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Boomerang Children
by Dr. Bruce Narramore and Dr. Vern Lewis

When his uncle asked twenty-three-year-old Mark why he was still living at home, Mark quickly replied, "Where else can I get free rent, home cooking, cable TV, and free laundry? I'd be a fool to live anywhere else."

Mark summed up the attitude of many young adults. For them the question is not, "Why are you living at home?" but, "Why should I live anywhere else? "And can you blame them? With the cost of housing rising

out of sight, a new car costing between $12,000 and
$20,000, and the typical age of first marriage rising into the mid-twenties, young adults need some good reasons to pass up an offer of free room and board!

Earlier generations of young Americans had plenty of reasons to move away. Many were getting married before they turned twenty. Uncle Sam saw to it that a lot of them left home for military service. Others moved out to get away from conflicts with their mothers and dads or to prove they were "grown up." Besides these reasons, most segments of society expected it. Leaving home was the normal thing to do. But not any more.

The military draft is ended. Most people do not marry immediately after high school. And society no longer expects young adults to make their own way by the time they hit late teens or early twenties.

Earlier generations of young Americans had
plenty of reasons to move away. Leaving home
was the normal thing to do. But not any more.

Sometimes a few years at home after high school or college works fine. You may be happy to have your young adults at home, and the financial savings make sense. By living at home, your son or daughter may be able to save enough money to fund a college education or to make a down payment on a small home.

Many parents and their adult children fondly remember a few years living together after the children reached adulthood. The children could have easily made it on their own but both the parents and their adult children wanted the pleasures of living together. This can be a special time for both parents and children. As one parent put it, "We had the privilege of living, working, and associating with our children as adults. It was a special time in all of our lives."

Other adolescents aren't quite ready to tackle life alone at nineteen or twenty or even twenty-one. Although they could probably make it if they had to, they could suffer strong setbacks in the process. Instead of forcing them out prematurely, many parents decide to give these young adult children a couple of years at home to gradually ease into adulthood and test out their increasing autonomy.

If an extended stay at home has a clear purpose and your young adults are willing to live by a few rules around the house, it can be a great experience. But don't jump to the conclusion that this is always the best option. Some eighteen to twenty-four-year-olds are staying at home to avoid taking responsibility for their lives. Some are abusing drugs and alcohol, refusing to find a decent job, sponging off their parents, or deferring the development of mature relationships outside the family. Instead of employing the convenience of home to ease into new responsibilities, they use it to avoid cutting the cords of dependency on their parents and moving into the adult world.

There are no fixed rules for deciding which young adults should stay and which should go—and when. But the main principle to keep in mind is this: young people avoid fostering dependency and keep growing toward emotional, spiritual, and social maturity.

Twenty-one-year-old Scott's parents realized they had fallen into a dependency trap. During a weekend workshop on parent-teen relationships, they asked if they could talk with me about their son. Three years after graduating from high school, Scott was still living at home. He had taken a few courses at a local community college and held a couple of part-time jobs but wasn't motivated to do much more. He came in at all hours of the night, slept until noon , lounged around the house for awhile, then headed off to spend the day with friends.

Some eighteen to twenty-four-year-olds
are staying at home to avoid taking 
responsibility for their lives.

"Scott is basically a good kid," his parents explained, "but we are getting worried. He doesn't seem to know where he's headed, and what's worse, he doesn't care. If we ask him to do anything around the house, he's 'too busy.' On Saturdays he blares his radio until we can't stand the noise. If we ask him to turn it down, he slams his door or turns the radio off completely. We don't want to push him out before he is ready, but it seems like we're just giving him room and board so he can do whatever he pleases. If he had a job, it wouldn't bother us so much, but it seems like he's getting a free ride and we're getting all the headaches."

After a few discussions with a counselor, Scott's parents sat down with him and discussed their concerns. At first, Scott thought this would just be another lecture his parents would soon forget. But when they told Scott he would have to come up with a definite plan for a job or more schooling within a month and implement the plan by the next semester if he was going to continue living at home, he got the message. Within three weeks he had a full-time job, and when I saw them a year later they told me things were going well. "Scott is banking over $400 a month and is much more helpful around the house. Recently, he even started talking about finding an apartment with a friend!"

Staying in the Nest
Young adults who live at home tend to fall into four broad categories:

First are the normal kids who simply see the wisdom of saving some money or continuing their education while living with their mom and dad. This arrangement is temporary and will only last until school is over or until some clear goals such as graduation, a job, or a down payment for a house are met. These young adults aren't dependently trying to avoid the real world and they don't create needless hassles around the home. They are studying appropriately or holding steady jobs and helping pay their own way. It is clear they want their independence and are only delaying certain aspects of that process until they have a better economic foundation. This is a healthy and normal arrangement.

A second group of live-in young adults is a bit more problematic. These young men and women are trying to delay entrance into the real world because they don't want the responsibilities that come with being independent. They want to remain in a state of economic dependence and have the privileges of adulthood without the responsibilities. Instead of using their extended stay as a launching pad into adulthood, they use it to prolong their adolescent dependencies.

Continued on Page Two

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