Surviving adult children living at home

Imagine a life where you have free home-cooked meals, free laundering and free rent. It sounds like the stuff of dreams – especially in Sydney – but it is actually the experience of many single adults living in Australia and other western countries today.

‘Boomerang Kids’ is the term for this social trend of adult children living at home with parents, but while the arrangement offers great financial benefit to the adult child, what is its impact on their Baby Boomer parent?

Australian Bureau of statistics figures show that in 2011 around 29% of young adults were living without a partner or child but with one or both of their parents, up from 21% in 1976.

Social demographer, Mark McCrindle’s extensive research into ‘Boomerang Kids’ reveals that more than one in four 20-34 year-old males still live at home with parents and in the US these numbers are even higher.

“One of the key benefits of staying longer with parents is costs savings. Housing affordability is a major cause of adults staying in the family home,” he says.

Below is a list of the main challenges this social trend can present for the Baby Boomer parent:

  • Retirement plans are delayed and retirement savings significantly decrease.
  • Baby Boomer parents, while enjoying the social interactions available in a multigenerational household, can often feel the pressure and may feel like their hard work is being taken for granted.
  • Baby Boomer parents can feel sandwiched between taking care of their own parents while still having their Gen Y children living with them and studying.
  • It can have a negative influence on younger children living at home.
  • Couples with adult kids at home can suffer through more arguments and bickering than if they were empty nesters (studies have shown this).
  • You can actually be holding back your child from success and life fulfillment by ‘robbing’ them of drive by giving too much.

Rest assured there are also many benefits to having adult children living at home and many studies support this.

For example parents can be more assured about the safety of their children, who they associate with etc. Living with your adult child can foster closer relationships and allow the parent to give ongoing guidance and advice on a regular basis. It's not uncommon to hear parents having very little contact with their child once they leave home and perhaps start a family of their own early.

Another added benefit to having a child at home longer is that when your child does eventually leave home they are more financially secure, having been able to possibly save a deposit for a home rather than have spent most of their income on rent - and that is one less worry for the parent. The adult child can also be an invaluable source of support for the parent through maintenance and upkeep of the home and in caring for their parent if they are ill.

Here are some tips for surviving with adult kids still living at home:

  • Agree on a plan or budget: Very few parents and boomerang children have a formal arrangement or contract covering costs and the length of the "tenancy" or live in arrangement.
  • Have open conversations: Communicate how you feel about things you may be uncomfortable or uncertain about with the arrangement.
  • Tough Love approach: Take a step back from the parent-child relationship and try to be more clinical and business-like. Don’t roll over!
  • Discuss costs: As well as discussing food costs, parents and adult children should also discuss the cost of utilities, which are often large but not included in discussions.
  • Discuss domestic chores: Domestic duties must be divided and organised, otherwise they tend to become the parents' responsibility, particularly mothers.
  • Time: It is often hard to forecast how long the arrangement will last, but Mark McCrindle strongly advocates for this, at least a scheduled time to reassess the arrangement.
  • House Rules: For example, have a protocol or expectations around friends or boyfriends and girlfriends of adult children i.e. whether partners are permitted to stay over in the home; parties etc. Use of utilities: TV, music, specific rooms in the house etc.

These small but crucial steps can assist in creating a harmonious environment where you and your adult children can co-exist harmoniously.