There’s a new word out on the street called the “boomerang kids” – children who return to their parents’ home in adulthood and remain there into their 20s or even 30s!!! According to a leading charity Parentline Plus they are putting enormous strain on family relations.

Student debt, the housing shortage and a general lengthening of adolescence (itself a result of growing life expectancy), are all contributing to the well-documented phenomenon of boomerang kids.

Young adults still living with their parents are frequently said to be suffering from the “failure to launch” syndrome but now with the credit crunch really taking hold of family life throughout the world, young adults are returning home as they can’t afford to buy or rent their own home.

The problem isn’t just that they treat the family home like a free hotel, like they did as teenagers, but it is also that many of them refuse to accept that their lifestyles really clash, grate and jar horribly with their parents.

Parents who felt the hard work of bringing up their kids was behind them, are now facing extra money worries and stress and at worst, physical and verbal aggression from their adult children, often fuelled by alcohol and drug abuse.

The charity Parentline Plus is now so concerned about the number of calls it is receiving on this issue that it is drawing up a self-help guide for parents that find themselves in this very difficult position.

One caller told the charity’s free, 24-hour helpline: “I’m not sure what my role is with my son now. As a mother I feel very insecure at this point. This is a transition and difficult for me as a parent to adjust to this new relationship.”

Another said: “Our home became a war ground of constant arguments about alcohol misuse, bad language and lack of respect for us and our home by our son.”

In a report entitled Will They Ever Fly The Nest?  the charity calls for more support for parents of young adults to assert what authority they have, especially where adult children are violent or misuse drugs.

The problem is a very real one  and I am seeing more parents a bit bemused and at a loss to know how to handle this new phenomena because not all young people magically became trouble-free and responsible as soon as they reach adulthood.

But naturally as a coach I know the situation can be improved – if you just relax, breath deeply and start to see things from a bigger perspective.

One of the exercises I show parents when I work with them is my “Shoes and Socks” Technique where you get 4 pieces of paper and write on them:

1. My point of view

2. My partner’s point of view

3. My kid’s point of view

4. A detached, kindly observer’s point of view.

This is a brilliant and very effective way to transform your  relationships quickly and easily as it gives you an immediate insight into the other person’s point of view and changes can be made effortlessly from this starting point as you start to open up to new possibilities. Just take your time to stand and reflect on each piece of paper seeing the world from the eyes, ears and feelings of that person and just ask yourself:

“What do I see ……”

“What do I hear…..”

“How do I feel……..”

Just allow the answers to gently come up – don’t force them but one mum I worked with had a very immediate response and shouted out “Oh, he sees me as a push over!”

Try it and let me know how you get on.

I think it’s also helpful for you as parents to have more information about issues such as housing benefits, grants and training so go and ask for help at your local Citizens Advice Bureau or Connexions and then start gently start coaching your kids into looking at ways to get round, over or through this hurdle facing them as coaching techniques are really effective for teenagers and for older children – they empower the young person to find their own solutions to their problems.

But its not about you taking over, or taking on the responsibility of “rescuing” them. They must take 100% responsibility for their situation, and for their future but of course you want to help, support and empower them with ideas or practical help.

It’s about looking to the future and setting some simple, clear and specific goals that they can achieve over time and not getting stuck in the present, the feelings of overwhelm and feelings of possible failure – or the feelings of having taken a backward step.

Here are some practical ideas to help!

  • Remember It’s your house – and your rules
  • Insist that your kids make a financial contribution – as this teaches them to respect you, as well as themselves and puts the relationship on a much better footing so resentment doesn’t build up.
  • Draw up an agreement on chores around the house and the basic house rules, then stick to them.
  • Don’t wait upon them hand and foot! Just ask yourself what are they learning if you do?
  • Don’t treat them like teenagers and don’t try to control them.
  • Accept that you have to go through a transition in behaviour with adult children.
  • Ensure that both of you as parents are on the same side. If your partner expects a woman to do all the chores, the adult child will too as you are still being a role model to your kids no matter how old they are.
  • If their behaviour upsets you, speak to them – work out compromises, solutions and ways forward. Don’t let resentment, anger and arguments build up
  • Insist that they tell you if they are not coming home at night and explain why you need to know. (Peace of mind, security so you can lock the door etc)
  • Be prepared to say: “I love you, but not your behaviour” just as you did when they were younger kids.
  • Remind them that this is your house. If they don’t like your rules, they must leave.
  • Set boundaries – be firm, fair, consistent and respectful and of course, helpful and look at ways to move this situation forward long term.

And remember – a smile is a curve that puts a lot of things straight – keep the bridges  of communication open and don’t be afraid to chat and talk about what you all want – compromising and thriving – a bit like all of family life really !

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About the author

Sue Atkins is a Parenting Expert who offers practical guidance for bringing up happy, confident, well behaved children. She is also the author of “Raising Happy Children for Dummies” one in the  famous black and yellow series published worldwide and the highly acclaimed Parenting Made Easy CDs. She regularly appears on BBC Breakfast and The Jeremy Vine Show on BBC Radio 2 and her parenting articles are published all over the world.

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Sue Atkins the Parenting Expert
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