Boomerang Kids vs. Parents: How to Minimize Conflict

What parents should know before their college grads move back home.

College student on laptop
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Young adults and parents often think differently about how money should be spent. Kids may want to buy the latest iPad, while the parents feel that money can be better spent elsewhere. Markowich says it's important for parents to recognize that these viewpoints mark a generational difference and shouldn't be used as ammunition.

Some parents also exercise too much control over how their kid spends their time, according to Nemzoff. If college graduates are forced to revert back to a situation where their parent wants to be the boss of their time, it can feel like a regression. The resentment that can result from this has the potential to spoil over into other areas of disagreement.

Many boomerang kids are particularly worried about how living with their parents will affect their social life. Joe Liebeskind says the main thing that bothered him was the trouble of starting a relationship with a girl with while living down the hall from mom and dad. Others who stay with their parents for a long period of time may watch their nearby circle of friends shrink over time.

Reaping the rewards. Despite the criticism and grumblings parents may hear from their boomerang kids, many college grads recognize various benefits of living under their parents' roof. The most common: The financial support gives them time to search for a job and save money so they can live on their own.

Few complain about the home-cooked meals. Brian Canell, for example, says now that he's out of the house all he can make is scrambled eggs and pasta.

Bourree Lam stayed with her parents for 90 days while hunting for a job. Since she moved to New York City, she only sees them about 10 days a year. She appreciates how much "precious time" she got to spend with her family.

Others like Michelle Rome value having the support system her family provides. She says it's a lot easier to talk to a parent who's in the next room rather than have a conversation over the phone.

Adam Levine is thankful his parents let him live like he did during college. He says they didn't impede his social life and allotted him privacy by letting him have the upstairs floor to himself.

Joe Liebeskind says he's glad he was able to develop a closer relationship with his sister Dara, as the two have an 8-year age difference. His parents say Joe carried part of the burden of raising Dara by stepping in to tell her things like, "Why are you fighting about curfew when you can just come home?"

Katherine Newman, dean of the School of Arts and Sciences at Johns Hopkins University and author of The Accordion Family: Boomerang Kids, Anxious Parents, and the Private Toll of Global Competition, says she discovered an admirable trend among parents of boomerang kids while researching for her book. "I think families deserve a lot of credit for trying to be resilient problem-solvers," she says. "They can't cure the problem with the labor market or the cost of higher education, but many parents are helping the next generation any way they can."

Many boomerang kids are returning the favor. "Joe was ready to move out, but it was hard for us when he left," says his mother Susan Liebeskind. "We had to learn how to use the TV remote to control the DVR."