Boomerang Boys

What is a Dad to do When Junior Moves Back Home?
By Aaron Welch, LMHC, NCC

Theyyyyyyy’re baaaaaaaack!
Yes, you thought you had done your part. You deceived yourself into thinking that you had already lived through those adolescent years with your son. You really believed that he had spread his wings and left the nest and that you had paid your debt to society. Yes! Now, you could do everything you wanted to do before: Travel, drive that classic convertible you couldn’t afford while he was home, spend quality time talking and bonding with your wife (okay . . . maybe you weren’t really thinking THAT) . . . or how about . . . dare I say . . . relax? (The crowd gasps at the mere sound of the word). I suppose if we were still living in the middle of the 20th century, you might have been right. But, well . . . we’re not. And more and more young men are moving home in their early twenties, not knowing what to do with their lives (even though you spent a zillion dollars on their education). What is a father to do? Kick them out? Beg them to leave? Play "rock, paper, scissors" and the loser leaves town??? I guess you COULD do these things. Of course, your wife would kill you in your sleep but you COULD do them.
Seriously, the relationship between fathers and their sons is still primary to emotional health and the overall development of young adult men, even when that son is 22 and has moved home again. In fact, your son may need you more at this time of life than he did four years prior.
Why?
First, if he is moving home, it often means he feels defeated in some way, as if he has realized life is harder than he bargained for. Of course, you knew this long ago and tried to tell him (back when he thought you were really stupid) and I suppose you could go with the "nanny-nanny boo-boo, I told you so" route. However, I doubt this would do anything to help either one of you (and remember, your wife is watching). No. Often your son feels defeated or overwhelmed with life and the good part is he is often more open to your advice at this point. This might be the best opportunity you have ever had to REALLY build a relationship with your son in which you can truly mentor him, nurture him, and teach him how to move into manhood. I know, I know . . . you wanted to do that when he was sixteen but maybe he wasn’t ready then. Chances are that he is more ready now.
Another reason he may really need you now more than ever is that he truly may need a kick in the butt. I know that’s not the compassionate, politically correct way to say it but the truth is that some young men move home because it is EASIER to live there and avoid the responsibilities of life. Their college experience was awesome and full of excitement and they don’t want it to end. So, the thought is . . . "hey, I’ll move back home, pay no rent, eat free food, and mom will do my laundry. Then, I can keep going out with my buds and party!" (This attitude might pose a serious threat to your desire to relax). But, your son needs you. He really does. It doesn’t do him any good for you or your wife to enable him to extend his adolescence into his mid-twenties. This is very common now (adolescence is now registered between 11-24 in some research). However, if you allow him to do this with no strings attached, you really are hindering him in his development and that will eventually kill his self-esteem. At some point he is going to realize that many of his buddies have moved on with life, he doesn’t have anyone to party with (except guys five years younger than he), and he feels isolated and like a failure. So, don’t let him do it! Even if mom wants him to keep being her "baby" you must step in as his father. If you’re going to allow him to move home, and that is fine, then you need to make sure he is given responsibilities and held to them. You may need to help him make that adjustment which, again, eats into your parenting "retirement" (as if that exists) but if he really is still that immature and irresponsible then you and your wife need to equip him with the skills he will need for life.
Here are some suggestions, dads, for helping your sons that move home in their young adulthood:
1. Show them grace. If they failed, they already know it. You don’t need to rub it in for your own ego. In fact, this is the time to put your arm around them and say, "we all have to go through this son, but we’re going to go through it together." And, you can’t be giggling when you say this. You need to really mean it.
2. Take the initiative. I know this is not easy for some of us men out there. We aren’t as comfortable in relationships as we are in mowing our lawn or excelling at work. But, your son is not usually going to be wise enough or courageous enough to reach out to you. You need to be the leader.
3. Set Clear and Healthy Boundaries. Don’t let them think that it’s going to be like it was when they were twelve, with them doing very little and mom and dad doing most everything. Before they ever move in, you and your wife need to unite on what you want your home to look like and then you need to clearly communicate that to your son. Be fair but be strong and consistent on the boundaries you pick. If you don’t want any drinking in the house, you must set that boundary and set clear consequences. Then, you must follow through. If you don’t want him to have girls spend the night, tell him ahead of time. If he will have chores and responsibilities, let him know. But remember to pick your battles. Make sure your boundaries are very important to you because you MUST stick with them.
4. Assist your son in finding his niche in life. Your son may have no clue about what he should do in his life. Don’t be a nag or pushy but come alongside of him and help him find the role he was meant to play. There are many resources to help young men determine their strengths and interests. If you don’t feel qualified, take him to a counselor that deals with this issue. Yes, it costs money but it might lead you to the convertible that much quicker.
5. Spend time with him. He is in young adulthood so you have more you can do together. He is old enough and big enough to do the things you do. Take him golfing, fishing, or to play pool. Introduce him to the world of male adulthood. He needs help in that adjustment. Masculinity is not taught. It is bestowed. By the way, don’t forget to do the things HE wants to do as well. This is a great chance to REALLY know your son and go to deeper levels with him.
Men, our sons need us, especially if they have felt so inadequate and fearful that they have moved home after striving for independence in their teen years. You’ve raised him. Now, it’s time to usher him to being a man. Don’t miss your chance.


About the Author: Aaron Welch is a Licensed Mental Health Counselor who has devoted his life to reaching out and helping people to grow and mature through difficult life situations. Whether it has been through clinical counseling, pastoral ministry, youth camps and conventions, public speaking, leadership training, educational instruction, athletic coaching or small group ministry, Aaron has more than eighteen years of experience in assisting people through life struggles and personal growth. His genuine love for people and his outgoing personality combine to create a safe and caring environment for people to put the pieces of life back together

The LifeWorks Group, Inc.
1850 Lee Rd. Suite 250, Winter Park, FL 32789
407-647-7005, www.LifeWorksGroup.org

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