The college commencements of May are now a happy memory and June brings a reality check. Thanks to daunting loans, a recovering economy and a rapidly changing work world, thousands of new grads have returned home and reclaimed their bedrooms. They have even an official title: boomerang kids.
Now the challenge for parents is how to deal with the home invasion. Over the last few years, dozens of books and articles have been written giving advice from tough love (make them sign a contract setting a date for departure) to more understanding (encourage career exploration).
We present a strategy that has worked for some baby boomer parents who have been there, done that…and survived: Five steps, some harder than others:
- Devise a game plan: Forget the written contract (a bit hostile); rather have a discussion of goals and how to attain them. Ask your child to write down a plan for achieving those goals with a checklist of specific steps. Revisit the plan monthly—at a set date like the first Monday—to make adjustments and note accomplishments. Let your child conduct the job search and coach from the sidelines with names of contacts and occasional suggestions.
- Encourage sweat equity: Ask your child to help around the house with both regular chores (grocery shopping, making dinner, dog walking) and those long-delayed projects (cleaning the attic, scanning all those old photos).
- Negotiate lifestyle: The living arrangement is less parent-child and more roommates. Discuss what drives you crazy from dirty towels on the floor to texting at the table to endless reality TV. Put the pet peeves out there and try to reach some reasonable accommodations, on both sides. Example: I agreed not to nag my boomerang daughter about getting household chores and errands done as long as she wrote up a list and had it done by a specified time.
- Encourage an exit strategy: Once your child gets a job then charge what I called a “resort fee” which sounds much nice than “rent.” It’s up to you whether to pocket it or save it to return when they need the money to start up their own place.
- Enjoy the time: Unless they’re total slackers, they’ll get a job, move out, and you’ll miss them, although not the Kardashians.