The “Not-So-Empty” Nest

Posted by on Feb 24, 2011 in Family Relationships |

 Today, adult children are living with their boomer parents longer than previous generations did.  There are also “boomerang kids”, who return to the family home after some time on their own.  Why is this happening? How do you learn to manage with a household full of adults?  

First, some statistics: In 1981, only 28% of Canadians aged 20 to 29 were living in the family home. By 2001, that figure was up to 41%. In the 1970’s, the median age at first marriage was 21 years for women and 23 for men. Now, it’s 26 for women and 28 for men.

For many young adults, living with parents at home is not their ideal life plan. Often, it’s a result of  financial necessity. With increases in the cost of living and post-secondary education, some young Canadians cannot afford to live on their own.  For others, the loss of a relationship, pregnancy, or change in career may result in staying in or return to the parental home.  

It’s not all bad news, though. The majority of kids appreciate their parents’ help. Parents with adult children at home report more satisfaction with time spent together than parents who don’t live with their adult kids. However, these parents can feel more frustration and experience less personal time and space than those living on their own. 

Money disagreements can increase for married couples with adult children living at home. Boomers nearing retirement may need to work longer to support the family if adult children are back at home. And those who are also caring for aging parents know first-hand the meaning of “sandwich generation”

Adult families who live together successfully report three factors that help keep conflict to a minimum:

1. Firm rules about shared use of cars, electronics, living spaces and privacy in general.

2. Where possible, adult children pay rent. If not, they are responsible for some household duties or other contributions to the family.

3. Timelines are discussed. If schooling is part of the picture, there is a plan to finish and move out.  Others may also discuss where stay-at-home kids will be in six months or a year.

Sometimes adult children can ease the sandwich generation squeeze by helping aging grandparents – driving them to appointments, helping with errands and household maintenance, or even just doing a regular check-in.


Although this trend marks a shift in family dynamics, it need not be a change for the worse, or signal that parents will be fighting over curfew with a 27-year-old.  But taking out the garbage could be another matter.



Parents with adult children living at home: Canadian Social Trends Spring 2006, The Stats Can Daily from March 21, 2006


Vol.2, No.24; © ElderWise Inc. 2006


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