When children who leave the nest return
“I am hungry. I have had only one meal today.” Our 23-year-old son’s words brought a combination of laughter and disbelief as he sat across from my wife and me in our living room. I wanted to say, “Brad, what do you think this is, a Holiday Inn?”
Across America, young adults are leaving and then returning home to stay. A recent survey shows that 40 percent of baby boomers either anticipate that their adult children will move back in with them or have their adult children already living with them. Our experience with our son Brad provides an example of what families are facing with their “boomerang kids.” Each family situation comes with its own set of challenges.
We asked Brad to leave our home at 22 because he had violated our trust. After he left, he lived with one friend after another, until we decided we did not want him to wind up homeless, so Brad moved back in.
Things would be different this time. My wife, Beverly, and I wrestled with some key questions: How do we expect responsible behaviour while allowing him adult freedom? What balance is right regarding boundaries and expectations? How can we equip our son for the future? To address our concerns, we established the following guidelines for Brad.
1. No one else is allowed in our home when we are not there. This was the reason for conflicts in the past.
2. My wife and I have the final word on issues that affect our home. We let Brad know that his opinion mattered, but ultimately the final decision resided with us.
3. He will get a job. Brad responded by finding a government job. He showed maturity by working part time until it became a full-time position.
4. He will pay his own way. This included his car payment, gas, entertainment and insurance. Brad readily assumed this responsibility.
5. He will equip himself for the future. Brad needed to be able to make his own decisions and set goals for himself. Though goal setting has been the most challenging, Brad is making progress toward being more responsible in this area. He is thinking about college and is more aware of his limitations without a degree.
The challenges we have faced with Brad, though difficult at first, have been rewarding. Brad’s return home and his decision to accept the boundaries and expectations we placed upon him have resulted in happier times. Laughter has returned to our home; Brad is now the comedian of the family. We’re able to laugh at the stubbornness each of us has displayed. And we recognize that a home with a hearty dose of laughter is a healthy home.
Beverly and I have also been thrilled to see Brad grow into a mature adult and accept full responsibility for his future. For the first time, Brad is making his own doctor appointments, paying his bills and taking charge of his life. In the past, we would have done all of these for him. Our decision to maintain a “hands-off” policy has nudged Brad toward greater independence.
Brad will soon leave our home to establish his own; he recently announced his engagement to a young woman whom Beverly and I love.
Brad’s future is bright. A good job, fiancée, life goals and an eagerness to live responsibly are signals to us that he is moving forward. Now Beverly and I can begin to shift our lives in a new direction.
Darren Viceroy and his family live in Franklinton, La.
Our decision to maintain a “hands-off” policy has nudged Brad toward greater independence.