Boomerang Kids: How families with adult children adjusted to them moving back in amid the pandemic


WALLINGFORD, Conn. (WTNH) — For Ann Ballard and Dave Golembeski, 2020 was supposed to be about starting a new life together in the home they just bought in Wallingford. But, when the pandemic hit, life shifted.

The empty nest filled up again. Two kids, a boyfriend, and a cat all came home to ride it out.

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“It took a while to adjust because we were used to being ‘empty nesters,’ I guess is the term we are going to use here,” Ballard said. “We were just adjusting to moving in with each other because we had never lived together.”

“We had no plans,” Golembeski said. “We had no preconceived ideas, And I think we adjusted very well. I think everybody did. I think all five of us did.”

This family is not alone. As of June, 52% of young Americans between the ages of 18 and 29 are back home living with their parents. That’s more than during The Great Depression.

“What that does is really changes roles and expectations,” said Dr. Laura Saunders, who is a family therapist with Hartford HealthCare.

When asked about enforcing simple chores and tasks, such as putting your dirty dishes in the dishwasher, Dr. Saunders said it’s more so about, “clarifying expectations. And really, that takes ongoing communication.”

Dr. Saunders added, “When it’s just the parents in the house, they have a set of expectations that have been communicated to each other pretty regularly. Now it’s going to take resetting those expectations and clarifying communication so that we understand what each person is expected to do.”

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Ann and Dave have carved up their home into small, separate workplaces. They said navigating Zoom calls in different time zones has been tough. And there’s a money impact too. A full house means bigger bills; the water bill quadrupled.

“I’m cheap,” Golembeski said. “I think of the electricity bill…It doesn’t eat you up, but it’s something you are mindful of.”

What about the kids taking on some of the financial responsibility?

“Especially if these young people are working? There is a reasonable expectation that they would contribute financially to the household,” Dr. Saunders said. “Parents can make decisions about whether or not they really need that income to help offset the bills, or they take it as a mini savings plan, and they save up that money for their young adult.”

But despite the tight quarters and the bigger bills, Ann and Dave say this time has been oddly special. And when it’s over, they will miss this unplanned time together.

Ballard said, “I don’t want them to leave! I really enjoyed having them here. At the same time, it will be nice to get back to our lives.”

Financial experts said it’s important for parents not to let the kids moving back in blow up their long-term financial goals. This can be a life lesson to talk about money with your grown kids, explaining that every dollar spent on this situation is one less dollar that goes toward retirement.

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