Navigating the Boomerang Phenomenon

Navigating the Boomerang Phenomenon

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Advice for when your grown children move back home

Are you worried you might feel lonely and somewhat neglected when your grown-up kids leave home? Such thoughts, especially for a Solo Mom, may well prevail, and a new perspective is needed to accept that our children can survive on their own. This milestone, however, may not play out the way we thought it would—sometimes our kids, after living on their own for a while, move back home (where the term boomerang kids comes from). And it may be a couple of years before they leave the family nest, requiring us to reappraise our future—and theirs.

When our children finish their education, we watch and rejoice as they secure jobs and talk about moving on. However, there’s that unyielding lump in your throat, as you try to imagine them becoming independent and not relying on you quite so much for moral support, with the only consolation being the vacant bedroom space potentially becoming a home office or gym!

The family dialogue gradually takes on a general and more mature outlook as they share their experiences in the workplace and their hopes for the future. All being well, they anticipate their potential advancement, an increase in salary, the prospect of living in their own space, and, perhaps, owning a car.

Expectations put on hold

Unfortunately, things don’t always work out that way. The greatly anticipated salary, even after their first raise, may not, as yet, provide enough funds to rent an apartment—for sharing, or otherwise. The current problem with uncapped rents is an overwhelming factor, especially if you also have a student loan to pay off. According to a July 2018 study by the Pew Research Center, more than 60 million Americans currently live in multigenerational households, mainly because they lack the funds to branch out alone. And this scenario is not exclusive to those in the States. A February 2019 paper by the Institute for the Study of Civil Society states that in the United Kingdom, “The proportion of 20- to 34-year-olds living with their parents rose from 19 percent in 1998 to 26 percent in 2017—equivalent to an additional 900,000 young adults living with their parents.”

The prospect of owning a car is also put on hold, and for those having studied for years to achieve independence, these realities are a disappointment. In steps “the reassuring mom.” Caring, as always, she puts the home office or gym space on hold, and the family car really does become the family car. What was formerly Mom’s Ford manifests in the evenings as the proverbial “babe magnet.”

All of you seeking independence

At this time in your life, you may also be seeking independence of a different kind. Having nurtured your children through their education, supporting and encouraging them on their way, you share their frustrations. As a Solo Mom, you might also have a few frustrations of your own. If your kids lived independently while in college, they may be out of the habit of considering your concerns for their safety. You can’t tell a twentysomething man what time he should come home at night, and it’s very hard to convince a twentysomething woman that not all men are knights in shining armor. Talk to them about this, and share any concerns you might have for their well-being. Encourage them to text you with any changes to their plans or travel arrangements. It’s not that you don’t trust them, of course, but you do look and feel exhausted the morning after a restless night waiting to hear the key in the door!

Financial limitations and readapting to life at home

Trying to accept their financial limitations could well bring about increased tension when you question why they are buying yet more sneakers or going on trips away with friends. “Why not save a dollar here and there toward your future?” you might ask!

And whatever happened to the carefully planned bathroom schedule, orchestrated to avoid queuing for shower space? And don’t even mention the empty cereal boxes and the disappearing orange juice from the fridge.

Setting boundaries

Setting a few boundaries for your boomerang kids is not a bad thing—for them or for you! Also, if their resources can meet the demand, charging a modest rent will help them understand where money goes when you have a home to maintain and mouths to feed. It will also help them realize they are helping you!

Should you decide to go away for a few days, now and again, leaving them to be self-sufficient, this will illustrate to them how much time is spent on cleaning, washing, shopping, and cooking. These are practical, positive steps, which will serve a greater good in the long term.

Developing a deeper connection as a family

It’s not all bad! For some, sharing space with adult children could bring a surprising outcome. You may discover their maturing taste in music is actually quite stimulating and more to your liking these days. Discussing the books you read and exchanging opinions on current affairs can enhance your time together and secure respect for one another on an adult playing field.

As life moves on, it’s a subliminal saving grace that softens the harsh reality for all. Solo Moms find themselves developing a deeper connection with their kids as the kids’ more mature characters are revealed. Hopefully, in the long run, there will be plenty of time to have adventures of your own. In the process of nurturing adult relationships as a family, you discover mutual characteristics that resonate and establish a strong bond that will last a lifetime.

What was a countdown to the next chapter in the lives of parents and children is now an open-ended conclusion. Fear of the empty nest and a search for greater freedom unite to find unexpected fulfillment for all.

A former advertising executive, Annie Hunte is the founder of, the longest running dating site exclusively for widows and widowers.

Please feel free to contact us with any comments or questions.

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