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Boomerang kids

From the 2011 Spring Parent Newsletter

For the parents of some Class of 2010 graduates, the empty nest abruptly filled up again last summer. According to national polls, the number of college grads moving back home reached record highs. From 60 to 85 percent of U.S. graduates became "Boomerang Kids," those who were sent off to college only to come back with their degrees framed and ready to hang on the old bedroom wall.

Parents can take heart. Few graduates plan to move home permanently. Of last year's Boomerangers, 82 percent said they were moving home only for the summer or just until they found a job.

High unemployment rates are a factor in a student's return. Last summer, 51.1 percent of Americans between the ages of 16 and 24 years old were unemployed. Job competition is tighter than ever, and employers are looking for applicants with work experience. So students are taking low-paying or nonpaying internships during or after their senior year, and the permanent job search must wait. And some, who have been offered positions, find that companies are postponing hiring dates to save costs.

Meanwhile, students are graduating with higher college debt—the national average last year was $24,000. Even students who have jobs are finding that low entry-level wages can’t cover monthly living expenses plus loan repayments. Today’s parents often have larger homes than previous generations had, and a bad real estate market prevents downsizing. Sometimes moving home is the logical solution for the family.

In years past, students may have felt a stigma against moving back home, and their parents expected them to be on their own. Among today's parents, though, the idea is at least in the back of their minds. "[My son] currently thinks he will be very independent. He is a freshman. However, I believe financial considerations and the space available at home will draw him back home after school."

For students, a hard part of moving home is a feeling of failure—they expected to be gainfully employed and independent. And what may seem like common courtesy to parents can now feel a loss of freedom to the students: notifying parents that they won't be home for dinner, having to ask permission to use the car or grab something in the refrigerator, or negotiating for TV time.

Parents too may resent the lack of privacy they became accustomed to.

The good news is that the job outlook for college graduates is better than last year. A study by the National Association of Colleges and Employers indicates that employers plan to hire 13.5 percent more graduates in 2011 than in 2010.

Avoiding conflict at home

  • Students can be employment-ready. That means taking full advantage of their college career center before graduation, practicing mock interviews, working with advisers on their resumes, and having a portfolio of examples of their writing, presentation skills, and other skills.
  • Parents and students should negotiate ground rules, including chores, whether the graduate will contribute financially, and whether there is a time limit on how long the hospitality lasts.
  • Parents are encouraged to avoid micro-management while empowering the student to retain their independence, establish goals, and take steps toward meeting their goals.
  • A part-time or low-skill job is preferable to not working at all. Working in a coffee shop or for a lawn care service will provide the flexibility necessary for trading shifts for interviews.