Be a safe space for your adult child when they return home

When your grown-up child is battling with a bad season, be there for them. But boundaries will make the process smooth.          

What you need to know:

They are struggling emotionally and you can see it. They are doubting their worth. Extend grace to them. Cushion them for a while. Talk to them gently or find a counsellor to talk to them to alleviate their pain and confusion.

You are retired, an empty nester hoping to enjoy the remainder of your days with your spouse in peace but for some reason, your daughter, who graduated 10 years ago and got married, returns home, with your grandchildren.

According to research carried out by Marco Tosi, published in an article, Boomerang Kids and Parents Well-Being: Adaptation, Stressors, and Social Norms, 2020, found out that parents experience “temporary depression” when their adult children return home.

Millennials, have been called “boomerang children” because of their tendency to return home well into their adult life -20s and 30s. I have returned home before and believe you me, it is not easy on parents, though they might not say.

Why are they returning home? 

 Uganda has one of the youngest populations in the world with approximately 70 percent of it, aged less than 25 years and 58 percent of it aged less than 18 years (UBOS, 2013).

The number of youth-18-30 years of age, who are unemployed, grows by the year, as universities churn out more graduates than the job market can absorb.

Those who succeed in getting some kind of work, have poor-paying jobs that do not motivate one so they quit altogether and go back home.  In Buganda, when a woman got married, her bed was publicly burnt on the occasion, as a polite reminder to go and “make that marriage work.”

Today, parents encourage their children to return home if the partner is abusive.  Maureen .T and her husband have nested their three daughters after their marriages broke down.

“Your child is in a bad relationship and they are suffering and you know it. Why not offer them a safe space to rest, recover and reset? The challenge is they end up staying longer than you want them to and this negatively affects your relationship with them,” she says.

Some milennials with jobs that can hardly support high living expenses choose to stay home until they land a better job and have some savings to start their own independent lives. Others need care when they are sick and no one is available to help except their parents.     

Handling boomerang children

Discuss your values, expectations with them before they move in, so you can reduce friction and maintain a healthy relationship. How long are they staying with you or is it indeterminate? How much of the family’s expenses such as utility bills and food expenses and other household living expenses are they going to contribute to? What time will they be expected home? You do not want them knocking at your door at 3am and you do not want to place a curfew on them. Will you allow booze, noise, parties, and bad company in your home? What chores are you expecting them to do?

Be patient with them

They can no longer support themselves, so they need a place to shelter them in the interim. A bad situation has been imposed upon them. They are struggling emotionally and you can see it.  They are depressed and overwhelmed. Their self-esteem is taking a big beating. Extend grace to them. Cushion them for a while. Talk to them gently or find a counsellor to talk to them to alleviate their confusion. 

Prompt them

 You know your child better than anyone; they are lazy, uncreative, reckless and spoilt. They cannot hold down a job or take any because they despise work they would rather beg. As long as daddy and mummy are home, they would rather go back there and eat free food and run down the utility bills than risk doing something for themselves. These are the Peter Pans. They are still trapped in childhood. They need to be challenged and rebuked in love. Turn up the heat a little bit. Make it a little uncomfortable for them to stay home. Let them work towards a particular goal. Give them a deadline of when you expect them to move out of your house, say in six months. Maybe they will try harder to find work.      

Connect them

You probably have good work or political and social connections. Connect them. Share their résumé with people you know might have job opportunities for them. If you are able, maybe you own a company or business or two, employ them in there.

Or better still, if you have some funds, support them to start up a business. If you own some properties, give them part of their inheritance and encourage them to invest and start something of their own. 

Pray with and for them

 Some issues are beyond your child’s comprehension and control. They need divine intervention. Praying for you children is a great way to demonstrate that you still care and support them.

Nip disrespect in the bud

Children tend to get away with disrespect and abuse; verbal or even physical. If your relationship has transitioned into a potentially harmful situation to your life and property, talk it over with them and if they do not change, ask them to leave.   

Children moving back home is not necessarily a bad thing. It can be an opportunity of improving a previously frosty parent-child relationship. It also does not mean that as a parent you failed in your parenting or that the child is a flop or failure. We all have bad breaks, sometimes. It is a season that will pass, just like any other.  


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