Parent’s Guide: When Kids Return Home

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With the unemployment rate hovering just above 9%, many recent college graduates are biting the bullet and getting two familiar roommates: mom and dad.

The anemic job market makes finding a full-time job after graduation hard. In fact, in June, the Labor Department reported nearly 2.4 million individuals between the ages of 20-24 reported they were looking for full or part-time work, up 5% from the same time last year, when 2  million reported being on the job hunt.

A May study showed that 8 out of 10 2011 college students are moving home after graduation due to financial instability.

As weve discussed before, there are some rules that grads need to adhere to when moving back home. But how are parents supposed to cope?

Parents might be finally used to having an empty nest, or one less mouth to feed. Experts suggest they establish ground rules before allowing their kids to move back home, which includes setting expectations.

Sometimes it just kind of happens that the kid is back on your doorstep and youre back in an old habit pattern without having sat down and saying how long do we think this might last? What are the rules here? Are you going to pay rent? Are you going to contribute? says Suzanna de Baca, vice president of wealth strategies at Ameriprise Financial. All of those conversations need to happen and I think sometimes in the rush or in the accidental nature of your student moving back home, parents fail to sit down and really have that open conversation.

In reality, most college grads dont plan on moving back home with their parents, and there are steps experts say parents can take to get their boomerang kids living on their own.

Stay Positive 

Not being able to find work and being forced to move back home can be disheartening for college grads. Parents can help their kids through this transition period by pointing out the good in the situation and maintaining a balanced perspective, says de Baca.

While you do want to make sure that the kids understand that this is potentially a temporary arrangement and there may be things that are not ideal, there are absolutely some positive things, she says. Youre providing a safety net, youre helping them with some time, youre providing some resources, and youre having a little bit of a family reunion, which can be wonderful.

That being said, it isnt always going to be sunshine and roses between parents and their kids. Although the tumultuous teenage behaviors have hopefully come and gone, both parties should expect tension or disagreements from time to time. Pete DArruda, author and host of the Financial Safari radio show, explains that there is a way to finesse telling your grad he or she needs some improvement.

Instead of starting with good things and then throwing the word but in there and then giving them all of the negatives, do the negatives first, use the word but and then say something positive, so always end on a positive, he says.

Be There for Support&to an Extent

From an emotional standpoint, de Baca suggests parents help grads understand that they are not alone in this situation.  While they might be losing faith that they will even land a job, parents should continue to offer encouragement.

This [scenario] is becoming increasingly common, and youre happy that youre able to help while they get on their feetthats an important message to send, says de Baca. Its equally important to let them know that you are confident that they have the ability to get on their feet and out into the real world, supporting themselves.

With student loan repayments looming on the horizon and possible credit card debt, recent graduates may need financial support as well. While every familys financial situation and approach is different, de Baca says its important to encourage and support your grad without enabling them.

You need to keep them a little hungry if youre hoping that theyll eventually be motivated to find a good job and move out, she says. If its too cushy, they may get too comfortable and stay home longer than if youd given them a carrot.

Although it may be hard to watch them struggle for the moment, the experts unanimously agree that parents should not compromise their own long-term financial and retirement goals to help their grad.

Help Prep for Their Future

Experts say parents can help their kids prepare for job applications and interviews to increase their odds of getting hired.  Parents shouldnt hold grads hands the entire way, but they can offer tips and advice from their work experience to help guide them.

DArruda suggests parents graduation gift be taking grads shopping for a professional wardrobe. That will basically give them some added confidence, he says. That way parents are supporting them, but not pushing them.

If a grad seeks out professional advice, Gopal Vemuri, founder and CEO of JobPadHQ, suggests that parents delve into their own personal network for opportunities, in addition to sharing their own job experience and help their children highlight accomplishments on their resume.

[Grads] might simply just talk about their GPA and how they performed in school when they write their resume, says Vemuri. I think parents, with their experience, should help them draft a good resume, because thats their calling card.

De Baca points out that some children may not be completely open about taking job searching advice from their parents.

Your child as a post-college graduate may not see you as the expert or may feel awkward [to practice] interviewing or having you comb through their resume, she says. What Id suggest is maybe find some other colleagues or a coaching service that you could offer to your child as a resource that they might feel comfortable working with.

Show Interest in their Job-Search Progress

Parents should avoid offering too much financial support as students might become too complacent.  DArruda explains that while parents should not go overboard with criticism, they need to communicate about the importance of having a job, even if its part-time.

Its very important that they help the child basically treat staying at home as a job, a job to find a job, says DArruda. If you let them get lazy, it builds momentum and theyre going to sit on that couch every single day.

Vemuri suggests touching base with grads on a regular basis to find out how their search is going.

Ask them for proof on their job search [progress], find out what they did during the week, know how many jobs they applied for, know how many follow ups they made, he says. Unless you follow certain activity and you make them accountable, there is no way you can proactively monitor and guide them.

As the ones putting a roof over their kids head, parents absolutely have a right to have ground rules, but keep in mind that your child is now technically an adulttry not to smother them.

I think its very critical when your child moves back home to communicate to them that you see them as an adult and not a child, and then set those boundaries and have those conversations, says de Baca. If youre treating your kid like a teenager, then youre sending a mixed message about the value of their independence.