Boomerang Kids: When Your College Student or College Graduate Moves Back Home

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You know that the transition to college during the first year is going to be stressful for both your college student and for you.  You work hard to give your student the independence that he needs and wants.  You have both survived the experience and your student is thriving.  Then your student needs to move back home.  This might be due to a change of plans during college – either because of a transfer to a school closer to home, for financial reasons, or some other reason.  Or this might happen once your student graduates.  In these difficult economic times more and more students are returning home after college until they can find a job and get their bearings.

 You may be delighted to have your student return home, or you may be concerned about how things will proceed.  Having your student home again may be a mixed blessing as your empty nest becomes repopulated.  Every family will be different.  Every parent’s reaction will be different.  But there are some things that you can do to help the process go more smoothly.

 Understand that this is probably difficult for your student.

 If your student has been on his own during the college years, this will be an adjustment for him.  He may feel that he is taking a step backwards as he returns home.  He may feel that he should be out on his own – many of his friends probably are.  He may feel that he is giving up the independence that he worked so hard to gain.  The more understanding that you can be of the emotional implications of this move for your student, the more smoothly the process will go.

 Remind your student (and yourself) that he is not alone.

 If your student worries about taking a step backwards, it may help him (and you) to realize that this return home after college is a growing trend in these tenuous economic times.  According to an article produced by the New York Life Insurance Company, 56% of men and 43% of women between 18 and 24 are living with one or both parents.  As many as 65% of recent college graduates have returned home.

 Recognize that your student is now an adult.

 Your student has been on her own for a while – possibly several years.  She is not the same person who left home as a freshman.  She has matured, had life experiences, and been independent.  You may need to work at getting to know her all over again.  Don’t assume that everything will be the same as it was before she left.  Respect her independence and the maturity she has acquired.

 Have a discussion with your student about both of your expectations for this arrangement.

 Sit down with your student and have a frank discussion about how you both view this arrangement.  The more questions that you address at this point, the fewer unexpected difficulties will arise later.  There are some important questions that you should address before you begin.

  • Is there an end-date for this arrangement?  If you don’t want to set a specific end-date, at least set a date when you will sit down again and reevaluate the situation.
  • Will your student be expected to contribute financially?  Will you charge your student rent?  What will it be?  Will you charge your student the amount of the additional cost of having him home (food, water, etc.)?
  • Whether or not you charge rent, will your student be expected to contribute to the family?  Is she considered a renter or a family member?  Will she help with meals, do her own laundry, take out trash, clean the bathroom?  Clearing up expectations early will prevent difficulty later.
  • Are there going to be house rules?  What are your thoughts about staying out allnight?  Overnight guests?  Loud music?  Parties?  Think carefully about your comfort level in various areas.  This may require some negotiating with your student.
  • Will you be helping your student with finances?  Loan payments?  Car payments?  Is there an expectation that she will pay you back?  If so, how soon?
  • Do you have expectations about your student looking for a job?  Going on to school?  Will you be comfortable if he settles in and doesn’t work or works part-time?

 Having your student return home after college may not be something that either you or your student planned, but it may be necessary and can be an adventure for you both.  The arrangement can be very formal, with a written contract, an end date, and rent, or it can be very informal.  Decide what feels right for your family.  Your student will certainly benefit from the safety net that you provide – both emotionally and financially, but you will also benefit from getting to know your student as an adult.  You may be pleasantly surprised at how much you like this person and how much you enjoy having her around.

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