How to handle boomerang kids

Turning your adult children away can be difficult, but if, like Bill, their continued presence is restricting your fun in retirement, it may be time for some not-so-subtle hints.

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 25 and 27, they keep coming back and expecting to stay for as long as they want. My wife and I were looking forward 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. 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 that takes more than it gives.

Firstly, you can try being subtle. Ask them if they’re happy in their lives or if there is 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 them by drawing up a budget.

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 that you wish to pursue. You could go a step further and consider downsizing to a home that 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.    

Finally, you may just 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 that 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, I’m sure you and your wife have been great parents, but can’t help wondering if there’s a part of both of you that 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 upfront 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. 

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Written by Debbie McTaggart

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