MY GENERATION was called the baby boomers after the end of the Second World War. The current generation is known as the boomerangers.

Just when you thought you’d got rid of your children these lovely victims of high rents and ever higher house prices are back – a combination of Jaws, Halloween and Nightmare on Elm Street.

Research indicates that 37 per cent of children who have flown the nest are returning home, while 28 per cent say they need to save for a mortgage deposit, 16 per cent argue that their rent has become too high and 19 per cent simply want to enjoy home comforts.

The average parent has a big question to answer about the fact that they have already thrown out £285 worth of possessions before the boomerangers arrive.

The boomerangers also have questions to answer. One third of them bring home a van-load or more of additional “stuff” and 24 per cent arrive with a partner or kids or pets in tow.

The problem of stay-at-home students is getting bigger too because the average student can save a whopping £372.30 each month simply by staying under mum and dad’s roof, and yet 85 per cent of them pay nothing for the privilege.

These figures obscure two central questions. Are the kids financially irresponsible to find themselves in this position or is it the parents’ duty to teach economic self-reliance to their children?

I put these questions to a couple with six children. Sir Christopher and Lady Ball are former “Wardens” of Keble College. Well, Christopher was actually the head of the Oxford college, but Wendy was very ‘hands on’ so Keble probably got two for the price of one.

Christopher answered my question with a paradox. “Society wants to give more and more rights to younger and younger people, for example to lower the voting age to 16 and allow 16-year-olds to drink alcohol because they have a stake in the future and should be able to participate in some of the pleasures and privileges. Yet as they grow older they exhibit the behaviour of adolescence more and more.

“Most people will know a ‘kidult’, a Johnny who hasn’t grown up. He’s 25, 31 or even 40, not leaving home, not got a job. He has no income but he’s rich – because his mother and father are rich and the parents think that love means dishing out the dosh. When the parents of ‘poor little rich boys’ pay for their cars, computers, hi-fi or holidays, I tell them ‘I’m sorry but that’s the wrong currency; money is not the same as love’.”

Wendy took up the theme of ‘poor little rich boys’.

“There may be a gender imbalance in all this. We had two girls and by the time they were 20 they wanted to look after themselves,” she said.

Christopher tackled the case of their own children head on.

“If they dropped out of education and came home, we asked them to pay, wash their clothes and get a job. Wendy, you ran a tight ship.”

Wendy had a quick answer: “I ran a fair ship.

And it wasn’t long before the children decided to move on and get a job. We expect grown-up behaviour from someone who is grown up.

The duty of a parent is to motivate their children. Maybe it’s tough love but getting a lot of children nowadays to have motivation is difficult.”

Christopher explained: “We took a clear position on this and told the children – ‘We don’t care about the milestones of 18 or 21 or 25. If you are in education up to the age of 30 we will support you.

“But at the age of 30 we will go on a walk. We’ve always been good walkers in this family so the experience should be fun. We will start the walk as parent and child and end it as adult friends.

“This is a time to talk about all those things that need saying, about things that were not fair, things that left a scar or questions, things about whether I was a good father.

“With my oldest daughter we walked the Ridgeway and all the way down to Dorset. It took five days.

Oxford Mail:

  • Sir Christopher leads the Walk of the Wild side event in Wittenham in 2011

“With my second daughter we did the Pembrokeshire Coast Path walk. At the end she said ‘Wow, this is something I can put on my CV. I didn’t know I had this amount of strength and stamina. I didn’t know I could do such a walk’. That was great for her self-esteem and it was a bonus. I had not thought of that.

“With our eldest son we decided to walk through London from Paddington Station to Charing Cross through the parks and then have a slap-up meal.”

I asked Christopher what were some of the key questions he had to confront on those walks?

“The obvious one was – what kind of dad was I? The answer that kept coming back was that ‘You were a good enough dad’.

“I thought what more can you ask for a back-handed answer. I thought I was brilliant. ‘No dad, just good enough’.”

I asked Christopher if there was really a transition from child to friend during these walks. He said: “The girls were fairly bemused: ‘We’ve already done this transition earlier and you never noticed it’.”

Finally I wanted to know what he got out of these walks.

“Well, they were damn good walks and gave me an opportunity to get to know my kids better,” he said.

Wendy chimed in with a crisp comment: “Yes the walks were more for you than for them.”

Christopher replied: “Yes that’s probably true. They said to me ‘Dad you love rules and creating structures and putting a structure on family life.’ I thought that was fair. I probably did it to amuse myself.

“Also there was the germ of a good idea. We need, as a society to find healthy transitions to enable the young to reach maturity and economic self-sufficiency.

“I don’t think we’ve got them at the moment. What do you do when you are 21 and mark the age of maturity? You have a birthday bash. You spend lots of money and get drunk.

“This is no good way.”