How to Manage Your Boomerang Children

February 08, 2017

Blame student debt, the cost of living, a lack of jobs and even parents trying to avoid an empty nest: More adult children than ever before are living with their folks. 

The number of multigenerational homes in the U.S. has doubled since 1980, with the greatest increase coming in the years during and after the Great Recession, according to the Pew Research Center. Younger adults represent the largest portion of the spike, with Pew saying one in four Americans ages 25 to 34 now lives in a multigenerational home. The phenomenon even has a name: boomerang children.

Here’s how to make this living situation work:

1. Create a plan

“Come up with a game plan before they step foot in your house,” says Dr. Alexis Abramson, an author and expert on aging issues. “You need to outline what’s going to happen, discuss it before they move in, get it down in writing and sign it. I feel it’s a contract.”

Some of the topics she suggests covering are house rules, rent, chores, setting a move-out date and personal goals for your child (gaining employment, saving money, looking for housing, etc.).

2. Set priorities

Consider what you are and are not willing to give up. “I think it’s really important you refuse to give up your dreams and your personal freedom,” says Abramson. “You need to think about what you want in your life right now, and make sure you are clear with them. Freedom, safety and security are the three things you can’t give up.” Share your boundaries with your children, and make them non-negotiable.

3. Make it a village

People in the Sandwich Generation are caring for a child while also caring for an elderly parent. If you are struggling with balancing these two situations, Abramson cautions you to set your financial priorities carefully. It's clearly a very personal situation, but families can sometimes serve the needs of all three generations by getting creative. For example, a millennial child could help take care of his or her grandparent as a way of contributing to a multigenerational home.

"Freedom, safety and security are the three things you can’t give up."

4. Communicate with your spouse

If you and your spouse disagree on whether to let your child move home, Abramson says you may need a third party to help you sort it out. She says the decision can be particularly tough if you are remarried. But if you decide to move forward, “A therapist could help you determine the amount of time the child stays with you and the rules of the house. These things can be resolved,” she adds. Bottom line: If something feels odd, talk about it and make a plan to fix it.