You Can Go Home Again

by Dr. William B. Knippa

Our son is graduating from college, and as parents, we couldn’t be prouder. But we are a bit chagrined that he plans to move back home with us while he looks for a job. We’ve gotten used to being empty-nesters and aren’t sure how we can make this work for all of us. Any thoughts?

You will be joining millions of other empty-nesters facing the boomerang phenomenon of kids returning home. In fact, 40 percent of college graduates live with their parents, according to a 2008 survey. Saying that you want the new situation to work “for all of us” shows that mutual warmth and respect are among your family’s core values. You are positioned to build on those values as you consider how you can address your son’s plan. You and your husband have adjusted to a new normal in your son’s absence and perhaps prefer not to go back to the way things were.

I suggest that you sit down with your son (well before he graduates) to discuss your mutual expectations for the new arrangement. Talk about how long it will last, any financial obligations involved, boundaries related to privacy and scheduling of activities, and daily responsibilities (meals, laundry, etc.). It is completely reasonable to expect your son to find work, carry his weight in terms of household tasks, respect your schedules and lifestyle, and honor you in his words and actions.

As parents, you have the last word on what happens in your home. Difficulties arise when an older child expects Mom and/or Dad to do things for him that were appropriate at an earlier life stage but are inappropriate and unhealthy for a young adult. It is often helpful to write down these expectations so they are clear to all parties and can be reviewed or amended as needed.

I also encourage you to see this as a time to relate with your son rather than do for him. Take advantage of his being there to hear how he has changed (hopefully, grown!) intellectually, emotionally, and spiritually. You can listen, learn about his dreams and his frustrations, and be a source of encouragement and love. My prayer is that, in time, he will launch successfully to live an independent life, knowing he always has a home in your heart and in God’s.

About the Author: Dr. William B. Knippa is pastor of Bethany Lutheran Church, Austin, Texas, and a licensed psychologist.

September 2010

Questions for “Family Counselor” come from readers and, after steps are taken to assure confidentiality, from contacts made with Lutheran Hour Ministries. Send your questions to “Family Counselor,” The Lutheran Witness, 1333 S. Kirkwood Road, St. Louis, MO 63122-7295. Please include your name and address. 

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