The rotating door, the problem with adult children who keep coming home

A couple of years ago my husband and I moved back into the home of my parents in law for six months while we completed renovations on our house. My parents in law asked for no money in return and we even had hot meals provided every night. We were very, very lucky. The only condition was that the money we saved had to be put back into our renovations and not spent frivolously, which seemed very fair.

I had a bit of a giggle this week because my sister in law has actually moved back into this family home for the third time. They obviously make it too good for us! On the other side of my family, my brother and his girlfriend have also just moved back in with mum and dad, for the fourth time.




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The phenomenon is called “boomerang children”, adult children who rely on “hotel mum and dad” when they need to get back on their feet. In my family the baby boomer parents on either side say that they don’t mind their children returning and in my view they make it too good to resist. However, does this mean that it is right? And are there some circumstances where the adult children take too much advantage of this kindness?

When you look at the figures it’s striking how many adult children are living at home. Across Australian nearly a quarter of adults aged 20-34 (mostly male), still live with their parents. Of those aged 25-29 who live in the parental home, more than half have moved out and returned. Surely not all these boomers would be happy with their adult children still hanging around in their home?

The main reason why children move back home is financial, to either get back on their feet, save for a house or dare I say it, just because they can. Living at home is cheap and in some circumstances the adult children are looked after far too well with dinner cooked each night, groceries paid for, and perhaps laundry and cleaning done for them too.

While my circumstance was only for six months with clear guidelines and boundaries, there are some situations where adult children have never, not lived out of home. I wonder how this is affecting their social skills as well as learning how to look after themselves?

I remember a great documentary on SBS a couple of months ago called “The Nest”, which was about the baby boomers who had adult children who would not leave the family home.

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One particular story struck me as a typical example, Jeremy was 27 and has no intention of moving out. He had a well paying job, nice car and because he lived with mum and dad enjoyed all the finer things in life.

The documentary showed him out with his mates, travelling frequently and not having a care in the world while his mum cooked, cleaned and ran around after her adult son. For me this didn’t seem fair and that Jeremy was taking far too much advantage of the hotel of mum and dad.

A Psychologist in the documentary made an interesting observation about adult children who have never left home.

She explained that something gets “stilted” when adults never move away from home and remain in transition. They get offended when asked to take on responsibilities and remain not quite children, not quite adults.

Throughout the show she counselled the parents and told them if they felt used and if they believed their adult son could look after himself it was time to move him out. It was up to them to put their foot down and say ‘no more’.

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Perhaps that is the defining factor here. It really is up to the parents, not the child to make the rules and set the duration, cost and guidelines of the ‘living at home’ arrangement. When the adult child makes their own rules it becomes a big fat unfair burden on their baby boomer parents and this scenario is no good for anyone.

I am keen to hear from you? Have you had children who just keep returning to your home?

Have you discovered you need to clear boundaries and guidelines for this arrangement, and what are they?