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Quills & Queues: The not-so-empty nest

Before some parents have had a chance to get comfy in their empty nest, their Millennial generation kids are back. As much as those parents love their children, the return can be both financially and emotionally stressful for everyone. In the book, “Whose Couch Is It Anyway? Moving Your Millenial,” authors Phyllis Goldberg and Rosemary Lichtman present five case studies of families in flux, illustrating issues that parents and adult children face, and how they deal with those issues.

Goldberg and Lichtman will give a presentation on their book and the “Boomerang Kids” generation from 4 to 5:30 p.m. Saturday, Sept. 19, at the Ashland Branch Library. Goldberg is a marriage and family therapist and Lichtman is a psychologist. Together, they bring 30 years of clinical experience, as well as a warm and thoughtful writing style. Their presentation will explore the stories in the book and offer ways to communicate across the generation gap, understanding when to be there for your child and when to let go.

As the largest generation in the U.S., Millenials are difficult to categorize. Descriptions range from entitled narcissists to idealists with a strong social conscience, and the authors are quick to point out that no one can sum up millions of individuals in a few sentences or even an entire book. “Indeed, now in their teens, twenties and thirties, they are still writing their narratives and defining their place,” write Goldberg and Lichtman. A lot of these young adults have taken a detour on their journey toward independence, prolonging a life stage the authors call “adultolesence.”

The authors cite a Pew Research Center study that found more than 20 million Millenials aged 18-34 are living with their parents. That is close to one-third of this generation, making it an all-time high in the U.S. It is not entirely their fault; the recession, skyrocketing college tuition and subsequent debt from student loans and a dearth of full-time jobs have made it increasingly difficult for young people to live on their own. Still, the return of the adult child is rarely expected.

Some parents embrace the return of their children, but do want the child to move on eventually. Other parents are not so enthusiastic, but let them return anyway, feeling they have no reasonable alternative. Either way, the unplanned reintegration of an adult child is a profound life change, one that can bring both joy and problems. The authors note that a major goal of parenting is to raise an independent and self-sufficient adult. So when the child fails to fulfill that expectation, parents may feel like a failure, or feel disappointment in the child.

“Whose Couch Is It Anyway,” takes care to explain that every family is different, but many share common threads that are woven throughout all five stories. “A child boomeranging back home,” they write, “can release a cascade of complicated emotions—anxiety, frustration, anger, happiness, ambivalence.”

The book focuses on beleaguered mothers trying to find balance in a stage of their lives most had imagined differently. Starting with whatever event leads the child to return home, Goldberg and Lichtman’s case studies discuss the mother’s coaching sessions with them and track the mother’s progress in resolving the issues around her boomerang child.

The authors’ work is positive and thoughtful, focusing on problem-solving strategies and strengthening relationships so that both parents and children can find the independence and freedom they need.

The Ashland Branch Library is at 410 Siskiyou Blvd. For more information, call the library at 541-774-6996 or visit www.jcls.org.

Reach Ashland freelance writer Angela Decker at decker4@gmail.com.