The Boomerang Phenomena

Did your kids speed out the door on their way to college and freedom from your house rules, only to riccochet back after finishing college and not finding a job right away? Apparently, you are experiencing the Boomerang syndrome, and you aren't alone.

Statistics in a recent article out of the LA Times say that about 25 percent of Americans between the ages of 18 and 34 now live with their parents. This according to the 2000 US Census data.

You know a trend is big when the marketers get their hands on it. Apparently, they are now targeting families who live with "boomerang kids". Even social service groups have started to pay attention, including getting advice on how to handle the situation.

This may mean that just at the time when you could downsize your home and maybe get completely rid of that pesky mortgage, you are stuck in your home providing shelter for grown children. And not only is it financially stressful, but it can also be emotionally and psychologically stressful. Now matter how old your grown children are, will you be able to get to sleep until they are safely in the house?

Finances aside, how do you cope with this? Expert advice includes having a serious discussion with your child or children BEFORE they move home, on some neutral territory. (You could choose a local coffee house or restaurant.) At this time, before the child is in your home (and certain assumptions have been made), you talk about house rules, including a "contract" that deals with schedules and expectations. You'll have to hit all the same territory that you would if you were getting a new roommate after all these years: kitchen duties, household chores, alcohol use, smoking, who needs first access to the bathroom, and how to handle the potentially difficult topic of "overnight guests" of the opposite sex.

From a financial standpoint, you might want to have your adult child pay some rent, even if it is geared to their earnings. If your child returns home because they have no income, then no rent is okay. But be sure to specify that once they are making money, you will expect some rent. It is your ADULT child after all. This also ensures that no one starts to treat this like extended adolescence. It's a financial arrangement, designed to benefit your child, but it should also be reasonable for you and your spouse.

Here's the trick in all of this: being able to treat your ADULT child as an ADULT. That is as much the parent's responsibility as the child's. And good ground rules that recognize the independent responsibility of all parties is crucial to a good outcome.

Some experts say that you should also specify a length of time that the child is expecting to reside in the home.

After all, you do eventually want them to leave.


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