Boomerang Families:
When Students Move Home After Graduation

It has become increasingly common for young adults to move back home with mom and dad after graduating from college. While going home may not be the first choice for the graduate or the rest of the family, studies indicate that today’s parents may be more accepting of their graduate moving home, and students saw this period as a way to comfortably think about their next steps with less pressure.

To take a closer look at this so-called Boomerang phenomenon, the University of Minnesota Parents Association recently investigated the subject, including conducting original research. In a national survey of recent alumni, nearly 40 percent said they had moved back home with family for at least a short time after graduation. A separate national survey of parents of college students revealed that more than half of parents expected this move and predicted benefits in having their student home again.

Challenges

The transition from an empty nest to a full one is not trouble-free; parents and graduates alike noted that they felt they had lost privacy when the family was reunited. Recent grads resented having to report their whereabouts and explain their routine, while parents anticipated that a full house required a traditional family relationship with shared chores and at least some information about where the young adult was going and when she expected to be home.

Major challenges for parents

  • Negotiating household rules, responsibilities, and expectations
  • Recognizing their young adult’s adulthood status
  • Encouraging their young adult’s job search
  • Loss of privacy and establishing boundaries
  • The additional cost of housing and supporting a young adult

Major challenges for students

  • Loss of independence and privacy
  • Feeling like less of an adult
  • Feeling embarrassed and dealing with negative stigma
  • Decline in social and dating lives

Benefits

Students change in significant ways during the college years, and as young adults they and their parents appreciate the opportunity to establish a more equal, adult relationship with family members.

What parents appreciate

  • Spending time with their young adult, including family meals; their son’s or daughter’s company and companionship
  • Supporting their young adult; helping child save money
  • Getting to know their child as an adult; developing a friendship
  • Having additional help around the house

What students appreciate

  • Saving money; beginning to pay back student loans
  • Searching for a job with less financial pressure
  • Having the comforts of home
  • Enjoying the company and support of their family

Tips for Successful Co-Residence

During a four-year college experience, adjustments are made in all aspects of a family’s life. 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 adult he or she has become.

Suggestions for students

  • Remember that your return home requires 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 always a tendency to revert to pre-college behaviors and patterns. Make a commitment to yourself 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.

Summary

It is not unusual for college students to return home for a time upon graduation, and it is nothing for a college graduate—or parents—to be embarrassed about. Even though there are challenges to consider when a college graduate returns home, parents and young adults see many positive aspects to this move. In many cases, it is a responsible choice and a rational decision for the entire family. The love and support of family members can help a young adult view themselves as more competent and confident, a benefit as they navigate post-college life.

Parent-Parent and grad on Scholar's Walk.