Living in a Boomerang World

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As far as new buzzwords go, “boomerang kids” sounds catchy, but doesn’t begin to encompass the complexity of 20- and 30-somethings who move back home — or the parents who are their new roommates.  Yesterday’s Diane Rehm Show featured Maryland psychotherapist Linda Gordon, Washington Post advice columnist Katherine Newman, and Johns Hopkins Dean Katherine Newman talking about just this issue. They put a face to individuals living in this boomerang world, and some of them aren’t what you would expect.  A few types:

  • The parents who suddenly find their empty nest full again.  When we talk about kids moving back in with their parents, we tend to focus on the younger generation.  But having children move back home is rough on parents, too — especially if they’d been enjoying the time along… not to mention the extra financial freedom.

 

  • The “adult roommates.” Here’s one thing that previous generations never said:  “My parents are my best friends.” When a son or daughter moves back home, that best friend becomes a roommate.  The tricky thing is defining roles and boundaries for adults living together — who are also family members. Should your kid pay rent? Is it okay for your son to drink in the house? Is it okay for him to bring his friends over to drink? Is it okay for him to get really drunk?

 

  • The ambitious intern.  Katherine Newman notes that the path to a middle class career is longer and more expensive than ever. Young people are racking up Master’s degrees and unpaid internships just to try and get a foot in the door. And living with parents makes this much more feasible. For these kids, moving back home is hardly a lazy move; it’s allowing the family to provide shelter in challenging economic times.

 

  • The “failure to launch” case. Carolyn Hax points out that tough economic times make it tough on everyone — and toughest on the marginal cases.  Young people struggling with depression, substance abuse, or other issues “would’ve been able to get a foothold on their own, even struggling” in the past, Hax notes,  “But now it’s like, forget it.”



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