Handling the middle-aged boomerang boom

March 4, 2009 12:00:00 AM PST
With the downturn in the economy, many families are finding themselves moving into the homes of their aging parents. Generation relations expert and author of "Millennials Incorporated," Lisa Orrell, shares tips to help multigenerational households live in harmony.

An AARP study found that more than a third of retirees have had to help their adult children pay bills in the past year. The AARP also released the following stat: The number of multigenerational households has increased from 5 million in 2000 to 6.2 million in 2008. This trend, and these statistics, could increase as lay offs and company closures continue during the current recession.

The term "Boomerang Children" had typically been used to describe Millennials (aka Gen Y) moving back in with their parents (normally after graduating college). But the definition is now changing due to the current economic crisis.

But is this always a burden on the elderly parents? Not necessarily. Many members of the Boomer and Veteran generations are watching their retirement funds plummet, so having their adult children boomerang home can be very helpful. It enables all of them to pool resources to survive this economic crisis.

Tips for handling the middle-aged "boomerang" boom

1. Discuss Expectations Ahead of Time:

Example 1: Parents need to avoid "being parents" when their middle-aged children move in. The adult child needs to make it clear they will come/go as they please and not be expected to explain where they were or what they were doing?and the parent doesn't need to either! An elderly parent, with an active social life, will not be happy with a 47 year-old son asking why they were out so late.

Example 2: A mutual expectation needs to be established regarding potential "time" of the adult child's stay. As much as the parents may love to have their adult child home, they may also like their space and not want their kid living with them for too long. Mom thinks you're coming for 3 months, but you assumed 6 months (with your spouse and 2 kids included) would be okay. This is a recipe for disaster.

2. Adult Children Need to Help with Chores:

Cooking, cleaning, gardening, errands, etc. No questions, no whining. Mom and/or Dad are helping YOU out, so be respectful.

3. Adult Children Need to Contribute Financially (if possible):

Pay a small amount of rent; give money towards food, utilities, etc. Or, step-up with helping around the house.

4. Privacy/Space in the House:

If possible, each party should have privacy within the house and adjustments should be made. Example: If the guest bedroom has Mom's sewing machine or computer in it, move it to another room so the "guest room" is the adult child's private space.

5. Grandparents "Parenting":

Should a middle-aged boomeranger arrive with kids in tow, having an open discussion about caring for the kids/grandkids is critical. Boundaries, techniques, and styles need to be addressed to (hopefully) avoid conflicts between adult children and their parents when it comes to caring for the kids/grandkids. If Grandma and/or Grandpa have different styles/ideals from Mom and/or Dad with regards to caring "for junior", a huge amount of conflict will occur... quickly!

Buy the book on Amazon: Millenials Incorporated

About Lisa Orell:
Generation Relations Expert, Lisa Orrell has always kept her finger on the pulse of the "next big trends" that affect business and society. Spotting the new generation relations trend several years ago, she began researching the impact of the Millennial (aka Gen Y) generation entering the workforce. Lisa is a highly sought after speaker for professional association events. Some of her recent speaking appearances include: Linkage's Women in Leadership Summit (with keynotes Jane Fonda & Jane Seymour); The Annual PBWC Conferences in SF & Sacramento (with keynotes Cokie Roberts & Madeleine Albright); and the Northern California HR Association Conference. Currently, Lisa spends her time consulting some of the country's most recognizable companies, including Paul Mitchell Corp., Cisco Systems, USC, and Blue Cross/Blue Shield, on how to better connect with increasingly influential Millennial group. In her consulting, Lisa educated HR, Recruitment and Diversity executives, and Boomer & Gen X management teams, about how to effectively recruit, manage and retain Millennial talent, and on how to improve their overall generation relations.