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7 Strategies For Setting Boundaries & Supporting Your Boomerang Child

Has one of your children settled back home after previously fleeing the nest?

A relatively new term for this is called the “boomerang” experience. A boomerang child may head back home to live with their parents for any number of reasons. There is no character judgment placed on their reasons for returning. Most boomeranging occurs for economic reasons.

A grown child may struggle to find work after college. Saving up for a deposit for their own place after a divorce or pandemic might make sense from their parents’ home. Whatever the circumstances, deciding to house your child again is likely a significant adjustment.

The fact is, no one over 18 wants to be bossed around. Yet, you need the freedom to set the ground rules for living in your own home. So, how do you strike that delicate balance?

For sure, you don’t want to impede their eventual path as an independent adult. You may even feel that it’s nice to have your child back home again. However, whether you want them around or hope to see them fly off again soon, the situation presents a whole host of challenges to consider.

How To Think of Your Boomerang Child

The goal is to support, not smother or enable your boomerang child, just as you would another adult. Don’t become caretakers again. Insist that they lean on the skills and opportunities they’ve learned in adulthood. This way, they regain (or maintain) the confidence needed to eventually move out and restart their own lives without you.

7 Strategies For Setting Boundaries & Supporting Your Boomerang Child

A challenge to navigate with boomerang children is that they have already lived somewhere else. A place that is not under your roof or your rules. What this means is that they probably developed their own habits and lifestyle. It may or may not align with yours. In addition, as an individual and independent person that will need their space and your respect. Here are some key strategies for managing all of that:

1. Set Clear Boundaries

From the get-go, make sure that you think through your boundaries. Be as clear about them as you can before sharing them. Even so, do so kindly. Explaining the importance of mutual space and respect for each other’s limits. Keep conversation adult and reasonable, talking through any issues or crossed lines calmly.

2. Ask that They Contribute Meaningfully

Moving back home can be incredibly humbling and frustrating for your child. Honor their feelings but try not to play by them. Ensure your child feels able to share their struggles without slipping into an expectation that you will take care of them or fix them.

Practically, treat them as a roommate, as it pertains to household labor, errands, etc. Work what contribution looks like clearly, preferably before they move back in.

3. Give Them Space / Have Your Own Space

Don’t drop everything for your child. Create separate space. They’ve come home to regain their footing in life. This does not mean you cancel plans or lose focus on your partner. Proceed with your plans and your own way of life. It’s okay to be unavailable.

4. Resist the Desire to Rescue

Again, you don’t need to rush in and fix your child’s issues. They are responsible for their own actions. Don’t weigh in unsolicited or unwelcomed. In your home and life is safe unaffected, let them fail and fall down as they would in an apartment out of sight. This will make them independent, and help them grow as people.

5. Be Sympathetic

Moving back home after living by themselves is quite a hit to their self-esteem. Your boomerang child may have to swallow their pride to come back to your house. Be sympathetic to this.

6. Set Markers and Discuss a Timeline if Necessary

You should routinely set realistic expectations and discuss your child’s exit strategy. Do this without judgment, staying honest but upbeat about seeing them get back out on their own. Let them know that independence is the natural order of things. Exit goals are good. Encourage them to work towards finding a new job, saving up, and moving out sooner rather than later.

7. Talk About Mental Health and External Guidance

Your whole family needs support to navigate this transition. The idea is to help each other and come through the boomerang period with the least amount of relationship whiplash possible.

To deal with change, disappointment, conflict, and goal-setting consider sessions with a therapist. I’m qualified to help. Please read more about my services and contact me soon for a consultation.