Posts filed under ‘College Graduates’

Failure to Launch – What Happened to My Empty Nest?

In the movie, Failure to Launch, Matthew McConaughey plays the part of a thirtysomething son unwilling to leave the nest. Desperate to be empty-nesters, his parents hire a girl whose profession is luring adult-children to step out on their own.

A thirtysomething adult living at home is not uncommon and the predicament reflects the reality for many in America.  I had no idea this was becoming the norm until I received a phone call at the office the other day and it went something like this:

LG: Hello, You’ve reached the Ginac Group.

Caller: I have a big problem.

LG: What is your problem and how can I help?

Caller:  I have a boomerang in the house!

LG: (Stumped) A boomerang? Hmm, I’m not sure I can help you with that one.

Caller: I think you can. Let me explain.

LG: Okay.

Caller: I sent my son to college so that he could earn a degree, land a great job and start a life independent of his mother and I. He is now 29 years old, unemployed, unmotivated because he’s had a string of bad jobs and living with us. This is the boomergang! Don’t get me wrong, we love our son but he needs help and we can’t do it.

LG: I get it now. You absolutely called the right number.  Although I’ve not heard someone refer to their predicament in that fashion, we have worked with other parents in your situation.

The call went on for a few more minutes discussing his son’s situation. We invited the family in for a consultation to review how market conditions, the parent’s impression of the situation and their son’s perspective on what is going on is helping or hindering the job search process. 

I read a lot of articles on this trend after that phone call. Parents who experienced the grief and sadness of the empty nest as a result of kids going off to college or the workforce, and then discovered the joy and fulfillment that can happen as a result of it because they now have time to focus on their own financial, emotional or social needs are now trying of figure out how to survive the return of their adult children. The process of moving back in with parents after a period of independence is referred to as the Boomerang Effect (i.e. failure to launch).

Unstable market conditions, rising unemployment rates, and declining wages are making it impossible for our children to make their own way in the world.  Moving back home allows them to minimize expenses while returning to school to gain new skills or finding less suitable work just to have a paycheck.  The problem for parents is that their children are not in any rush to leave.  Since many of their friends are also cohabitating with their parents, the stigma of living at home is minimized.

So what are parents to do? Below are eight steps that you can use to regain your freedom.  Be sure to use finesse because you still want to maintain a solid relationship with your children. The eight steps include:

  1. Review the reasons your son or daughter has returned home and be understanding about their situation.  Set expectations and offer suggestions for how they might get back on track.
  2. Communicate with your partner (if you have one) often about how the two of you can help with your adult-child’s situation. Try to avoid the fights you used to have over what’s best for the child.
  3. Create a timeline in your mind about when you’d like to see your child move on again, but be flexible.  Talk it over with your child in small doses as you don’t want to cause any undue stress.
  4. Provide unconditional love and offer fresh ideas for change. Try not to be the overbearing parent who has all of the right answers.  This does nothing to empower your child.
  5. Ask your child for a plan of action with dates that build up to a move out date.  This puts a bit of pressure on the child so that they don’t get too comfortable.
  6. Avoid giving your child a free-ride.  If they are unemployed, assign house tasks.  If they are earning a paycheck, ask for rent and money for food, telephone, etc.
  7. Don’t be afraid to ask for help. Use your network (friends, family, and coworkers) to help your son or daughter get their foot in the door. 
  8. Encourage your child to find volunteer work or take on any paid or unpaid internships to get experience and build their own network.

As for the family who came to visit us about their son’s situation. I am happy to report that their son voluntarily signed-up for our career services and he is about to embark on his own journey.  His parents have high hopes for him and I am confident that my team and their son won’t let them down.

April 30, 2010 at 2:44 pm Leave a comment


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