'Boomerang children' have a tough time moving back in with their parents

  • Children
  • Friday, 18 Oct 2019

Young people are usually prompted to move back in with their parents due to some kind of life crisis or other turning point. Photo: dpa

These children left the nest, moved away and started their own lives. And then due to circumstances, they’re back home as adults, and their parents have to once again welcome them in. Here’s how to make it work.

Anja left home to go to university before she took a job in banking in another German city and finally a transfer to New York. Then, at 27, she was back in her old room at her parents’ house wondering, what’s next?

Realising that a job in finance in the US wasn’t for her, she quit and travelled for a year before returning to her old home. Her parents were understanding, but it was important for Anja to establish new ground rules until she found somewhere else to live.

Many other young adults who hit a setback find themselves under the same potentially conflict-prone roof.

“Right at the start, we sat together and discussed what mattered for whom,” says Anja, who insisted on doing her own laundry and not being bound by set times for dinner or coming home, as she was during her teen years.

It was actually harder dealing with her friends, she recalls, who saw her temporary move back home as negative. Young people are usually prompted to move in with their parents again due to some kind of life crisis or bad turning point.

“This can be a break-up with a partner, financial problems or unemployment, but it can also happen to students who can’t find a job after graduation,” says Anne Berngruber, a researcher at the German Youth Institute.

Berngruber specialises in issues related to young people leaving home and returning again, referred to as “boomerang children” in this field of study. “It’s not very flattering,” she concedes.

As a gay man, Lukas felt the need to break free from his parents’ orbit when he graduated high school and to explore life. A fresh start in a new town, independence, partying, relationships, it all opened his eyes – until he realised his finances were spiralling out of control.

Finally it hit him: “I have to go back home, I’m going under here.” The move didn’t go well, especially in his relationship with his father. “The old boundaries were there again, and the new free-spirited me didn’t want to fit into them,” Lukas recalls.

Friction can easily arise when an adult child moves back home, and it’s not always about them conforming. “The parents already got used to the empty nest, developed their own routines, and could plan their time differently,” explains Berngruber, noting that mum and dad’s newfound freedom can equally clash with their offspring’s.

For Cornelia and her husband, the offer was always there for their daughters to return home. One was having difficulty finding a job after graduation and moved back into her old room. “She’s our child and we try to help our children whenever they need it,” says Cornelia.

But the family had to agree on new arrangements, right down to shared use of the bathroom. “Everyone is a bit more restricted, but not so much that they can no longer live to their liking,” says Cornelia, who thinks re-entry into family life was harder for her kid than for her.

Making it work demands some give-and-take by both sides, say those who have done it successfully – not to mention a bit of luck in getting things moving again in the right direction.

At her new banking job in her old hometown, Anja met with a surprising level of understanding from her new boss. Upon hiring her, she recalls, he immediately said, “We’ll have to make sure you earn enough to move out from your parents’ again.” – dpa

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