Life Changes

Boomerang Generation: Finding Benefits When Adult Kids Move Home

The author of a book about creating positive experiences when adult children move back home offers advice to help make the transition smoother.

by Mark Tosczak - October 14, 2019

The idea of adult children moving back in with their parents is not new, but a 2017 Pew Research Center analysis says that young adults today are more likely to live with their parents compared to previous generations. These kids are the boomerang generation.

Christina Newberry became a part of the boomerang generation when she was 29 and going through a divorce. Her stay in her parents’ house in suburban Vancouver, British Columbia, Canada, had its challenges—including a longer commute to work—but she says it was worth it because of the emotional support her parents provided. “It was really important to have that support,” she says. “I had a really good experience.”

Based on that experience, Newberry wrote The Hands-on Guide to Surviving Adult Children Living at Home. The book aims to show parents how they can make the boomerang experience positive for themselves, as well as their children.

The key, she says, is to have clear, mutually agreed-upon expectations. “Parents and the adult children often go into this situation with very different expectations, which creates conflict,” she says.

Here, Newberry outlines three key expectations parents and their adult children should establish before moving day arrives.

  • 1. Set a well-defined timeline

    Parents and adult children should agree on why the child is moving back in (such as the need to take an unpaid internship to kick-start a career) and how long the arrangement will last.

    “The end goal is for the adult child to get back out again,” Newberry says. “How do you work toward that, and what positive things are you going to accomplish during this time at home?” A timeline helps create a picture of what needs to take place in order for the adult child to move out again.

  • 2. Agree on how expenses will be divided

    When adult children move back in, utility bills, food costs, and other household expenses rise. Newberry says it’s important—to the children and their parents—that the kids contribute to the household budget, even if it’s just a token $100 per month for rent.

    Newberry notes that some parents may face significant negative financial impacts from having adult children move back in. Depending on how much the children can contribute, the increased household expenses could reduce their ability to save—and could also derail or delay plans to downsize for retirement. Parents need to be clear-eyed about these added costs and set expectations up front about what they can and can’t do for their children financially.

    “Realistically, an adult child has a lot more earning years ahead than their parents do,” she says. “The parents need to take care of themselves financially.”

  • 3. Clarify based on your unique situation

    Lots of personal developments can impact the expectations families outline together. If a stepparent has entered the picture, that person’s feelings should be considered before an adult child moves home. Or maybe the adult child has children moving in, as well.

    “There need to be even more conversations in terms of expectations about what the grandparents’ role is going to be with the [younger] children, and the financial impacts of that,” Newberry says.

  • Parents and adult children should also agree on behaviors that might spark unnecessary conflict if not discussed. Two examples:
    • Will boyfriends or girlfriends be allowed to spend the night?
    • Who’s going to handle chores like laundry and cooking meals?

    Despite the challenges, Newberry says that having adult children live at home, if managed with clear expectations, can turn out to be a positive experience.

    “As long as everyone is respectful and follows these guidelines,” she says, “it can be a really unique time to get to know each other in a different way.”

Mark Tosczak has spent 25 years wrangling words for newspapers, magazines, businesses, nonprofits, and other organizations. He focuses on health care, science, and business.