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 –

22nd Jul 2011
My wife and I cannot agree with a lot of these comments. We love our daughter and son-in-law and our 4 year old grand-daughter. They are welcome in our home whenever they please, and we make time for them . We see them 3 or 4 times a week and that is just not enough for us! They would do anything for us, and we certainly would give up our lives for them , anytime.
23rd Jul 2011
Bravo Bravo Colin Fernando, it is so good to find that there are others out there who feel the same as my Hubby and I do, the end result is that our kids would do anything for us as well, and yes I would give my life for any one of ours. Cheers.
23rd Jul 2011
Oh dear! This is definitely a case of being taken for granted - and it is possibly "elder abuse" (do a Google search for this term).

Unfortunately, you obviously missed on getting the messages across (at an early age) about fair sharing, consideration, pulling your own weight, and looking after parents.

No matter how willing - your wife should not be cooking, cleaning, washing for them, and they should not be using you as a taxi driver (don't they by now have their own transport)? You have made a rod for your own backs - and you have failed (through your generosity) to make them into independent, competent, aware, and caring adults. I hope that they will not at some time in the future "take you to the cleaners" - or a nursing home, but if I were you, I would be very concerned because of these warning signs. Will they manage when you are both gone? Most likely...

My advice. Do your homework - find out about elder abuse (in its many forms). Find out about "inheritance impatience". Find out about the NECESSITY for legally charging board and rent (make sure you have a legal document drawn up AND issue weekly (detailed) receipts). Find out about Wills being contested (because the person claims to have been dependent). Find out about putting a "protective caveat" on your property.

Talk to your wife. Put up a determined and organised plan of action. Remain united no matter what.

Write down an agreed list of demands/aims with your wife. Talk to your kids. Give them a written list of rules, demands, and time lines. Don't leave any "wriggle" room - you are the parents - not them.

Lay down "house rules". Warn (in writing) that if rent/board is not paid on time, the locks will be changed and their "stuff" put into storage in a garden shed. Stop doing chores for them. Demand that they help with gardening, sweeping, washing up, laundry etc, utility bills.

Keep all documents (agreements, receipts, title deeds etc) in a safe place away from your home. Only let them have copies.

If none of this works, make living there uncomfortable. Play music (a type which they hate) loudly at all hours (say you like it loud). Add copious amounts of salt to their food (Mum is tired and isn't as good at cooking as she used to be). Throw anything they leave laying around into one large carboard box (half-eaten food, keys, dirty shoes, dirty underwear, their favourite dress, their mobile phone, their purse/wallet - you get the idea). Provide uncomfortable bunk beds in the smallest bedroom (you are setting up the other rooms for meditation/massage/sewing/hobby/storage - so they'll have to share for the short time they will be staying. Invite overseas or interstate friends to stay (they'll have to move out because we promised the visitors accomodation for however long they want to stay). Do not provide meals/food/drinks they like. Put a lock on the pantry and fridge. Tell them to buy and cook their own.

If they bring home univited guests, wander through in the nude (say you are thinking about becoming Naturists). Offer their guests information on local Nudist camps and events.

Go round turning off fans, lights, TV's, heaters, air-conditioners (because they are too expensive).

Make sure the car is not available when they are due to get to some important meeting, event, or flight. Take the wheels off. Put the car into a garage - insist they pay for a taxi.

Remain united! It may be uncomfortable for a while, but keep reminding each other that it is for your future wellbeing physically, emotionally, and financially - as well as for your children.
23rd Jul 2011
Great post, cheers. There is one more thing you forgot to mention, the parents who allow their adult children to bring members of the opposite sex into their home and sanction full bonking rights. This is when the parent sinks to the lowest depths of bad parenting - they don't get any respect from the child because they don't deserve any.
23rd Jul 2011
Like many of the respondents, I would help my adult children in any way possible - including providing accomodation if necessary. But as to doing all of their laundry, cooking, cleaning and transport - no way! And my children would never assume that I would. They have been brought up to be independant, and to pay their own way in life. Of course, if there were some compelling need for help I would provide that within my own capacity, but I know that I would never be taken for granted. To be quite honest, to have my children and grandchildren so close would be brilliant - but don't tell them that please, just in case!
23rd Jul 2011
I think that's the point JJ, like you, my kids are well settled in their own lives, they would never use us up, again like you. I would know if that's what they were doing, they know we want to help when we can and when they need it, they are not waiting for 'dead boots' as the old saying goes, they don't need to, they've got more than we do anyway. Bills situation is totally different and I do feel for him and his wife, I wouldn't be able to cope if I was being used like that but on the other hand I couldn't just push them out in the street either, so for me, the door would be open but they would be helping around the house. We would hook up our van and go for an extended holiday and leave it all, including the bills for them, lol.
24th Jul 2011
To add to my previous comments - and to play "Devil's Advocate" a little more.

We all hope to have good relations, support, respect, and friendship from our family for all of our lives. Most parents have reasonable or even excellent relations with their kids - but even they may become dissilusioned at some time in the future (often following a death or some other financial upheaval, loss of job, divorce, sickness, a new partner, abuse of alcohol or drugs etc). The Police will tell you that the majority of murders, assaults, thefts, frauds etc happen within families. Family dynamics change over the years, and what was once an apparently healthy and happy situation can suddenly or insidiously do a 180 degree turnabout.

From Bill's letter, he makes it clear that his adult offspring are abusing their position as children. If he and his wife were happy with the situation he would not have written.

I have had close friends who have had to spend a fortune through the courts to get their adult kids off the property - and to retrieve some of their rights to enjoy their own home in the way they wish (despite having the Title Deed and having paid all purchase and ongoing fees/costs).

Although we all hope that our children would never treat us badly or offhandedly, it is not such an uncommon scenario - especially if the parent/s are becoming elderly or frail (in the eyes of others). Often, their increasing age or frailty is used as an excuse to take over - and even make decisions about where and how the parents will live or spend their money.

It is vitally important to think of possible "worse case scenarios" and take steps to avoid them - even if their is no hint of a problem arising. Loving and sensible family and friends will understand and applaud those who think and plan ahead. If they ever say "don't you trust me" or "trust me", the red flags should go up and warning bells should start ringing!!!!!

NEVER let anyone (family, friends, house-sitters, boarders, renters) stay in your property without having a proper written agreement - even for a couple of days. Take dated "before" photographs of the property and valuables. Keep copies the photographs and all documents for yourself in a safe place where no-one can access them. Issue detailed receipts and keep copies. The ancient requirement for a "peppercorn" rent was as a legal protection against having someone claim you gave away or abandoned the property. This protection i.e a nominal rent is still legally advisable.

NEVER leave someone living in or using your property - or leave them to pay all the bills. This can backfire badly. They could fail to pay the bills (which you are responsible for) thereby causing BIG problems with "bad debts" and your credit rating. They could also legally claim that you had given up your ownership/responsibility to them. They could claim what is termed "squatters rights" and refuse to let you back into your own home. They could sell up everything - even your property.

A proper written and signed agreement which details all requirements, rules (e.g. about visitors, sub-letting etc), time frames, penalties, repairs, loss of rent, early departure, exceptions etc is a good way of showing you take the situation seriously - and as a protection if things go wrong. If the agreement is not acceptable (and even desired) by both parties, you should think again about your plans to leave - and not allow them onto the property. Your children will probably have a laugh at your expense, but they especially should support you in doing this.

This sounds like all "doom and gloom" - or promoting paranoia - but for the sake of a few simple precautions (and common sense) you can prevent "misunderstandings" and family turmoil.

Take a look at - - see “Office of the Public Advocate”, “Wills and Estate Planning” and “Getting your affairs in order”.

Alliance for the Prevention of Elder Abuse - - see “Title Watch”,
25th Jul 2011
Pardalope, it's funny that you should put up this post, I can't agree with you more, my experience (from work) tells me you are so right but somehow I couldn't go down this track with my own family, I know what your saying is true, I've seen it so many times, we've all seen it in the news and on Current Affairs shows, it's more common than people might think but, we certainly won't be doing any of that when our Son and DIL and kids move in while their house is being built, we'll take our chances rather than possibly offending them, if they do nick it all, well, we still have our caravan to live in :) :) :-)
25th Jul 2011
Hi Deanna - each family is different and past behaviour is always a good guide. Leopards do not change their spots. If past behaviour has been good (or bad) it is likely to continue in a similar vein. As long as you are not overlooking the warning signs and hoping things will change for the better, you should be ok.

Fortunately, you are unlikely to have a problem because your situation is different to Bill's (where they have already moved in, nothing has been agreed upon, behaviour is bad, and there is no end in sight).

You have a timeframe i.e. the completion of their home - and they are using their income to achieve a better independent future for themselves. They are not wastrels looking for a cushy place to take over at the expense of pliant or scared parents.

As they have not yet moved in, you still have time for a conversation about "house rules" and "what ifs". If they are well brought up and have been good to you in the past, the other actions I mentioned are probably not necessary. Enjoy your family and watch them grow as good citizens of the world.
25th Jul 2011
Hi again Pardelope, we have no qualms with allowing any of our kids to stay as long as required, as for rules in our house, they grew up with them, the main ones whilst they were going through their teens, the big one was when they were out, no matter what time of the day or night, if they had just one drink, call us and we would pick them up, even if they had their own car, many was the call out in the wee small hours of the morning, lol strangely enough they will still call us, we have even gone out for their friends, we were happy to do that, so really the only rules that I tend to lay down now are rules for the grandies, I am petrified that one of them will hurt themselves while they are here, so there is no dangerous activities to be played around here, no running through the house, no being in the kitchen when I'm cooking, silly things like that, they are the rules I worry about.

As for Bill's situation, I feel for Bill and his Wife, I do hope they can come to some amicable agreement without confrontation because I think at the end of the day they, Bill and his wife will come out second best as Bill stated, they love their kids and if their is confrontation the last place the kids will come back to is Dad & Mum, I've seen it so many times before. (work again) I wish them good luck with it and hope it all turns out well. I also hope he lets us know how they got on. Cheers
25th Jul 2011
I explained quite calmly to my children just before I started to retire that I wouldn't have as much money as when working and that they would have to pay realistic board and should also look for a place of there own and make there own life. That didn't cause any problems and we get on better than before.
25th Jul 2011

It is for anyone to choose choose advice depending on their perceived risks and so on. Your advice is still generally relevant and useful. I'd like more specifics and examples, which others might have as well.

Despite being a property owner and occasional investor for years, as a lay person I have never felt completely comfortable that what I have worked for, paid for and own will remain mine where I am not vigilant in protecting that right. It is an area where unsavoury people are active during difficult times such as now. The more comments that can be given the better and it may be that a new thread or article (hey, Mods..) would be useful.

I wasn't aware until recently that Queensland adopted the law of adverse possession, in 1995 I believe. Why the government did that is anyone's guess. It is the way shonks have managed to assume possession of the others' property.

Squatting is a favoured way that the scum of the world try to pry possession and finally control away from the legitimate owners. Squatters are always tresspassers so don't be bluffed. Tell them to leave or post a letter on the door saying the same and if not gone immediately call the police.

Regarding invited persons, including family, it is enormously embarrassing for any of us whose principles and ethics are now laughed at as old-fashioned, to admit even to ourselves that we are being taken advantage of. Taking corrective action is something else, especially where it could result in noxious reprisals like alienation from grandchildren.
This is an area that deserves a lot of discussion and clarification.

Also, the de facto laws have changed enormously without consultation with the public, or an education campaign. In this, have no confidence that you already know what applies. Talk about the State getting involved in the personal lives of citizens.

Regarding relatives, it is not unusual for claimants to act completely differently to what past experience of them might suggest. Modern people can have one hell of a sense of entitlement and a daughter in law (say) can easily rationalise levering granny out of that big house she doesn't use to make way for her brood or prospective child. Then the husband, your son, could be on the block as well.
25th Jul 2011
Hi Nautilus. I should declare here that I have no legal training. What I have learned has been through working in Centre Link (many years ago), my own research - and observation of situations in the press and with friends.

A recent situation really upset me and got me thinking - and I will mention it here as it may apply to any one of us - or our friends - as we get older.

An elderly lady had no relatives and lived a solitary life in her own home. She shopped, cooked, caught busses, and managed her day-to-day finances. She was a bit eccentric, but certainly was active, bright and alert.

One day, whilst out shopping, she had a fall and was somewhat shaken. She was taken to hospital where it was discovered that she had no injuries which required treatment. However, as she said she had no relatives or friends, it was decided by the hospital that her living situation should be assessed to see if it was safe before they discharged her. In the meantime, she was transferred to a nursing home.

Someone (we don't know who) went to her home. Her local Council or the hospital Social Worker might have been involved. Anyway, "they" found that she hoarded papers and that her home was untidy (I do not know to what extent). As a result, "they" decided that she should not be allowed to return to her home (even for a short visit to retrieve personal items, valuables, photos etc). A (government) Guardianship Board became involved.

She was placed in the Nursing Home permanently whilst her house was cleared and demolished. She walked quite a distance to and from the Nursing Home on a number of occasions (by herself) to her homesite. On one occasion she single-handedly pulled the "For Sale" sign out of the ground and dragged it to the back of the block to hide it. The real estate agent was under the impression that the owner had died.

The block (which was in an area of high interest to developers) has been sold for over 1/2 a million and the money will (no doubt) be spent on paying for the nursing home. As far as we know from her former neighbour, no effort was made to clean up inside the place - or to provide home help.

The point of this story is - your independence can be lost if "they" think your lifestyle is not as they think it should be - and "they" judge that you need protecting from yourself. If you are alone and getting on in age, society can take everything from you very easily - and they will have a nice warm fuzzy feeling about having done it. Being solitary, eccentric, or too independent is frowned on when you get older - so It is vital to form good supportive relationships with as many people as possible - and to ask for help if things are getting on top of you. Make sure you have someone trustworthy who can help you quickly if you find yourself in a similar situation. It might also help to have a "protective caveat" on your property so it is not quite so easy for things to happen so effortlessly. For all of us, we should make the effort to quietly keep an eye out for elderly friends or neighbours - and assist them where possible.
25th Jul 2011
What a dreadful story, that poor woman,how very isolated she must have felt. Wobbly.
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