Moving Out then Moving Home: Anxiety and New Family Dynamics

Anxiety doesn’t happen in a vacuum, and it is often precipitated by a family setting. One social phenomena is causing anxiety across the generations: adult children moving back into their parent’s homes. Both parents and children can experience anxiety due to worrying about the future, adjusting to expectations on both sides, adult children adapting to family rules, and loss of privacy on all sides.

Boomerang Kids

There are lots of popular terms to describe adult children that move out of their parent’s house only to move back in, or never get the chance to move out at all: boomerang kids, kidults, failure to launch kids, etc. The economy and unemployment is being blamed for the record number of households facing this societal change.

Parents go from empty nesters to renesting when an adult child moves back in. Adult children go from independence to the stigma and sense of failure from moving back into their childhood home, not to mention dealing with controlling parents who still sees their now adult children as still just children. With the tension on both sides and an inherent sense of uncertainty, it’s a recipe for anxiety.

Parent’s Anxiety

There are myriad issues facing the parents in the boomerang situation. When kids move back in there might be a sense of failure on the parent's part, worrying about whether their child will ever be self sufficient or not. The return of another occupant of their household may create something of a financial strain on the parent, which can lead to more anxiety. Additionally, oftentimes, parents aren’t sure what the boundaries should be with an adult child in their home.

If the adult child is not making enough money to be self sufficient, that dependence can put both a financial and emotional strain on the parent. Parents want to be supportive of their children and help them out if needed; however, they might be worried that they are enabling dependent behavior and not allowing the child to figure things out on his own.

Parents should remember that adult children are adults and it’s not appropriate to supervise them. They should not treat them like teens, nor should they feel like they need to cook for or clean after them. To make a cohabitation situation work and minimize anxiety, both parties should sit down and talk about expectations and boundaries. The relationship should now take on the form of a renter and landlord scenario.

Boomeranger Anxiety

The script is supposed to read that when the child reaches adulthood and gets that first job, which grows bigger and better, he can then emerge confidently into the world. When an economy does not favor the new-coming employee or just isn’t strong enough to support less experienced employees, the graduate, ready to launch, is thwarted. This can be very stressful. A natural step in life is being denied. Some boomerangers respond with feverish attempts to find a job; others surrender and become lumps on their parents' couch. Neither approach is healthy.

Similarly, adults returning home should remember that just because they are back in their parents' home doesn’t mean they can enjoy the same lack of responsibility they had when they were school children. They need to be functional members of the home. If they can’t offer money, they should offer a reasonable amount of services in exchange for the room and board.


Before moving back together, consider calling a family meeting to address concerns and issues before they arise and become problems. Some topics to cover might be:

  • what everyone’s expectations are
  • rules parents must have in their home
  • privacy issues for both parties
  • rent/recompense
  • food – is the food communal or separate?
  • food preparation – does a schedule need to be worked out for kitchen use?
  • some fun family time, this can be arranged to prevent the relationship from becoming too business-like or adversarial.

A different but similar situation is when the adult child moves back in to take care of the parent, another anxiety provoking scenario. The same family discussions and agreements need to take place as mentioned above.

It Can Work

An adult child moving back into a parent’s house can cause anxiety all around. Each party has their own concerns and fears about the length of the stay, the implications of the stay, the impact of the stay, etc. The anxiety of one party can infect the other. If the child is worried about getting a job, the parent may lose confidence as well. If the parent is worried about the financial burden the kid is causing, that will be felt by the adult child. Open discussions, patience, and a sense of humor will go a long way in minimizing anxiety. If the anxiety increases, finding a family counselor might be a good way to bring acceptance all around.

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