Student Life

Boomerang families — When graduates move back home

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Many thanks to Chelsea Petree, of the University of Minnesota Parent Program, for writing this guest post!

Moving home after graduation may not be the first choice for a recent college graduate (or the rest of the family). But today’s students are more likely than ever to see this as a positive option, and parents are increasingly likely to welcome their graduate back home.

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High School Parent | College Parent

In a survey of young alumni, nearly 40% said they had moved back home for at least a short time after graduation. A separate survey of parents revealed that more than half had expected this and felt there were benefits in having their student home again.

These surveys, conducted by the University of Minnesota Parents Association, looked closely into the phenomenon of “boomerang families,” uncovering the pros and cons as well as tips from both parents and young adult children about how to make the arrangement work.

Challenges and benefits

The transition from an empty nest back to a full one is not trouble-free — parents and graduates alike note a loss of privacy. Recent grads sometimes resent having to report their whereabouts and explain their routine, while parents assume it’s only fair to expect at least some information about where the young adult is going and when she expects to be home.

Major challenges for parents

  • Negotiating household rules, responsibilities, and expectations: “[He should] accept that there will be responsibilities similar to what he has when sharing a house/apartment with roommates.”
  • Recognizing their offspring’s adulthood status: “[It’s a challenge] to remember that he is an adult now, and not fall back into the type of parenting that was required in the growing up years.”
  • Encouraging their young adult’s job search
  • Loss of privacy; establishing appropriate boundaries
  • The additional cost of housing and supporting a young adult

Major challenges for graduates

  • Loss of independence and privacy
  • Feeling like less of an adult: “It’s hard not to fall into the old roles you had when you were at home in high school.”
  • Feeling embarrassed and dealing with negative stigma: “It is humiliating to see your more successful friends buy homes and get married while you live at home.”
  • Decline in social and dating lives

Home can be a comfortable, affordable space for a recent grad to plan next steps. The love and support of family members can allow young adults to view themselves as more competent and confident, a benefit as they navigate post-college life.

Students change significantly during the college years. After graduation, they and their parents appreciate the opportunity to establish a more equal, adult relationship. As one parent reported, “My daughter has grown into a mature young woman and we have started moving to a new stage in our relationship — friends rather than parent/child.”

What parents appreciate

  • Spending time with their young adult, including family meals; their son’s or daughter’s company and companionship: “I know that sooner or later he will get a job and could possibly live out of town or state or even country. So I will enjoy having him home for the time being.”
  • Providing support for their young adult; helping him or her save money
  • Getting to know their child as an adult; developing a friendship: “I love her company — she is an amazing person and I completely enjoy her as a friend.”
  • Having additional help around the house (including a potential house/pet sitter)

What students appreciate

  • Saving money; beginning to pay back student loans: “I was able to pay off my undergraduate loans in two years and save enough money to begin my current Master’s degree program.”
  • Searching for a job with less financial pressure
  • Having the comforts of home
  • Enjoying the company and support of their family: “I wasn’t very close to my parents growing up but am much more so now after living with them again.”

Tips for co-residence

During the four or more years of college, every aspect of a family’s life shifts. Students, parents, and siblings all change, rooms are repurposed, and lifestyles evolve. A boomerang graduate moving home means everyone must rethink those changes and find new ways to relate.

Suggestions for parents

  • Set boundaries for both yourself and your adult child. Remember that it is important to balance boundaries with mutual respect and independence.
  • Establish expectations about finances. If you’re going to charge rent or ask for contributions to household expenses, clarify the amount, the due date, and consequences if payment is not made.
  • Discuss household responsibilities. Ensure that all family members are contributing to the upkeep of the home.
  • As you interact with your graduate, remember that they have experienced a lot and changed while in college. Take advantage of the boomerang period to get to know your student as the young adult he or she has become.

Suggestions for graduates

  • Remember that your return home is an adjustment for parents and siblings as well. Be understanding as the family navigates this transition.
  • Living with others brings responsibilities — expect to contribute to your parents’ household as you would your own apartment.
  • When young adults return home, there is a tendency to revert to pre-college behaviors and patterns. Make a personal commitment to maintain your adult status and, when necessary, have calm conversations with your parents about your maturity.
  • Establish a plan for next steps — finding a job, moving out — and work on these goals daily.

It is not unusual for college students to return home for a time upon graduation. Moving home is nothing for a graduate (or parents!) to be embarrassed or worried about. Often it’s a responsible choice and a decision that makes sense for the entire family. As one recent grad observed, “[It was] nice to reconnect with my parents post-college and get input from them as I started experiencing the ‘real world.’”

Did you enjoy reading this article? Sign up for UniversityParent’s weekly college parent eNews and purchase the Guide to Supporting Your Student’s Freshman Year for additional tips, insight, and to help your college student succeed. You may also add to the discussion and get feedback from fellow college parents by joining our College Parents’ Facebook group.

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