50 Ways to Send Your Boomerang Kid Packing
Once back home, they tend to grow roots. So tell them there must be 50 ways to leave their mother.
Lisa Endlich is the author of Be the Change and the New York Times business best-seller Goldman Sachs: The Culture of Success. She is the co-founder, with Mary Dell Harrington, of Grown and Flown: Parenting From the Empty Nest.
Once society removed the stigma of moving back in with the ’rents, droves of new grads who couldn’t find meaningful work simply unpacked their bags in the same comfortably feathered nest they’d left four years earlier. Some kids are back home because they can't find a job. Others have one but aren't making enough to pay for their apartment.
At this time when we celebrate how our country gained independence from an older, established nation, it’s fitting that we look at ways to help those squatters in our own homes, aka our kids, liberate themselves.
Of course we love them, but we’d also be happy to remove them from the family payroll, turn their bedroom into an office or guest room or maybe even sell the house and set off on an adventure. In that spirit, we offer — with apologies to Paul Simon — 50 Ways to (Help Your Kids) Leave Their Mother.
(MORE: How to Set Money Ground Rules for a Boomerang Kid)
Get Off My Grid, Kid
1. Don’t stock the refrigerator. At first, this will be annoying to you and him, but eventually he will either move out or go grocery shopping. Either way, you win.
2. When you know she's going to borrow your car, leave the gas tank near empty. See above.
3. Offer non-monetary incentives. Start small — say, a week’s worth of groceries in exchange for him finding an apartment. You may have to agree to keep him on your cell plan, but it's still worth it.
4. If that doesn't work, offer cash — perhaps an amount equal to the first month's rent on a new apartment.
5. If out-and-out bribery fails, offer a year’s worth of "consulting services" — advice about (but not money toward) some of the things that may be giving her adult anxiety, like insurance or starting an investment account.
6. You weaned him once, you can do it again. If you've been giving him money, steadily reduce the amount until you've completely cut him off.
(MORE: How Not to Talk to Your Adult Child About Money)
7. Buy gift cards for the grocery and drugstore in your child’s name — and highlight the new address field.
8. Annoy the hell out of her with a barrage of questions (even if you don’t really care): Where are you going? When will you be home? Will there be drinking? Isn’t it a little late to be going out on a work night? Keep it up until she can’t stand it.
9. Analyze last month’s utilities bills (including Internet). Factor in housing and food costs and present your adult child a bill for his share.
10. If she has a car, refuse to pay her auto insurance. She may want to live in your home, but she certainly doesn't want to be held hostage in it.
11. Have out-in-the-open fights with your spouse. Ideally these will be fake fights — and making up could be fun — but all that shouting could send your kid running.
12. Take up the trombone.
13. When your daughter is gone for a weekend, box up some of the stuff in her room and convert a portion of the space into your own office or yoga studio. (Don’t make it too nice or this might backfire.)
14. Make a list of 10 rental properties that you have secretly vetted and schedule lunch and a real-estate viewing with your daughter. Follow with pedicures and a glass of wine — for both of you — and tell her you'll help her with the rent until she can afford it herself.
15. When your son is out for the day, remove the bed in his room. Tell him the only sleeping option is an air mattress in the living room or the sofa in the den.
16. Turn over those Bed, Bath & Beyond coupons you’ve been collecting to your adult child with a note that says “for your new apartment.”
17. Pick up a stack of change-of-address cards at the post office. Fill in your child’s name and leave them on her nightstand.
18. Stop cooking dinner (or any meals when your child is present).
19. Enlist the aid of younger siblings to beg their big bro or sis to get a new apartment so they can stay over and escape their crazy parents.
20. Frame a few family photos and present to your child, saying this will make the new place feel like home.
21. Stop paying their cellphone bill.
22. Reminisce — a lot. Start with the 1960s and work your way through the '80s in painful detail of everything you did in your past. Nothing makes kids head for the hills faster than stories of their parents’ lives.
23. Tell your child that you and your spouse are cutting back on alcohol and fatty foods and to avoid temptation none of that will be allowed in the house.
24. Regale them with all the great stories you’ve been hearing about how much fun your friends’ kids are having in their own apartments.
25. Invite your own parents to come for a nice long visit — of course, they’ll have to stay in your child’s room.
26. Turn the Wi-Fi on and off at random times. Tell your boomerang that your provider said service is going to be intermittent for an undetermined length of time and there might even be periods with no Internet connection.
27. When you are grocery shopping, do not buy any of her favorite foods.
28. Start spending increasingly more time at home. Home Alone was a nightmare for 10-year-old Kevin, but for a twentysomething, it’s a dream come true.
29. When their friends drop by, don’t offer them food. If they tend to congregate in a certain room, pre-empt them by taking it over with your stuff.
30. Even if you don’t mind the occasional sleepover of the “significant other,” start enforcing a “not under my roof” policy.
31. Do not clean your child's room or do his laundry. (But bear in mind, some kids may neither mind nor notice the squalor.)
32. Have regular “date nights” at home: Dim the lights, open a bottle of wine, dress for the occasion. That should send her packing.
33. Keep watching a steady diet of “60 Minutes,” CNN and CNBC. In fact, leave the TV on all day and turn the volume way up.
34. Do the same with music. A constant soundtrack of ’70s rock — better yet, lite FM — will repel her.
35. Host big family gatherings full of annoying relatives who will pry into your adult child's personal life and incessantly boast about “our son, the radiologist.” That should inspire your kid to move out.
36. Sign your child up for subscriptions to every Pottery Barn and Crate and Barrel type of catalog to get her interested in apartment décor. Offer to buy one piece (within your budget) if she agrees to move out by a certain date.
37. If a parent or friend is downsizing, work together to pack up a perfect first-apartment gift box for your “on their way out” child. Tip: Start with the vintage barware.
38. Cancel subscriptions to Starz and HBO. Sorry, Charlie: No more Game of Thrones on the big screen.
39. Inform your boomerang that you’ll be renovating her room to convert it into a proper guest room and that she's got 30 days to vacate the premises.
40. Clear the house of soda, snack foods, microwave meals and anything that can be easily grabbed at 2 a.m. You’ll be doing yourself a favor in more ways than one.
41. Make a lot of noise at 7:30 a.m.: bang pots, turn up the volume on the TV or radio and speak loudly.
42. Demand total silence in the house after 11 p.m., since after all, you’re the ones working to earn a living. You need a good night’s sleep.
(MORE: Best Ways to Comfort Your Unemployed Adult Child)
43. Offer him your frequent flier miles — one-way.
44. Remove the air-conditioner or fan from your child's room.
45. Charge above-market rent for his room. If he balks, tell him you will advertise for a boarder who’s willing to pay.
46. Tell your child that they aren't allowed in the house during the hours of 11 a.m. and 6 p.m.
47. Invite friends over for the kinds of things you enjoy but that your child doesn't (bridge, mah jongg, singing, improv) and don't be in a rush to kick your friends out.
48. Sell his things.
49. Sell the house.
50. If all else fails, beg.