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Boomerang Baby!

When Your Young Adult Child Comes Home Again

My daughter, Kaiti, attended a college that was an “intimate distance” from our home. We visited on special occasions and she returned home for weekends now and then, but it was too far for a surprise drop-in visit. As parents, we learned quickly that the college years were a time of letting go, especially when she spent her sophomore year at the Universidad de Alicante in Spain! Now that she has graduated and is continuing her education nearby, we are joining the ranks of parents welcoming home a “boomerang” child. How do relationships change when emptying nests get “re-feathered”?

Setting out the welcome mat

Census figures show that many parents put out the welcome mat for adult children and greet them with open arms. It is important to identify mutual goals and an estimated date of departure. What is the reason for the return home? If the young adult is saving for a down payment on a home, for example, then how will the parents feel if significant amounts of money are spent on vacations or trendy clothes? A 20-something individual might see that great online travel deal as a much-needed break from routine, whereas the parents see it as a distraction from the immediate goal – getting into the housing market. Talk about issues like this before you take the plunge! Establish ground rules; be clear about activities that conflict with parental values or lifestyle.

Family life in the household

Incorporating another adult into the family routine, especially when there are still younger siblings at home, is another area of adjustment. The young adult is used to a life without curfews, but it may be that “house” hours are necessary just to keep a good sleeping pattern for those who need to get up early for work or for school. These aren’t based on age or a desire to impose discipline, but just to keep the household running smoothly. Division of labor should reflect everyone’s needs, so be clear on chores such as cooking, shopping and laundry. Our catechism says, “Respect toward parents fills the home with light and warmth.” (CCC #2219) The importance of respect is mutual. Parents should be mindful that their offspring are autonomous adults rather than children to be monitored.

These are the key years for parents to be adding to their own retirement savings and to be making decisions about increasing discretionary time. Make sure the desires of each generation match so that living together enhances the parent-child relationship, rather than producing conflict. Our family is poised for our “boomerang” experience – I’ll give you a follow-up based on the voice of experience once we’ve completed it!