The subject of boomerang kids has been in the news a lot lately, even making its way into the election hyperbole as a way to draw some blood on the economy. The story we're being sold is that poor, brave youngsters with new diplomas in hand have no choice but to move back into their old bedrooms at Mom and Dad's house.
All sorts of numbers have been bandied about, some say a quarter of recent grads are unemployed or underemployed, others say half, and one completely unscientific study proclaiming the preposterous idea that 85 percent of all recent college graduates have been forced to move back in with their parents was repeated as fact by no less than CNN, TIME magazine and The New York Post. It would seem that any visit home counts as moving back in when there's an assumption to sell.
The reality is that many of the young adults who have returned to the nest do so by choice, not necessity. Free room and board with none of those pesky responsibilities that come with being an adult can be pretty enticing. Often the parents, or at least one of them, encourage the decision, not ready to let their little one go.
We firmly believe that having adult children living at home on a long-term basis is bad for both the kids and their parents. It prevents the child from making a full transition into adult life, and robs the parents of the chance to return to the couple they were when they first fell in love.
Some may disagree, and if they think having Junior holed up in his old bedroom until middle age is a good idea, then that's certainly their right. But many parents are not happy about their adult children still living in their home. What they thought was short term and helping their offspring get on their feet, turned into a boomerang "kid" that settles in indefinitely, shows no sign of going anywhere and uses the economy as an excuse to stay. Time and again Mom and Dad hear their boomerang baby say, "I'll move out as soon as I find a job, but there aren't any."
We are not trying to push the notion that it's not tough out there. We know it is. Having recently sent three newly-minted adults out into the world we have first-hand experience of how the recession has affected recent graduates. Our youngest just graduated in one of our most economically-strapped states. He scrounged for several months to find anything that paid during his sophomore year in 2009, in the depths of the recession. He found a job delivering pizza, which he still has, along with three others. Two of those are in his chosen field, but they are entry level and part-time. He'll have to work his way up. Imagine that, not starting at the top.
So The Boomerang might have to take whatever job he can find, and maybe more than one. Then when he starts earning some money he will move out, right? One would think so, but maybe not.
We first heard about the boomerang phenomenon when our oldest was about to graduate, which was years before this current economic crisis, and she explained that many of her friends were moving back home because they couldn't afford a place as nice as their parent's house.
What? They're not supposed to!
Parents, ask yourselves: Where did you live when you were first starting out? Generally not the Taj Mahal. Our first place was a one-bedroom converted screened-in porch that had all the weather-proofing of the average wiffle ball. It was a veritable private zoo of urban vermin. And we were thrilled to have it, proud and happy to be self-sufficient. It was also a great incentive to work hard enough to afford a better place. Should we deny this generation that opportunity for growth?
So The Boomerang might not get to live in the manner in which he has become accustomed, the style that his parents worked decades to attain. But he may become responsible, take care of himself, learn some valuable life lessons and even feel some pride in his accomplishments. Not a process that is likely to take place in the old childhood bedroom.
It may not be easy, life often isn't, but it most certainly is possible, even in this economy. We've found that most of the time the kids who don't want to live at home, aren't living at home. They find a way to make it, struggle, work really hard, find a roommate or three and start building their own lives.
You want the boomerang kid out of the house? You'll probably have to give him a push.