Boomerang Kids: Returning to Live with Mom & Dad

Throw a boomerang (properly, at any rate) and it will return to its point of origin in a dazzling display of aerodynamics and physics. But throw a child (not literally, of course), and does the same thing happen? Increasingly, the answer is “yes”, and it’s given rise to what has been dubbed the Boomerang Generation.

Let’s face it, the economy and job prospects for many new, recent, and not-so-recent graduates is not all rosy and rainbows. It’s tough out there. So tough, in fact, that children are either returning to live with their parents, or never left in the first place.

Coldwell Banker, the real estate franchise, recently conducted a survey on this very subject and found that the majority of 18-34 year olds questioned saw nothing wrong with children returning home for up to five years after graduation. Trulia, an online residential real estate company, released their own findings as well. Their research shows a staggering 44% of unemployed 18-34 year olds still living with their parents, and almost 25% of those with a job doing the same thing. The numbers don’t lie, and they are still going up. In 1981, 27% of Canadians in their twenties still lived at home. By 2011, the number had skyrocketed to 42.3%. Likewise in the United States, where the figure nearly doubled from 9% in 1960 to 17% in 2000. Similar trends are happening across the United Kingdom, where nearly one quarter of adults between 20-30 years old have returned home to live at least twice, and Australia. And even when they do move out, they often end up returning at some point. Boomerang.

So why the switch in not only practice, but attitude towards it? The answer is multifaceted. An unstable economy, increased student loan debt, increased cost of living, and increased acceptance are all contributing factors. No longer do we look down at adult children still living with their folks. In fact, we often envy them. There’s a lot of benefit that comes with such an arrangement.

For starters, it allows the children to save and establish a good credit rating. It gives them some breathing room while they search for a job. For many parents, it’s not only tolerable, but desirable. Aside from having their babies back home, these children are ideally helping with household costs and the division of household labour. It’s an adjustment, for sure, but it no longer seems to have the negative stigma attached to it. "There's the greater acceptability of living with parents when you're older — on the part of the parents, on the part of young people," according to Rod Beaujot, a demography professor. But are there any negative consequences? That depends on who you ask…

You may have noticed that both surveys mentioned in the third paragraph were conducted by real estate firms. That’s no coincidence. The high number of children staying with their parents has led to stagnant or falling sales in the real estate industry. Young adults just aren’t buying property.

Beyond that, many people argue that boomerang kids never really grow up. They don’t develop the skill set that comes from living on your own - from cooking, to cleaning, and doing laundry - or take full responsibility for themselves.

It’s all open to debate, of course, but one thing that both sides of the argument agree on is the necessity of having a frank discussion at the onset. Parents and their boomerang children need to establish and agree upon certain rules and expectations. The children should - whenever possible - be contributing financially to the household. They should also have their fair share of chores. On the other side, parents need to realize that things have changed, and their son or daughter is no longer a child, and should never be treated as such. Even living at home, they are adults. They may be dating. They may come home late. If possible, setting some sort of deadline on the arrangement can also make it easier for both sides.

Ultimately, it’s about mutual respect. If it works for both parties, then there’s no harm, no foul. And just to be clear, we’re referring here to adult children living at home and making some kind of positive contribution while they work towards moving out at some point in the future. This does not include what many have labeled children, usually male, living in their parent’s basement, playing video games, drinking, and making no attempt to leave or contribute in any meaningful way.

Many parents struggle with the empty nest syndrome when their children initially leave home, whenever that happens to be. Increasingly, parents are now experiencing a crowded nest syndrome instead, and most of them are just fine with that. To a point…

So, what do you think? Would you ever consider a move back home?


Image courtesy of ryanrocketship

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