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Welcome to the EP Parenting Blog

This is the place to read blog posts from our experts and from EP's team of dedicated Parent Bloggers, who write about their own experiences raising their children. Comment, ask questions, and share advice. If you're interested in blogging for us, please click here.
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Just like when a mother bird releases her babies from the nest, parents think that once their son or daughter leaves for college, their child has entered a new era. We pull away from their dorm, misty-eyed yet excited for their transition into adulthood.  Then, four years later, we find ourselves moving boxes back into the house, feeling like we’ve somehow failed as parents.

If this has happened to you, don’t worry; a child returning home doesn’t necessarily constitute bad parenting!  What’s more, the practice of adult children—often referred to as “boomerang kids”— moving home after attending college or pursuing jobs is quite prevalent, with a record 21.6 million boomerang kids in the U.S. alone.

Unique situations exist, but there are several reasons for this trend.  General declines in employment and marriage, as well as a rise in college enrollment for young people who’ve been out in the working world for a while, all contribute to this phenomenon. And on top of that, it will take years to fully recover from the economic downturn which has left college grads facing scarce job prospects and a difficult housing market while needing to repay student loans

When an Adult Child Returns Home

For the adult child, while having a place to live is, of course, a good thing, moving home also has potential repercussions; it can impede momentum, self-esteem, and confidence.  It can also lead to falling back into negative or co-dependent behaviors. Parents can be negatively affected as well: emotionally, mentally, and financially.  And siblings can be impacted by any negativity in the home.

But living with a boomerang kid doesn’t have to be a negative experience.  Rather, it can be a constructive learning opportunity for your adult child—and for you.  It’s an opportunity for you to be an example of the skills she needs to emulate in order for her to achieve independence.  And it’s a chance for everyone in the household to develop new patterns of relating to one another.

Here are four tips that will help you manage the transition from being an empty-nester to having your adult child living at home again.

  • Make sure your child knows that this is temporary. Discuss together the reasons your child would like to return home.  Is it just until they land a full-time job?  Find a roommate?  Save for a down payment?  If there isn’t a specific reason attached to your child’s living at home, it will be easy for the original objective to be forgotten about. Come up with a realistic, attainable timeline for him to meet his objective, and stick to it.


  • Set healthy boundaries. Before your child moves back home, discuss with them what’s acceptable and what isn’t—then put those boundaries in writing.  Think about any unacceptable past behavior, such as not doing chores or playing video games for hours, so you can hedge against those risks prior to your child’s arrival. Setting boundaries early on helps prevent the reemergence of negative, co-dependent behaviors down the road.

(EDITOR’S NOTE: You can download a free living agreement template by clicking here!)

  • Enforce those boundaries. Parents must be prepared to enforce the boundaries they’ve established. If you know that, for whatever reason, you can’t enforce the necessary boundaries, then you should seriously reconsider allowing your child to move back home.


  • Avoid enabling behavior. Everything a parent does is a form of communication with his or her child. That’s why parents have to be mindful of what you’re saying with your actions. For example, if you constantly find yourself cleaning up after your son or washing his dirty clothes, you are effectively telling him that you don’t believe he can take care of himself—and that you will continue to satisfy his daily needs. He’s a responsible adult, so he should be treated like one.

Never forget that your child is an adult with the autonomy to make choices and accept the consequences. His or her choices are a big part of what led to the return home.  Yes, growing up is hard.  It’s natural for your child to struggle a bit. Remember, though, that part of supporting your child—and helping them launch into adulthood successfully—is knowing when to step back and encourage independence.

Matthew Arrington is the executive director and co-founder of Forte Strong, the world’s first failure-to-launch program for men who struggle to leave their parents’ home or find it difficult to become independent. Forte Strong uses a proprietary coaching model to help students find purpose and direction, guide parents and families in empowering their sons, and ultimately create a healthier family dynamic. Matthew currently resides in sunny St. George, Utah.

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‘Tis the season, as they say; and for many parents, it’s a tough season. The month of December is a Pandora’s Box of expectations, demands, and pressure. You have the average month’s worth of usual stuff—work, laundry, keeping everyone healthy, basketball practices—then throw in the prep, planning and execution of the holidays. Makes you want to pull the covers back over your head, doesn’t it?
While I pride myself on being quite organized and a dutiful planner, December used to make me seize with anxiety. When my kids were young, the average month soaked every ounce of energy from me.  I often wondered how in the world I would carry off the extra tasks required to make December a success.
Luckily, those were simpler times; meaning, I had very little extra money after the bills were paid! Christmas gifts for my two children were incredibly basic: a flashlight for reading under the covers and secondhand toys.  My family filled in with other presents, thankfully, and I don’t think my kids felt they were missing out on anything.
Having a simpler lifestyle actually helped us get through the holidays. Since Santa wasn’t bringing huge or expensive gifts, I put my focus on other seasonal things, like the special books and movies that only came out of storage in December, along with the decorations and ornaments. We would bake and decorate Christmas cookies, a full-on, all-day Saturday event that left the kitchen destroyed but was always a great experience. Those were wonderful times.
I can still remember the joy I felt when my church offered a free babysitting deal for four hours one Sunday in early December.  The pure bliss I experienced, having such a huge chunk of time to shop and wrap gifts without little ones around. When I picked the boys up, feeling weightless and accomplished, they had made Christmas ornaments: their smiling photos tucked inside small wreaths, hanging from ribbons. These were the types of things that would carry me through the hectic month.
Of course, at the end of the month there would be no school, and sometimes no daycare, which was yet another wrench thrown into things. I tried to save up my vacation time so the three of us could be home together. We’d make pancakes in the morning and enjoy a long, luxurious breakfast. Some days were dubbed “PJ Day,” where no one ever changed out of their pajamas. Those were the days—there was a lack of money, but an abundance of love.  Just the other day I was in Michaels (feeling inadequate as I passed all the options for making crafts), and the store was playing music from the Nutcracker. A thousand happy memories rushed to my heart as I thought about my boys doing their own interpretive dance to the soundtrack we played daily near Christmas.
So try to keep this mind when you find yourself buried in shopping lists and crumb cake recipes: when your children are adults and they start to reminisce, what holiday memories do you want them to have? Memories of a ton of gifts under the tree, or memories of special traditions that even MasterCard can’t claim? My struggles back then were real and challenging, but our memories are unmatched.


Renee Brown is the tired yet happy mother of two young adult sons, Sam and Zachary. Almost an empty nester, she loves sharing her single parent experiences with the goal of providing hope and encouragement to those struggling on that “long and winding road.” Renee lives in Minneapolis, works in advertising, and also blogs for Your Teen magazine.

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With the holidays approaching, I’m starting to take out some favorite family heirlooms, like a bowl that was once my grandparents’ and wine glasses that were handed down to me by my beloved Aunt Mary.

While holding these things from the past, I started thinking about all of the things we pass down to our children, not just the material ones. More valuable than crystal are the emotional heirlooms we leave behind—the good and the bad. For better and for worse, our children learn how to manage their emotions from us.

“Raising children is a lot like watching yourself up on the big screen, flaws and all,” says Debbie Pincus, a therapist and author of The Calm Parent. “Kids track us carefully and watch how we react to people and difficult situations,” says Pincus. “If we haven’t learned how to manage our emotions, then we can’t really teach our children to manage theirs.”

Ask yourself this:  what emotions or emotional baggage am I unknowingly passing down to my children? Are you a yeller? Was your mom or dad a yeller? Have you noticed that your children are yellers too? Do you tend to hold grudges when you’re angry? Have you noticed your son doing the same thing? Or do you have some emotional baggage, like a fear of flying or driving, that you haven’t overcome and just might be passing down to your children?

I’ll start the confessional: My four-year-old son has a fire evacuation plan.  You might think that’s cute, or maybe even smart.  But, what I see is my little guy absorbing my fear of fires.  Nine years ago when my oldest was only three months old, I woke up to the sound of firemen knocking on my front door. They explained that there were flames coming from the apartment above, and we were told to leave immediately. I didn’t even get a chance to grab a diaper. Our apartment was destroyed, and we never went back. Yes, it was a traumatic experience for me—but I don’t want to pass that trauma to my kids.

When I saw my anxiety about fires ”up on the big screen” as my 4-year-old talked through exit strategies, I realized that I need to be more aware of the messages I’m sending to him. I want to do a better job of ”unpacking” this family heirloom so he doesn’t have to years from now…because this is not the emotional heirloom I want to pass down.

Have you ever thought about the emotional heirlooms you’re passing down to your children?


Jennifer is freelance writer for The Wall Street Journal and several national magazines.   Earlier in her career, she was a journalist for “60 Minutes.”  She lives in New York with her husband and their three children, ages 9, 7 and 4.  You can read her other work at

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My son loves anything with a screen: computer games, YouTube, apps, TV. (And let’s admit it, who hasn’t looked up a funny SNL skit and realized an hour later that they’ve just laughed themselves past the kids’ bedtime?)  So I was hesitant when he asked to join a computer programming club. “Does he really need more time sitting at a computer?” I thought. “Shouldn’t we find him something else to do so he’s more well-rounded?” But I quieted that voice because I’ve learned that being well-rounded may actually limit our potential.
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When a child dies, the sense of unfairness in the world is magnified.  Children are meant to live full and productive lives; and as parents, we have so many hopes and dreams for them.  The parents of that child, no matter the age, need our compassion and care at this most difficult moment in their lives.  No parent ever expects to bury their child, and the experience is not something that is taught in parenting courses.
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In 2005, I adopted two older boys from Poland.  A joyous event for sure, but sometimes I felt at a loss about how to help them.  During those early years, their behaviors were often out of control and solutions were hard to find.  I struggled daily, trying to find ways to understand their needs and help them understand our love, rules, and way of life.   My hope was that we could connect them with someone who had knowledge of their culture, their feelings of abandonment, their loss of trust, and the many emotions I could never truly know myself; but at first, that was not meant to be.
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Being assertive sometimes gets a bad rap. But being assertive simply means having confidence:  the ability to stand up for yourself and defend your opinions. Teaching children to be assertive is teaching them about boundaries and standards and how to stick to them, while still being respectful of others.  “Assertive” becomes a problem when it crosses the line into “aggressive”—when the “respectful of others” part gets forgotten.  As parents, it’s our job to define that line, and to do what we can to foster healthy confidence in our children instead of brutish or bullying behavior.
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My 9-year-old son William was clear from the start—he did not want to join a soccer league.

My husband was just as clear—he wanted our children to learn the important life lessons you get from playing a team sport.

Despite the nagging voice in my head that kept repeating, “You know this isn’t going to work,” we pushed William to give it a try. And yes, he showed some resistance. But, by the end of the first practice, he looked like he was having fun on the field. Maybe not made-for-TV-movie fun, but I’m pretty sure I saw him actually crack a smile.
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