By Rosemary Lichtman, Ph.D. and Phyllis Goldberg, Ph.D.
Robert Frost, in his poem, Death of the Hired Man
, wasn't thinking about boomerang kids when he wrote, "Home is the place where, when you have to go there, they have to take you in." But he sure might have been.
In this economy, adult children are moving back home in record numbers - for many different reasons. Some are being frugal and planning ahead of the curve. They want to set aside money to buy a house or other large purchase and arrange to put what they save on rent into a special account. With unemployment hovering around 10% in many areas, others may find that they need to move back home after a job loss. Still other adult children have faced the credit crunch, foreclosure and loss of their own home, causing them to move back with family because they have no other place to live. Some young adults are forced to declare bankruptcy and move home until they can get a handle on their finances and build up credit again.
While the reasons for moving back home may be different, the means of making the situation work for everyone are variations on the same themes – all very familiar to Sandwiched Boomers. And what are they? The recognition of change and the need to respect the rights and autonomy of everyone involved.
After spending years without the day-to-day responsibilities of hands-on mothering, you probably don't want to pick up your old role where you left off. And your adult children likely don't want to be mothered in the same way - they would feel smothered by it. So you can each begin the process of refreshing your relationship with the understanding that things will not be as they were in years past. You are all free to change and be creative - design a new relationship, recognizing you can enjoy the maturity that each of you has gained.
Once it looks like you are going to have an adult child move back home, planning with your family in flux is the name of the game. After all, you don't want to duck or get hit in the head when a boomerang flies back toward you. Use these tips to help you get started:
1. Have a family meeting where all of you can be open about your needs and expectations
. Listen to what your offspring, and their partners who may be moving in too, say about what is essential to them. Talk about your own values and what you need to make the change work for you. You can set the tone for the meeting by agreeing to create a list of your family C. C. & R's. These are not the tedious covenants, conditions and restrictions that comprise the guidelines of homeowner associations but rather the ones that will help you structure a compatible framework for living together.
2. Just as in real estate the most important characteristic of a property is location, location, location, for a boomerang family, the first "C" of the C.C. & R's is communication, communication, communication.
Make it a priority to keep the lines between you open. And make a commitment to be honest and direct as you work through the issues that come up.
3. Cooperation is the second "C," as you remember to come from a place of love.
You are more than just a landlord - you are a parent who shares with your children their desire to succeed. And your children are more than just tenants - they have grown up with you as their role models. Don't forget other "C's" as you decide on the specific "rules and regulations" of your new relationship - courtesy, consideration, creativity, community, collaboration, competency.
4. The "R" is respect - and it's needed on both sides of the generation gap.
Discussing the boundaries you each want to set ahead of time, and making sure to adhere to them, will avoid hot button issues later. When you make respect your mantra, you all have the opportunity to take each other's opinions and needs into consideration. It's not always easy. The social values of young and older adults may be vastly different. In fact, The Pew Research Center recently reported their findings that the generation gap in the United States is the biggest it has been in the past 40 years.
5. Have a Plan B to use when you are readjusting after your initial arrangement does not work out exactly as planned.
As a Sandwiched Boomer, you know the importance of being flexible. Few plans can be put into place exactly as we expect. Both you and your boomerang kids need to accept that nothing is set in stone and your changing relationship is a work in progress.
When your adult child boomerangs back home, it can be a win-win situation for everyone, rather than a cause for alarm. If you follow these tips, your new arrangement opens up the opportunity to see each other through fresh eyes. You can let go of the old hurts and memories of conflicts between you. Experience first hand how your offspring have matured and let them see you as more than just parents.
(c) 2009, Her Mentor Center
Rosemary Lichtman, Ph.D. & Phyllis Goldberg, Ph.D. are co-founders of www.HermentorCenter.com
, a website for midlife women and www.NourishingRelationships.Blogspot.com
, a Blog for the Sandwich Generation. They are authors of a forthcoming book about how to heal the pain in family relationships and publish a free newsletter, Stepping Stones, through their website. Their articles appear often on popular websites. As psychotherapists, they have over 40 years of collective private practice experience.