When an Empty Nest Doesn't Sound So Bad

Rent the room or keep the light on?

Q: I'm a mom of three boys and my youngest son graduated from college last year. I'd finally gotten the "empty-nest" syndrome out of my system when my son moved back in after having his first career crisis in the real world. Can you give me some tips for coping?
-- Sammi W., Dana Point, California

A: The very fact that the term "boomerang children" exists indicates that you aren't alone. For readers who are unfamiliar with this term, "boomerang children" are those kids who move out of the house, usually to go to school, and then move back in with mom and dad. Some kids skip the boomerang part, and don't move out at all; they're sometimes called "threshholders." According to the National Survey of Households and Families, at least 10 percent of all children over the age of 25 now live with their parents -- probably more.

Let's start with the basics. What are his goals with moving back home? Is it to pay off school loans or other bills? Make sure he sticks to that plan. You might also consider charging at least a nominal amount for room and board. You should also be very clear about the house rules -- what you say goes.

The idea is to be enough of a safety net to allow your son to get back on his feet, but not make things so easy that he'll never want to leave. On that note, you should have discussions from the very beginning about how long he plans to stay.