Boomerangst: Turning Dilemmas Into Discoveries — Adult Children Living At Home

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It’s a growing trend among baby boomer parents. Here, what to do when your adult child wants to move back home

Q. My husband and I have been empty nesters for seven years. Our two adult children completed university in cities away from home and quickly found jobs. But after working in the financial sector for three years our son was recently ‘downsized.’ Here we are five months later and he’s still without work. His savings are running out and he’s now talking about moving back home until he finds another job. Obviously we love our son, but neither of us is eager to see this happen. He and we are at such different stages in life and I’m afraid this arrangement will strain our otherwise great relationship. We want to be understanding but we’re worried about the fall-out. Help!

Nancy, Ottawa


A. Adult children living at home is a huge trend impacting us Boomers. According to a recent issue of Maclean’s magazine, the number of children in their 20s living at home jumped from 27 per cent in 1981 to 42 per cent in 2011. So how do you make the best of the situation? You plan and you discuss, that’s how.

“It’s tempting to think that everything’s going to go really smoothly, but that rarely happens by itself,” says Christina Newberry, founder of the website adultchildrenlivingathome and the author of The Hands-on Guide to Surviving Adult Children Living at Home. Christina says you need to create two guiding documents.

The first is a monthly budget of household expenses. In it, you should estimate the impact of your son moving home (on things like food, the family car) then determine how he’ll contribute to those expenses. If he has no money, he can do things like paint the garage, snow removal or lawn care – services you might otherwise be paying for. Keeping a tidy room and doing laundry are a given. They don’t count.

The second document is a ‘family contract.’ It puts into writing the financial arrangement, but also such things as will it be okay if your son’s girlfriend stays overnight, will he be expected to be home for dinner or to make dinner. You also need to discuss how long he’ll live at home. This forces everyone to set goals, since the objective is to get him out on his own two feet ASAP and avoid drifting along. He may feel “over-parented and over-supervised,” but you’ve got to have clear expectations and you have a right to.

“When families get together and just assume everything is going to be fine, they’re often disappointed because it isn’t fine – but nobody wants to talk about it,” says Christina. Resentment builds until everyone is really angry and then it’s even harder to have an honest conversation.”  But if you plan and you discuss ahead of time, as Christina advises, everyone, she says, might just have a positive experience. Your son gets the financial benefit of living at home while looking for work – and with your emotional support. And you get some time with your adult son – time you otherwise wouldn’t have.


Send Diane a brief description of your dilemma, along with your first name and where you live, to [email protected]

A professional journalist for more than 25 years, Diane Sewell has written for some of the top newspapers and magazines in Canada and is a baby boomer herself. Her new blog “Boomerangst: Turning Dilemmas into Discoveries” is interactive with readers and focuses on life issues – like aging, dating, second marriages, sex, death, family and fashion. Diane will use her expertise to find the right expert to help solve your predicament, unearthing kernels of truth and quickly getting to the heart of the issue.