Her adult son has a job and his own place. But having just penned a must-read blueprint for boomerang kids and the people who love them, relationship authority Susan Newman, Ph.D., knows it could all change in a heartbeat. Newman says she and her son “kind of needle each other” about this. If she thinks he’s treating his job a bit too casually, she’ll tease: “What do you mean you left work early? You’re going to lose your job and you’ll have to come to live home with me.”
But all jokes aside, Newman doesn’t really think the boomerang scenario signals failure on anyone’s part. In her new book, Under One Roof Again, All Grown Up and (Re)learning to Live Together Happily, she blames America’s ravaged economy for triggering new and profound social changes: “Not since the Great Depression have we seen so many families turning to their immediate relatives as a lifeline…. As of January 2009, AARP and the U.S. Census Bureau estimate the number of multigenerational households at 6.2 million and growing.”
While the trend is powered by economics and not personal choice – a young father loses his job, or can’t find one to begin with; couples move home to save for a house – Newman is surprisingly upbeat. In many cultures, she says, multigenerational households are the norm, and there are unexpected joys in pulling together, especially when grandchildren are involved: “I really believe that this has been a wakeup call to parents and grandchildren that family is key.”
Tips from Under One Roof Again
While she’s optimistic that you could actually enjoy sheltering your daughter, plus her husband and three kids for a while, Newman warns it’s not easy. “People go in assuming this will work,” but she says families must do some hard work up front.
In her book, Newman advises:
- Before anyone moves in, make an exit plan. While you may need to revise it, setting a goal “gives the adult child something to work towards. It gives you the hope that he’s working (or she). It’s incentive to keep moving, looking for a job….”
- Establish ground rules on things like privacy, food preferences, schedules, finances, household chores, and dating, if applicable.
- Where grandchildren are involved, discuss childrearing practices. “‘Who is in charge? Who is raising these grandchildren?’ You have to come into agreement on that.”
- Schedule family meetings to discuss problems: “You can say ‘OK, if something’s not going right, we’re going to call a family meeting.’ Anybody can call it.”
- Interactions shouldn’t be parent-child anymore, but adult-to-adult. It’s important to realize that you’ve all changed. “You almost want to say, ‘This is a new person that I’m going to be living with. This is not my son who dropped his books and his jackets wherever when he was 12.'”
- Practice consideration and look at the positives. “It’s time to move on and not replay the problems you had when your children or child was growing up. You want to start afresh.”
- Interview with Susan Newman on Wisconsin Public Radio (WPR)
- Related article from NPR Public Radio : “Boomerang Kids Drive Rise of Extended Family Living”
Connie Jeske Crane is a Toronto-based freelance writer. Click to see more of her work.