There’s a day that nearly all parents spend time daydreaming about, longing for and dreading all at the same time. That day is the day that their children fly the nest and leave them to it. After however many years of direct parenting, school runs, refereeing fights, supervising projects and stroking foreheads during nightmares, they’re leaving the house. It’s a natural mixed bag of emotions; the excitement of a little freedom when it comes to a lay in on a Saturday morning and the fear of not knowing what your kids are doing at every minute of the day is all a lot of getting used to. And yet here that day is, you’re waving the kids off and shutting the door on the part of your life that was dictated by an army of mini humans that you created yourself. Now, you’re faced with time. A lot of time to mull over the years you’ve had. To plan what you are going to do next, how you want to spend the time that you have in a very empty house. To be you again, the person beneath the parent. It’s a lot of time to think.
Or so you thought.
It’s been six months. A year maybe, and your child walks back in with a suitcase in each hand – just as you were getting used to the idea of a phone call twice a week and lunch on Sundays. They are moving back into the house. The house that you’ve spent time returning to the way you like it and your tastes. The house that you had gutted when they left, making the spare room into a workout space. Sure, you go in there to eat biscuits and watch daytime TV, but the point is that you had changed the spare room to whatever you wanted it to be. They’re labelled as ‘boomerang children’. You set them free and they came right back to you. You may have dreaded the say that they moved out, even providing them with the best guarantor loans to help them to rent their own place and get a car. Financial independence from you was on the cards and they’re back in your house again, eating the food in the cupboards and backing up the recorded TV listings.
Every parent out there will make sacrifices for their children, whether they are five or twenty-five. You will, of course, make room for them in their time of need. You’re a parent, it’s what we do. It doesn’t mean that you have to settle for it to be that way, though. You may be a parent, but there cannot be a regression here. Relationships break down, job losses happen, and these things are understandable, but when your adult children move back into the house the rules are different. No, you will not be washing their clothes. No, you will not be cooking their meals (unless you offer, of course). No, you will not be letting them live rent-free; you have a house to run and they are adults who can take some financial responsibility for being back with you at home. Your child moving home to be with you for a while needs to be a temporary measure, and you as the parent need to make it very clear that it cannot be permanent. Yes, the world out there is tough and there are issues in the job market, but your home is not a free hotel with room service. You are a parent first and foremost, and a big part of parenting is helping your child to stand on their own two feet. With this in mind, you need to realise that you have to straighten out that boomerang adult child of yours, so that the next time they pack to leave the family home, it’s for good. Below, you’ll find some good ways of getting your boomerang child onto the right track.
Charge Rent. Back before they moved out the first time, your child may not have been paying you any keep for living in your home. This was maybe because they were teenagers, maybe because they hadn’t ever moved away and maybe you completely forgot to discuss it. This time it has to be different. Just because they’ve come home, doesn’t mean they earn a little financial freedom. Sit down together and work out an arrangement. Some parents like to charge a quarter of a monthly salary. This can either go into the household costs, or you can choose to put it away as savings for your child to move again in a few months. If there are any arguments about you charging rent, explain that you will be charging less than a landlord outside the house, and they don’t get to live for free. Plus, if they don’t like it, they don’t have to come home at all.
Establish Rules. This is your home. You can lay down the law about noise, guests and cleanliness and these rules have to be stuck to while they occupy their space. Your house isn’t a hotel, and it shouldn’t be treated as such.
Job Search. If the reason that they are back home is being out of work, then you can encourage and support and even help their efforts in finding work. Of course, it may not be instant, but if you know that jobs are being looked for every day, then you know that they won’t be home for very long.
Be Frank. When it comes to what you expect, just be honest. Yes, it may be lovely to have them around, but you raised your children to fly, not hunker down in the nest. They may take some offence to your plan for them to move out quickly, but it’s not about being offensive. It’s about helping your children to take responsibility from themselves, in the way that you always taught them that they should do.