Life is beautiful and imperfect, a source of wonder and a challenge so complex that it’s good to pause from time to time and check our perspective and priorities against eternal truth. Jim Daly’s blog, Daly Focus, is full of daily insight and wisdom that promises to help you navigate today’s culture.
We’ve been hearing more about “boomerang kids” lately, young adults who, due to a bad economy, dearth of jobs or for a variety of others reasons, move back home with mom and dad after a season of independence.
Boomerang kids are part of a rapidly growing trend. According to a recent NBC News article, “A Pew Research Center analysis released earlier this month found that 40 percent of 18- to 31-year-olds with a high school degree or less, and 43 percent of those with some college education, were living at their parents' home in 2012.” Another study shows that 85 percent of college grads move back in after school is over.
I come to this scenario never having lived it myself. Because my mom died when I was still a boy, and because my father and stepfather left us, I’ve been on my own since my early teen years. The idea of being in my twenties and thirties and living with my parents is a foreign concept to me. However, I can only imagine this could make for a tough situation – for both parents and their children.
The underlying question is this: How can parents help adult children without enabling them?
With the exception of a man leaving his parents to cleave to his wife, the Bible is largely silent on the specific topic of grown children in the home, and so I think we have to look to the larger principles in God’s Word for guidance. I’ll share three things, based on advice from Focus counselors, that parents of adult children might want to consider.
1. The end-goal remains the same
The Bible charges parents with certain objectives, and these don’t change just because your child grows up: we are to help our children become followers of Christ, godly men and women. (Malachi 2:15 and Ephesians 6:4)Parents of adult children would be wise, then, to view their decision-making with this ultimate goal in mind. Doing this will provide clarity of thought and insight into when to provide “tough love,” when to speak or remain silent, or when to lend a helping hand or not.
Measure your child’s actions against the fruit of the Spirit. Ask yourself how your child is becoming equipped to one day become a husband or a wife, a father or a mother. Consider how what you do or say will impact your child’s walk with the Lord.
2. Clearly communicate expectations and boundaries
God clearly sets out expectations and boundaries regarding responsible behavior in the Bible. Parents should follow that example with their adult children. (1 Tim 5:8, Gal. 6:5, 1 Cor. 13:11)
Before an adult child moves back in, talk through things like timeframes, rent, pitching in around the house, etc. The son or daughter moving back in isn’t a child anymore, after all, and shouldn’t expect mom or dad to meet their every need and want. Likewise, they shouldn’t expect parental help to last indefinitely.
If an adult child is already living at home, then parents should consider having this conversation sooner rather than later – the more time passes without clear boundaries, the more difficult it will be to rein in bad habits that may form.
In any case, these respectful conversations should continue to periodically take place during the duration of a child’s stay.
3. “Do not provoke your child to wrath” still applies to parents
There’s a difference between parents setting clear limits on moral issues in their house, and giving an opinion on every matter under the sun. Sometimes it’s wiser to pray for the Holy Spirit to work a change in your child’s heart than to voice your own concerns over a topic.
As long as your adult children are meeting the obligations you previously talked about, try to refrain from making an issue if they are mismanaging their time and not looking for a job, for example. Soon enough the time limit for the temporary arrangement time frame will expire, and your child might have to face some unpleasant consequences.
Topics like these present a special challenge because there are as many special circumstances as there are sons and daughters. In the end, there is no list of rules parents can follow that will guarantee success – there are only guidelines that can help moms and dads navigate what might be a challenging season in life.
Because of this, may I encourage the parents of adult children with boomerang kids to constantly pray? Pray over your child. Pray over your own heart and actions. After all, in parenting or any other thing, God gives wisdom to anyone who lacks it and asks for it (James 1:5).
We have a section on our website titled “Boundaries with Adult Kids” which you might want to check out. As always, you can also speak with one of our family help specialists by calling us at 1-800-A-FAMILY.
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--Two years ago our oldest son moved back in our home with his then 3 year old son. He and his wife were divorcing and he had custody of his son. In the two years he has been with us he has been able to get out of debt and provide a stable home life for our grandson. Our original goal was to have them move out this past summer as our son had a good job and was able to support himself and his son. However, our son expressed a desire to go back to school (which he had had to give up when his then girlfriend became pregnant) so we agreed to "two more years". I agree with several items in this article. A goal should be agreed upon and an "end date" set. Your adult child should respect the rules of your home and should share in household responsibilities. I require our son to plan and cook dinner one night a week. Also we have required some sort of monthly room and board based on his financial situation and what he can afford. It has worked well for us and I am grateful to have a large influence in our grandsons life. Our next to oldest son has moved back home as well as he is getting married next May and has a lot of college debt he is trying to pay off. Again, there is a goal set and an end date as well. He has the same expectations as his brother, pays a monthly amount and shares in household responsibilities. Though I would like to be an empty nester now I am glad that we are in a position to help our sons and enjoy my "adult" relationship with them.
--Very good article that is so relevant within my circle of friends! Adult children with kids are moving back home for financial reasons and post divorce. They need grandma and grandpa to babysit their children while they are at work. It is nice to get free childcare and pay a low rent while you are trying to get back on your feet, so I agree wholeheartedly that there should be a time frame that parents and grown children agree upon that indicates when they are expected to become independent. Of course, this kind of independence is a very Anglo cultural ideal. We have a lot of different cultural influences in our society today which would not necessarily agree to separation of households as a goal. Regardless, there is a large financial responsibility to run a household that needs to be more proportionally shared. Free childcare or free "rent" is not good for anyone. I am a licensed Marriage and Family Therapist endorsed by Focus on the Family. I advise parents that they are enabling their adult children when they give freely all the things that should otherwise motivate an adult to become responsible for their lives as well as their children's lives. Very loving - and sometimes guilt-ridden - grandparents are doing too much for their children and robbing them of being well-functioning, responsible adults. Grandparents can have a far-reaching influence over their children and granchildren by setting appropriate boundaries and showing and sharing the love of Jesus Christ.
--I think the important thing is for families to work together and love one another, and financial problems often cause family members to live under the same roof. I think the key is for each person to have respect and pull his/her own weight if possible. I've even seen situations where parents had to move into their adult children's homes. I also think we would all do well to look at the examples of some other cultures that highly esteem elders and focus on family cooperation.
--Reciprocal relationship is the key. Adults should be in positively generative relationship with one another. It is a blessing to be able to move back in with your parents when times are tough and it should be treated as such. Younger siblings can relate more to older siblings than they can to Mom & Dad, so the older sibling needs to act responsibly...like an adult. Spouses tell one another where they are going and what they are doing, so should the adult children at home too. If Mom & Dad and younger children pick-up after themselves and keep their rooms neat, so should adult children. Just as Mom & Dad need to be careful about expressing their opinion, so do the adult children. Opinions can be expressed by the simple rolling of the eyes or getting up and walking out of the room. Mom & Dad, if your adult child is married, stay out of their marriage and don't let your child share what should be intimate details about their spouse. We are very bad about this in our culture and it is even more a temptation when a child and their spouse move in with you. Above all, don't confuse love with emotional manipulation.
--Very helpful. We have found it critical to have some regular household worship for those who move back in as well as any guests in the home. The form and frequency need to be appropriate but this is critical to center the home upon the Lord and is a foundational part of the #1 consideration in the above article. As one goes through the Scriptures God often worked in entire households as the head (couple, single parent or single (Lydia) would lead whomever is living under their roof. In our individualistic culture we often miss this means of God's blessing. This has been a part of our practice with the kids growing up and has continued to be when they moved back during or after college and overseas trips as well as for guests who live with us. We have found it keeps the home centered in a way nothing else can and proactively helps all to live humbly with God and each other.
--Many countries keep the family together to make their resources spread further. Growing children are encouraged to get an education that the family helps provide so that child will be a successful adult able to carry the next generation and possibly the parents. Children are raised by relatives instead of strangers in daycare centers. As parents age they live with the family instead of being shipped off to nursing homes.
With the economic crisis and loss of jobs it appears that families have to rely on one another to stay strong. Not only can adult children benefit from this by being able to get out of debt, parents as they age are not alone waiting for someone to call and any children born in the family may know their family.
I didn't know my family until I was in my 20's because we lived so far away and I hope that my parents or in-laws will one day live with us so that my children will benefit from family taking care of family. Maybe that will happen for me one day when I'm to old to care for myself if my children see it from us. Just a thought that having family rely on one another is a good thing if their is love and repeat.