The boomerang generation: Helping your kids regain independence

A woman and her daughter have a conversation.

These strategies can help you encourage children who’ve returned home to be on their own again.

The number of adult children moving back in with family members — the boomerang generation — has grown significantly as a result of the coronavirus pandemic. For the first time since the Great Depression, the majority of young adults age 18 to 29 in the U.S. live with their parents, according to a 2020 Pew Research Center analysis.

As we continue to recover from the pandemic, what are some potential actions to help positively motivate your adult children toward regaining their independence?

Dana Gorelik, a senior wealth planning strategist with Wells Fargo Wealth and Investment Management, offers these suggestions for motivating your adult kids to become self-reliant again.

Set new expectations.
Gorelik recommends talking with your children about your expectations and their responsibilities and how that can help them make a smooth transition to living independently. Part of this means treating your children as adults, which they may not have been the last time you were all living under the same roof. “It is very easy to fall back into those traditional roles that you’re the parent and the caretaker,” she says. “But this is different because they are now adults.”

Along with working together to outline their duties in caring for the house and contributing to family concerns like cooking meals, the conversation around expectations should include coming up with a timeline for their independence. It’s part of sending clear signals that this arrangement is only temporary.

“It’s underscoring with your children the need for self-reliance,” she says.

As part of this discussion, talk through how long your child expects to stay and what they might need to accomplish before moving out. This could include how long it will take them to get a job or how much extra time they’ll need to save enough money to afford new living arrangements.

Set savings and budgeting goals.
Working with your children to determine their savings goals can help put them on a path toward independence more quickly. Collecting rent or other financial contributions from your children can help instill a sense of responsibility in them — even if you don’t need the payment. Any money collected can be applied toward your child’s security deposit or a down payment on a home, or placed in a savings account.

However, keep in mind that parents can find it uncomfortable and sometimes difficult to set those rules, particularly when there’s no financial need. To help ease tension, consider working with a professional to help make the arrangements smoother, says Gorelik.

Since financial self-sufficiency is a goal for your child, Gorelik suggests that families consider involving a wealth planner to help them figure out a budget. Sometimes in wealthy families, says Gorelik, a lot is taken for granted and goes unsaid. Parents who want their children to understand what wealth means and the responsibility that comes along with it could benefit from hearing this from a third party.

Have regular family meetings — and keep talking.
Holding regular family meetings can be a great way to foster open communication with your adult child. Family meetings help ensure that everyone has buy-in regarding your child’s steps to reclaiming their independence. They can also keep the plan moving forward by creating space to address potential roadblocks in a positive, collaborative way.

That can also help make the transition back to independence smoother and faster. “Family meetings are a way to make sure everyone’s still on the same page,” Gorelik says.

This is another area where your wealth planner can offer help in getting started, so consider broaching the idea of inviting your financial team to participate in selected meetings. Having objective viewpoints can help encourage questions and expand knowledge as well as potentially help your children build new relationships.

Wells Fargo Wealth and Investment Management (WIM) is a division within Wells Fargo & Company. WIM provides financial products and services through various bank and brokerage affiliates of Wells Fargo & Company.