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SALT LAKE CITY — College graduation is a bittersweet experience. Students work hard and count down the days until they’re finished with tests and papers, and then it’s over.
Years of fun experiences, living with your friends and having meaningful free time has ended. You have to become a real grown-up. But in a post-2008 world, being a grown-up means moving back into your childhood bedroom for a bit and becoming a boomerang adult.
Nowadays, more college graduates go home after college. In fact, a 2016 Pew Research study says 32 percent of 18- to 34-year-olds are living in their childhood bedrooms. As a parent, it can be hard to help your kid through this. Your recent college grad went from having all the fun and freedom to returning home to where they could feel dejected from damaged expectations.
Here are some tips on how to help your recent college graduate prepare for the real world.
Living at home
It can be awkward, but talk about money. Run your expenses and see if and where your child needs to help. Paying utilities, or maybe paying rent — now, or only after a certain amount of time — could help you both. A lot of people use Venmo to pay and ask for money, so this would be a useful tool to help with talking about money so you don’t have to keep nagging them.
Have clear communication about what you expect. Set some loose ground rules so you're not worrying about their whereabouts, but they also don’t feel like they’re 15 again. Do they need to be home by a certain time, or tell you their dinner plans? Finding the balance can be difficult, but you’ll all be happier if everyone is aware of the expectations.
Help them make their childhood bedroom feel less childhood-like. Take down the posters from when they were in high school, pack away the stuffed animals and get a new set of bedding. This will help them feel more mature in the space and ultimately more comfortable.
If they’re looking for a job, they should treat the search like their full-time job. Getting a whiteboard, new notebook or whatever stationery they need to help them keep track of the job hunt will be a kind gesture and will help them stay organized. Finding a job is hard, so finding the right amount of pressure will be key.
However, this approach doesn’t mean having a part-time job or internship shouldn’t be a priority. The job of their dreams may not just fall into their lap, so encourage them to build their resume while they look. Local places in their desired field may need interns, or a part-time job could help them feel positive about their working situation. Living at home is the ideal time for this.
Encourage them to have a plan. This could ultimately go awry, but if you see your boomerang adult sticking to sending out X number of applications, you’ll be more likely to forgive them for occasional detours into adolescent behavior. They are adults now, and you should treat them that way. On the other hand they just left college, so maybe sleeping in or staying up really late isn’t quite out of their system.
Offer help when needed in their search. If you hear of a position, let them know, offer to proofread their applications, or maybe buy them an interview outfit in your price range.
Keep in mind, the kid who moves back in with you is not the same person who left at 18. They’ve had a lot of life experiences — from parties to gross roommates to new boyfriends or girlfriends. They’ve read a lot more books (hopefully) and have a new idea of the world.
Once your boomerang kid moves out, you may still need to help them with a few things. Living in college dorms, in off-campus housing and at their childhood home offers some cushioning. They may not have experienced paying rent and utility bills like people not in college. So when they move out, there’s still some advice to give.
Do they need to keep their car? Do they need to get a car? If they’re used to having wheels, this may be a hard adjustment But if they don’t need a car and it’s only going to sit in your driveway, you may want to discuss selling it.
If they can choose, are they getting the best deal on their utilities, renters insurance, internet, and other services? Helping your kid find the best deals on utilities will help you both cope with the change. Most people in their 20s favor streaming apart from events like the Super Bowl or Oscars. You can buy Netflix gift cards in most grocery stores, and these could be a fun moving-in present.
Equally, pawning off the sofa in the basement or the silverware you don’t like anymore into their new home will help you declutter while feeling helpful.
While they’re gone, can you Airbnb their room? Not everyone will feel comfortable with this situation. But if you are fine with it, have the space and need a little extra cash, this is a great idea.
Boomeranging can be hard on both parents and their recent graduates. Hopefully, these tips will help you make the time easier, more productive and less stressful.