Who’s there? An adult child! With a suitcase and a load of student debt! How parents and “boomerang kids” make it work.

By Jennifer King Lindley
February 13, 2017

At 22, just out of college and living with her parents while job hunting, Liz Kussman was discovering one surprise about moving home: “I would come in at 2 a.m., and the house would be totally dark. I’d enter as quietly as I could,” she says. “And then all of a sudden my dad would pop out of the shadows. ‘Where were you?’ He literally couldn’t sleep until I was home.” Like Kussman, boomerang kids all over the country are learning what it’s like to be accustomed to their freedoms but have to adjust to new rules. More 20-somethings are living at home than are married or cohabiting, per a 2016 Pew Research Center analysis. Blame the $30,000 student loan for the classics degree, the astronomical cost of renting in certain cities, or the long preparation (grad school, internships) now required to start a career in an ever-more competitive world. Also—props to Mom and Dad here—young adults seem to feel closer to their parents than previous generations did and consider them good company. “It’s so common, there is no longer much of a stigma,” says Katherine Newman, PhD, a sociologist at University of Massachusetts Amherst and the author of The Accordion Family. There’s even an official name for this life stage: emerging adulthood. “It’s what we call the period between 18 and 29,” says Elizabeth Fishel, co-author of Getting to 30: A Parent’s Guide to the 20-Something Years. “It’s a state of flux and possibility,” especially as the traditional markers of adulthood—marriage, house buying, babies—are happening later.

When it works, it’s a chance for kids and their parents to enjoy each other in a new context. “You are setting the stage for the relationship you will have the rest of your life,” says Jane Adams, PhD, a “post-parenting” coach and the author of I’m Still Your Mother: How to Get Along with Your Grown-Up Children for the Rest of Your Life. Follow these steps to make the most of this (fingers crossed) fleeting time.

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