There is a poignancy in the process of preparing to launch a young adult child into the great blue – to college, into a first apartment, or to begin military service. The questions bubble: Have I prepared him well? Is she ready? Am I? (The answer to the final one is almost always “no”, by the way.) Into that stew, memories surface. Her first day of preschool. His first time behind the wheel. Last time you sat in the stands cheering for her team. Experiencing and honoring those difficult emotions and achingly sweet memories allow parents to do the emotional and spiritual work in sending a child into adulthood.
Though that launch is a milestone for parent and child alike, more and more of those empty nests eventually get filled again. This CNBC story noted that larger numbers of Millennials are living at home with their parents after college graduation, more than any other kind of living arrangement. The story also stated they’re staying in their childhood homes longer than ever before, too. Contributing factors include the lingering effects of the Great Recession on the entry-level job market and housing/rental market, crippling student loan debt, and a shift in attitude about what it means for an adult child to live with their parents – once seen as a stigma, moving home again is now viewed as a realistic option for many.
I’ve lived the experience of launching a child, and of having a couple of those once-launched kids return home again. One returned home for a season so he could work, attend community college, and begin to figure out next steps in their life. Another returned home after a launch because of financial issues. The experiences were as different as the children are. The experiences also differed because of their reasons for returning to the nest. One recognized they needed help and a safe place to land for a while. The other was resentful of both the circumstances surrounding the move home and of our expectations about how our household of adults would function. Long-simmering resentments on the part of one turned into present-day triggers leading to conflict.
There are countless mommy blogs detailing the mess and beauty of life in the trenches with babies and toddlers. I’m online a lot, and I’ve run across exactly zero/zilch/nada blogs devoted to the mess and beauty of launching or re-nesting young adults. (If you know of one, please leave it in the comments section!) Family privacy and respect for the agency of the young adults in question are the main contributor to the dearth of cute blogs devoted to the topic. However, by this point in a family’s life, the unique set of dynamics between parent and young adult have a long, specific history. The dance of learning to function afresh as a family of adults living under one roof mingles sometimes uncomfortably with the family’s history and each individual’s present circumstances. There’s no way to romanticize any of that stuff so it fits prettily into a blog post about the messiness of it all. Nor should it.
However, both young adults and their parents need to find ways to talk about how to navigate the challenges and blessings of re-nesting for a season – first, with one another, then with others who’ve been through it. Below are a few links that offer ideas that may help parents form an approach that works for the family, so the family is still speaking when the adult child moves out once again. Glean from the links below what makes sense for you, and ditch the rest of the advice:
Remember your young adult child is not the same person they were when they lived under your roof the first time – and neither are you. Take some time to assess how you both have changed.
The re-nesting process doesn’t always have a tidy, happy ending. Sometimes young adult children will not make good choices. You yourself may not make great choices. Relationships may fray despite your best efforts. But Paul’s words to the Romans apply here: “If it is possible, as far as it depends on you, live at peace with everyone” (12:18) “Peace” doesn’t mean “doormat”. This kind of peace may mean that your adult child needs to remind you that they are not twelve any more. And you as the parent may have to seek peace in a way that doesn’t create instant harmony, such as setting a time limit on how long the adult child can stay with you, insisting that they pay rent, help with household tasks, and/or communicate respectfully with you.
Psalm 68:6 tells us that God sets the solitary – the lonely, the distressed, the struggler, you, and your child – in families. The goal in re-nesting isn’t to be merely a waystation for a young person who has hit a rough patch. It is to continue to function and grow as a family, even after your child has relaunched once again from the nest.
If you’ve re-nested and/or re-launched a young adult child, what tips or suggestions would you give to another parent? Please add your comments below!