12 Ways to Make Sure Your Teen Doesn’t Boomerang Back

It’s a rough world out there for recent college grads. That’s why currently 85% of college students move back home to live with their parents after graduation. These “boomerang” kids can’t find a job, an apartment, or create an adult life, instead returning home as an adult child. It’s a situation that hardly anyone likes, but when faced with a grim economic future, some find it absolutely necessary. While not every boomerang situation can be avoided, there are plenty of things that parents can do to help kids avoid becoming a statistic. Setting expectations, creating a good financial foundation, and developing a career-oriented graduation plan are just a few of the ways that parents can help kids launch for good. Read on to learn how you can take steps to make sure your teen doesn’t boomerang back home.

  1. Set expectations early:

    Long before your child goes to college, they should know that they’re expected to succeed on their own. Be careful about giving in to your children when they ask for money; setting a precedent of handing out cash whenever they ask becomes more and more dangerous as kids get older. They should not have the expectation that you’ll always be there to bail them out if they run into the slightest amount of trouble. Teach kids that if they want money, they’ll have to work for it, whether that means getting a job or doing chores.

  2. Provide your child with a strong financial education:

    Teach your child financial discipline early on. Start good habits including saving and paying bills on time by taking on parent-supervised financial lessons like getting a job and saving up for a car while they’re still in high school. Teaching your child to be financially responsible before they leave home can help to ensure that they’re learning the right lessons for future stability.

  3. Allow your child the freedom to steer their own life:

    Be careful about doing too much for your child. Contribute excessively, and you will rob them of the learning experiences they need to be successful on their own. Allow them to find a job independently, complete major school projects with minimal input, and make decisions on their own. You can still be there to help, but make sure that your role is one of support, not control.

  4. Bring your work home:

    It’s usually a good idea to leave work at the office, but when it comes to painting a realistic picture for your kids, bringing work home is actually a smart move. We don’t mean hauling out your laptop at dinner, but rather, discussing your workplace with teenage children. Set their expectations about what a real workplace is like, including office politics, working hours, and interactions with your boss.

  5. Make them pay bills:

    While living at home, kids may not have many (or any bills) to be responsible for, but it’s important that they have at least one. Teach them the value of what things cost and how much work it takes to pay for them by having them take on a couple bills. If they’re driving, they can pay for some or all of their monthly car payment and insurance. Even those without a car can pick up a cell phone bill. If it’s more than they can afford, ask them to consider cutting down to a cheaper rate plan that’s within their reach. Although small, this sets the expectation that they’ll need to take care of their own expenses soon, and teaches them how to do so responsibly under your watchful guidance.

  6. Make them pay for school:

    Teach your college student that they’re expected to pay their own way by making them do just that. Ask your child to pay for a portion of their school expenses, whether it’s by earning a scholarship or contributing wages from a college job. This isn’t just a good move for their financial future; it’s great for their academic performance as well. College Board reports that students who contribute to their college expenses tend to do better academically.

  7. Steer your child to a more affordable college experience:

    Although your child should be able to choose the school they really want to attend, be careful not to allow them to make a choice that will accumulate excessive student loan debt. Give them perspective on college costs by creating a budget that indicates how much they’ll need to earn in order to live comfortably and pay student loans. If you and your child can comfortably afford a prestigious out-of-state private school, that’s a valid option to pursue. But if you can’t, consider choosing a cheaper in-state school, starting out at a community college, or having your child take on a higher paying job while in college to increase their school fund contribution.

  8. Create a plan together:

    The days of going to college and expecting to get a job upon graduation are gone. When you send your kids off to college, you can no longer allow them to simply explore and hope for the best. Now, students need to be focused from the very beginning. Send them off to school with the expectation that they’ll be pursuing a major with a future career in mind. For STEM majors, the path is typically more clear, but for liberal arts majors, they’ll need to consider what type of career their major is preparing them for, and what kind of job prospects may be available for them when school is over. Use average salary information to help them consider how much money they’ll have available to pay for student loans and maintain a comfortable lifestyle.

  9. Let them see you struggle:

    Many children make the mistake of thinking that their parents are rich, even if that’s not the case. You’ve had years to build financial security, but that doesn’t mean you’ve never struggled or that you don’t still have hard decisions to make. Don’t be too proud to let them see your own struggling; it will give them perspective. Loop them in on financial conversations and make them a teaching point. Explain why you bought one car instead of another, why your vacation is not as long as you’d like it to be, or why you may have to work long hours. Talk about your plan for retirement savings. Discuss what your post-college life was like. Students should not expect to independently maintain the same lifestyle that they enjoy at home, and it’s up to you to explain how things are going to be different.

  10. Just say no:

    If you have adult children asking for money to pay utility bills because they’re going to get shut off, consider whether that is a real or perceived need. Are they still buying new clothes and gadgets, getting manicures, and going to concerts? Giving them money in this situation will likely teach them that you’ll always be there to foot the bill for the important stuff and that they are still free to spend frivolously. It’s tough love, but letting them live without electricity for a few days is a great motivator for change and a good lesson in real responsibility.

  11. Call in the experts:

    Enlist the services of a degree and career counselor to make sure that your child’s education is on track for a secure financial future. Get the help of a credit counselor or financial consultant to help your child map out their debt and financial issues. Don’t hesitate to bring in third parties to not only offer a non-biased opinion, but also professional guidance that can be extremely helpful.

  12. If your kids boomerang anyway, have boundaries in place:

    Even with the best of preparations, it’s possible that your kids will have to move back home anyway. It’s a tough market out there. If the unthinkable does happen, don’t go into it lightly. Establish rules, like a date when they will be expected to move out, chores and responsibilities that they will be expected to meet, and which bills they’ll need to pay. And by all means, make them do their own laundry! Although it’s good to be there for your children when they really need you, be careful not to let them get too comfortable. Returning home is a temporary solution, and they’ll need to be actively working to launch an independent life.