hard to come by in this area, although here are some figures that may be similar to ours:

  • Australian data suggests that more than one in four Australian adult children move back home.
  • The latest US statistics show that the number of adults living with a parent or grandparent is at an all-time high.

In New Zealand, it’s reasonable to expect that the impact of coronavirus on the careers of many young adults will be significant. Opportunities dry up. Young adults are among the groups most affected by pandemic-related job losses, in particular over the next year or 18 months. Enter the boomerang generation – those that return to the parental home.

Grown children moving home can be a good experience for all involved. Young adults might learn more from their parents as they can relate in a way they couldn’t when they were younger. Parents can also get to know the person their child has grown to become.

Remember though, no matter how enjoyable this time together might be, it shouldn’t last forever – that’d be no good for the parents or child.

Here’s five tips to make the most of this situation – for parents and the adult child.

1/ Everyone chips in

It should go without saying that anyone who is living under a roof should contribute to the upkeep of that roof and all that goes with it.

Paying rent or board is good for adult children. It helps them develop or maintain healthy financial habits and maintains a sense of perspective and self-esteem. If a young adult can’t afford to pay much, they should be doing well more than their fair share of chores, or perhaps working on maintenance and improvements to the property.

If out of work, the requirement to pay board might encourage young adults to take a part-time job while they continue to look for full-time work.

2/ Negotiate boundaries and expectations

For parents – remember, it’s your house. One of the first things to do is have a conversation about what is and isn’t OK in your house. This may include:

  • What is and isn’t a shared space.
  • Laundry arrangements.
  • Meal arrangements.
  • Power, water and internet access.
  • Privacy – for the parents and child.
  • Possessions – such as things the adult child might want to borrow.
  • Visitors – including overnight visitors.
  • Chores.
  • Behaviour – this might include whether music, smoking or drinking is allowed in your home.

Make expectations clear. Playing things by ear is a sure-fire path to disappointment and conflict.

Remember to let your child have a say in what they want, too. Ideally they’ll choose their own chores – they’re more likely to get done that way!

For adult children – remember, it’s not your house. Politely and openly talk about your expectations and how you’ll contribute. If you like listening to loud music, then ensure you’re open about when you’d like to play it and for how long. If your parents aren’t interested, then find a workaround – in this case maybe going for a drive to play the music or getting some high-quality headphones so you don’t disturb anyone.

When you’ve got your own home one day, you can make the rules.

3/ You’re all adults

Adult children moving back with their parents will usually be accustomed to a lot more freedom than when they lived at home as a teenager. Compulsory family meals, a curfew or other restrictions might not be appropriate, unless that interferes with the rest of the family or parents.

Parents should avoid asking too many questions and becoming overly concerned with what their children are doing every minute of the day. Treating their adult child as an adult will help them get back on their feet sooner!

4/ Timing matters

Establishing a timeframe is crucial for both parties – the parents and the child. Parents should be clear about how long they are willing to support their adult child. It’s a wise move to work towards a cut-off date when the adult child is expected to move out and support him or herself. This could be within six months or a year. This will ease tensions by giving you both something to aim for.

5/ Stay level-headed and watch out for depression

Many Kiwis think that adults living with their parents shows irresponsibility, laziness or not wanting to grow up. Unfortunately, although moving back home may be financially necessary, many young adults may feel guilty about accepting their parents’ help. They may become increasingly depressed and doubt their self-worth.

While some of these feelings may be common, parents should keep a wary eye out to see if their child becomes increasingly angry, withdrawn or despondent. If so, you may need to encourage them to change things up or seek counselling.

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