How to handle boomerang kids

Debbie McTaggart
20th Jul 2011

Q. Bill,
My wife and I love our two children and, like most parents, treated them well and always made them feel welcome at home. Too welcome it seems. Despite being 35 and 37, they keep coming back and expecting to stay for as long as they want. My wife and I were dearly looking to some time on our own to rediscover our relationship once our children had moved out but it seems we’re more involved in their lives than ever. My son and daughter expect my wife to cook, clean and do their laundry for them and they think I’m a glorified taxi driver! We don’t want them to think we don’t care or are not there to support them but seriously, this is just too much. Can you help?

A. Bill, Bill, Bill, I wonder how many parents out there are nodding in agreement as they cook their son or daughter’s dinner for them. Children are a wonderful gift but sometimes they become the gift which takes more than it gives.

Firstly, you can try being subtle. Ask them if they’re happy in their lives or is there a reason that they feel unable to settle in the world on their own. Perhaps financial pressures are making it difficult for them to pay rent or buy a house. I don’t know if you’re in a position to help but perhaps you could assist by drawing up a budget with them.

Secondly, don’t make it so easy for them to come back. I’m assuming from what you say that you still maintain a bedroom for each of them in your home? Consider turning at least one of these rooms into a hobby room, study or second sitting room. This might make them realise that you and your wife have interests of your own which you wish to pursue. You could go a step further and consider downsizing to a home which suits just you and your wife. Although you will need to be aware of any financial implications this has if you are claiming an Age Pension or other Centrelink payment. Find out how Centrelink assesses your assets.   

Lastly, you may need to be blunt. Sit your children down and explain to them how lucky you and your wife are that you are still in love with each other and wish to spend more time alone. Let them know that you will never turn your backs on them but it’s time for them to stand on their own two feet. If you feel uncomfortable doing this, you could consider writing a letter but direct action is usually the best option.  Relationships Australia can help with advice on how to tackle such issues and can even arrange mediation if things don’t go to plan. For more information, visit Relationships Australia.   

For what it’s worth Bill, I think you and your wife have been great parents but can’t help wondering if there’s a part of both of you which enjoys the feeling of being needed by your children. This is not unusual and all too often when adult children become independent they tend to forget all that their parents did to help them achieve what they have.  Being open and up front with your children will enable them to see that you respect them enough to have this discussion face-to-face but perhaps you and your wife need to be honest about the need to let your children go – and if you are truly capable of doing this.

Can you relate to this dilemma or have some advice of your own? Or perhaps you have a dilemma of your own which you would like answered. Let us know –

26th Jul 2011
Hi Pardelope,
Thank you.

The prevailing attitude among many Australians that 'She'll be right, mate' serves them very poorly throughout life and even more so in their senior years. Combined with that is the unwillingness of seniors to act in a concerted way to ensure their views are heard and their needs are met.

Many seniors are 'informationally disadvantaged' through their loss of the contacts of employment or social contact through raising children. The Box and most papers are poor sources of information.

The relevance and usefulness of sites like YLC are increased by regular articles on the broad range of subjects that affect seniors and these go beyond the usual health and Centrelink questions. For instance, seniors don't just stop forming relationships when a certain number of kms register on the odometer, so the wideranging changes to regulation affecting de facto relationships are relevant. Equally, sometimes subtle changes to transport regulations can dramatically affect seniors' mobility through squeezing them out of their private cars.

Regarding housing, which has come up under this thread, it is within the bounds of probability that significant numbers of seniors are presently experiencing difficulties in defending their property ownership and independent life style. Accordingly I'd like to see some articles from lawyers or other informed professionals addressing such issues. The problem with the 'brochure' information from government agencies is that it is so trite and neutered by the false diplomacy of the public bureaucracy to be rendered absolutely useless - which is usually recognised by the inevitable escape clause therein to seek 'independent' advice. Why did they waste a forest printing the pamphlets then?
12th Jan 2012


Psycologist will give you an in depth analysis of the reasons why kids keep coming back home, friends will be understanding, but no help at all, organizations will try to get you all together to delve deep into the "real problem".

Bill, there is only one answer to your problem: get a smaller house, one that can only fit you both. If your children have gone why do you still need to have that extra room?

12th Jan 2012

Visits are nice but NOT living with them on an on going basis

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