Are Boomerang Parents Just Enablers?

Boomerang Kids, Boomerang Generation, Boomerang Parents

Courtesy of Flickr User OliverN5

A record number of kids are moving home after the age of 18. Journalists have labeled these kids the “Boomerang Generation” because after moving away to college or even to live on their own, they run out of money, steam, motivation and move right back in with parents–like a boomerang.

According to the US Census Bureau, by 2010 5.9 million people aged 20 to 35 were living back at home. In another survey done in 2011 by the National Endowment for Financial Education, approximately 59% of parents are providing financial assistance to children aged 18 to 39 who were not students.

I wrote a post about this a few months ago (The Boomerang Generation: When Kids Move Home) and began the article with “First, there is nothing to be ashamed of.” However, after meeting many parents and kids over the last few months who are living at home and doing…well…nothing, I decided to write an updated post.

Only a few months ago it seemed that these boomerang kids were simply exceptions to the rule, a special circumstance, not the norm. However, this is clearly no longer the case. Not only have we coined the term “Boomerang Generation,” but now there are a whole slew of monikers including “adulescents” and “emerging adults.”

The tone of conversations about young adults moving home has changed. The attitude used to be sad and frustrating–both accurate descriptions of a capable, educated adult having to move home and be financially supported by parents. Today it seems that this phenomenon has become more accepted, normal and even humorous. Parents are not the only ones warming up to the idea of their kids moving home, but boomerang kids themselves seem more resigned to the fact that they might spend a few more years under Mom and Dad’s roof.

I moved home for one year after college while starting my business. I loved living with my Mom, but everyday hustled to try to make enough money to move out. When I finally started pulling in enough money from my blog and book sales to get my own apartment I was thrilled. I speak to boomerang kids today and many of them (not all) prefer living at home. They spend way more time on craft projects, reading and seeing friends than working on getting out of the house.

In fact, it seems that boomerang kids have an internal struggle of liking and feeling entitled to have a few years at home ‘figuring things out’ while at the same time they are desperate to be on their own, they just aren’t sure how. The perks to living at home–free food, not having pressure to pay bills, food and comfort outweigh their desire for independence and they say things like, “One day I will move out” or “Once I figure out what I want to do I will live on my own.”

But, I wonder if kids didn’t have a home to move back to, would they be more likely to get their lives together? And an even harder question: Are parents enabling their kids to live at home and therefore doing them a disservice? With some caveats, I think the answer is yes and yes.

Being in the real world is scary. Being accountable to pay your own way, support yourself and find the motivation to get yourself up in the morning can be overwhelming. Parents walk a fine line with wanting to support their child, but also trying to help them grow up. Many parents of boomerang kids think their child is the exception to the rule, that they are special, delicate and have a special need that prevents them from  getting out on their own and being accountable. I have heard all kinds of reasons for having kids live at home indefinitely from learning disabilities to bad teachers to a terrible first job experiences to sickness to not having a calling. The economy is also a huge reason for boomerang kids moving home.

The hard question for parents is which of these reasons are legitimate and which are excuses?

That is something that only you and your family can decide. But here are a few questions parents can ask themselves to help figure out if they are enabling their child’s failure to launch or truly helping supporting their child who is at home temporarily:

Does your boomerang child have a deadline to get a job/pay off debt/figure out what they want out of life or are they home indefinitely?

Deadlines work really well for kids who live at home. You can set-up deadlines for applying to schools, applying to jobs, figuring out what career path they want and finally for moving out. Most boomerang kids who are afraid to move out WILL NOT MOVE OUT UNTIL YOU TELL THEM THEY HAVE TO.

How did your child react to your deadline?

I think a boomerang child’s reaction to a deadline says a lot about their desire to be home. If they are fearful and afraid of this deadline, your boomerang child is probably staying home because that is where they are comfortable and there are more emotional reasons for them returning home than logistical ones like finding a job or finishing school.

Does your boomerang child spend the MAJORITY of their free time trying to figure out what their next step should be or do they spend it doing ‘vacation activities’ like reading, playing video games, crafting, watching TV, spending time with friends?

Your boomerang child should at least spend working hours every day plus extra trying to decipher what their next step should be. This can be doing Internet research, informational interviews, reading business books and/or actually working. I see many boomerang kids who just lounge at home working at a part time job, not really trying to figure out their next step. They treat being home almost like an extended summer break with a few hours a day to study/do part-time work/take a class/do internet research, but they have no fire in their belly to get going with their lives.

Does your boomerang child view themselves as a victim or a fighter?

This is a hard one, but an important issue to think about. We all view ourselves through a certain lens. Do you think your child sees themselves as a victim or a fighter? If they see themselves as a victim they are always going to have an excuse or reason ‘outside of their control’ affecting their life status. Victims need tough love, deadlines and guidance because they have a hard time self starting. Fighters usually will find a way to make their dreams come true. They need support and a place to vent.

Do you resent them for not trying hard enough?

As boomerang kids move home it can be hard not to resent them for encroaching on your space and retirement time. Often times I think parents both love having their kids at home and miss the freedom they thought they would get as empty nesters.

How much do you like having them home with you?

I also know parents that love having their children home so much so that they enable their children’s failure to launch because they are afraid their kids will move out both physically and emotionally. Moms who have been needed by their children all of their life will have a hard time having a child who finally doesn’t need them. Having a child become fully independent from their parent is healthy, but can feel sad and scary to a parent who feels like they are losing their child. Do you want your child to be a boomerang child for your own reasons?

These are all hard questions and I encourage parents to think about if they are enabling or actually supporting their boomerang children.

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