Adult Children Still Living at Home?! Should Parents Meddle in Kids' Lives?!

Playing What Are ‘Boomerang’ Children?

Parenting expert Dr. Deborah Gilboa is back at The Doctors to impart more of her wisdom! The Doctors are discussing adult children who still live with their parents, many of them “boomerang kids,” who leave and then come back!

According to U.S. Census data, approximately 32% of people between the ages of 18-34 live in their parents’ home. One in nine parents said their adult children returned home within the past year. ER physician Dr. Travis Stork says that he’s read some studies of parents whose kids return home, reporting that they are less happy. 

Dr. Gilboa explains this is not a parenting fail to have kids move back home after college. She says it was really only Generation X where it was normal to leave at 18 and stay out. The financial realities of today are that very few people can finish an undergraduate or job training program and be able to afford a home and save up for the things they need to save for. However, the adulting fail is if the kids move back in and behave like children.

Dr. Gilboa stresses parents need to set up a roommate-like situation. She says this actually begins when they are children, teaching them to be autonomous. She says if you laid the groundwork then, they likely will not be shocked when you welcome them back home but let them know they have responsibilities. Your adult children need to pitch in financially as well as in terms of chores and being accountable for their whereabouts. Dermatologist Dr. Sonia Batra clarifies that the parenting fail is letting them move back in and doing things like cooking for them, paying their bills, and letting them sit around and play video games in the basement!

ER physician Dr. Travis Stork asks what parents should do if they want their adult children to move out. Dr. Gilboa explains you should want them to at least be on the ramp out, so that they don’t stall their own development and can set up a structure to have their own nuclear family and adult life. She says the fastest way to do this is financially. Shift the balance, slowly financially supporting them less and less until there is the expectation that even living at home, they need to be financially independent. Ideally, the adult child will then think, “If I’m paying for all these things myself and I could have more privacy, why wouldn’t I move out?”

Going back to a time when kids are younger, Dr. Gilboa discusses meddling in their personal lives. A viewer asks, isn’t it her job to let her high school son know if he is going to make a mistake? Dr. Gilboa says not when he's in high school. Unless it is a life-threatening mistake, he needs to learn by doing, not by you telling him to stop. She says it’s only that serious 2% of the time and 98% of the time your high school kids will need empathy without intervention. 

She then discusses how the choices kids make regarding their friends are ones that parents often struggle with. She says early on in elementary school and middle school, this is when kids are practicing friendships. It’s during this time she believes parents should and can meddle in these relationships a bit. Talk to kids about the decisions they are making in their friendships and with who they decide to hang out with. 

The Doctors have a special guest, Dr. Gilboa’s 16-year-old son, Ari, in the audience to talk about his experience with learning on his own to become a good student. He explains when he was in middle school, his mother told him she was not in charge of him doing homework. Consequently, he says he had a terrible first semester. After Dr. Gilboa attended a parent/teacher conference and was told about his grades, she came home and asked Ari, what needs to be done to fix this? Together, they had him download a planner app and set reminders to do his homework. He says this was helpful because when he got to high school, he already had these organization skills.  

Dr. Gilboa explains she initially “gave him the rope to hang himself.” She says middle school is a good time to have kids learn to fail because the stakes are lower. The Doctors then briefly discuss with Ari his restriction from social media until he was 13 years old. Ari says he was annoyed at the time, but since social media requires kids to check off they are at least 13 years old prior to usage, it now makes sense to him. It seems Dr. Gilboa’s certain degree of meddling paid off!

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