Dreaming of the Elusive Empty Nest

bird-nest-tree-2028508-o[1]When Your Children Come Back to Roost

Emerging adults are not the only ones who are struggling with elusive dreams these days.  Parents who for years dreamed of the “empty nest” are finding their children coming back to roost.  According to the Current Population Survey in 2001, 50.25% of adults (ages 18 to 24) live with parents, and 10.6% of adults (ages 25 to 34) reside with parents.  Mitchell says in Boomerang Age, that “40% of American Youth leaving at 18 return to the parent nest at least once.”  (Mitchell).  The reasons for this increase in returning home includes:  the economy, education, technology, and the instability of romantic relationships.

One parent remarked, “Remember that, while this is difficult for you to have your young adult move back home to live, it is also very difficult for them.  For many, this is a last resort and an act of desperation.  They may have feelings of shame or failure attached to the move.  Please be patient with them, providing encouragement and affirmation, as you welcome them back home.”

What should a parent do before that child moves back into their bedroom?

1.  Be Intentional.

The decision about whether to let a child to move back home should not be driven by a fear of setting precedents or how other children will respond.  While siblings may cry out favoritism, parents know that each child is different, and that affective parenting must take into account each child’s individual abilities, attitude, and opportunities.

Know the reason why are you allowing them to move back home, and how you think it will help them in their development.  One parent said, “Most parents are satisfied when they see movement towards adult roles.”  What areas does your child need further development (autonomy, vocation, or community)?  How does moving back home allow them further development?  Without intentionality on both sides, moving back home can lead to a child’s stagnation in their development.

2.  Allow Autonomy

Don’t allow Emerging adults to regress in their development by stifling their decision-making.  Allow them the right to make their own choices and deal with the consequences.  One EA said, “It got annoying really quickly and was somewhat insulting to my adulthood when my parents tried to learn everything about my personal life. I grew up when I made decisions for myself and dealt with the consequences  –  good and bad.”

One hotspot between EA’s and their parents is their use of time.  “I guess my parents made living together after high school successful by making time with them a no pressure thing and allowing me to run my schedule, even if that meant I wasn’t home til 2am.”  Their use of time reveals their values, so by trying to control their time,  EA’s feel you want to control them.  As a parent, you want to spend time with your children, but subtle hints and pressure can often cause them to run the other direction.


3.  Express your expectations.

Settling back into old routines forged during high school can be destructive to EA’s further development.  Their lives have changed, and how they interact should also change.  One parent of EA’s said, “We didn’t assume they knew the rules (a common problem with other parents we talked to), so we were proactive the first day or two after they came home by sitting down and discussing our expectations, and theirs.”

There are many areas that both of you will have expectations including:  sharing space, food, cleaning, friends, and finances.  (For more information about how to negotiate these expectations with your child, read my post – Ground Rules for Moving Home – released next Monday).  If expectations are not met, it is important to know the consequences.

 4.  Devise an Exit Strategy.

Plan the entrance, and plan the exit.  While neither you nor your child know what437864_89164372[1] lies ahead, it is good to discuss the future.  Under what conditions would you ask them to move out?  There are natural exits, and necessary exits.    A natural exit is when your child has naturally developed, and is equipped to do life on their own.  A necessary exit is when a child moves out due to conflict, and to save the relationship from further damage.

While some parents find living with grown children a blessing, other discover it to be a nightmare.  If the relationship is not going well, it will have an impact on siblings and your own emotional health.  An exit strategy would include the consequences if expectations are not met, or other issues arise.  It would also include a reasonable amount of warning, and what help you as parents will offer during the transition (financial, help moving, or assistance in finding a place).

Having adult children move back home can be both a joy and a struggle.  Either way, it will take sacrifice to make it work.  One parent  got it right when she said, “We make sacrifices for our kids but again, ultimately it is the Lord we are serving.”   A decision to have a child move in or move out, should be surrounded by prayer, and the guidance of the Spirit.



Mitchell, Barbara.  The Boomerang Age.

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