Harvard Graduate School of Education Logo

Give back to HGSE and support the next generation of passionate educators and innovative leaders.

Winter 2012

Books: Boomerang Kids

Boomerang KidsWithin modern society, high school graduation has come to symbolize the passage into adulthood. As graduates' tassles are shifted from one side of their caps to the other, they assume a more autonomous status and accept a heightened responsibility. But are they ready? In his latest book, Boomerang Kids, Carl Pickhardt, Ed.M.'66, argues that a single ceremony is hardly all it takes to complete a transition to adulthood and fully develop the skills needed for independent living. He claims that young adults aged 18 to 23 are actually in a final stage of adolescence, which he calls "trial independence." However, because this delicate stage is often overlooked, Pickhardt asserts that adolescents face a premature thrust into adulthood, which has consequently led to a rise in "boomerang kids" — graduates who falter on their own and return home to rely on their parents' support while they regain their footing.

In an attempt to help parents understand this increasing phenomenon, Pickhardt approaches the problem from two angles, analyzing frequent causes as well as potential solutions. After a brief introduction to trial independence, Pickhardt carefully guides readers and parents through 11 specific challenges — including broken relationships, roommate problems, substance use, and stress — that will potentially cause a child to boomerang home for recovery. Each chapter is devoted to a specific challenge and concludes with a "parenting prescription," or a brief outline summarizing specific actions to take and topics to discuss with adolescents when particular situations arise.

In this book, Pickhardt sheds new light on adolescent development and the importance of cultivating a corresponding parenting style. Drawing on his experiences counseling both parents and children, he is able to provide thorough, effective, and realistic solutions to common problems, allowing parents to gain a new understanding of how to properly support their children while still respecting their developing freedom. By addressing both causes and solutions for the boomerang phenomenon, Pickhardt provides insight with a dual purpose, making Boomerang Kids not only a guideline for intervention, but also a prescription for prevention.