Do you think a situation when adult children won’t leave home is hopeless?
Well, my client lived with his mother until 32.
When I first met him, he gave me so many reasons not to move out that it seemed impossible.
And you know what?
Last month, he moved out.
Watch this video to see what made him change (or keep reading the article—it includes more details):
Adult child who needed to move out
I’m a Strategic Interventionist trained by Robbins Madanes.
With this client, I relied on the beautiful strategies taught in this training to help him move out.
My coaching client was a 32-year-old man who had lived at his parents’ home all his life, with his parents supporting him.
I’ll call him John.
He gave me permission to share his story so that others can learn how to deal with adult children living at home and what to do when they won’t move out.
First, there were three of them: his parents and him.
But then his father had died six years ago, so it was just John and his mother.
His mother was taking care of him, buying groceries, keeping the apartment tidy, doing laundry, and so on.
John worked from home and rarely went out.
Most of his friends lived in other cities and have families so he met them about once a month.
He never had a girlfriend.
He never finished college.
So there he was: a man in his thirties living with his mother, working from home, rarely going out, and not having a girlfriend.
Now let’s look at some reasons why adult children won’t leave home like he didn’t.
Reason 1: Certainty
John felt extremely comfortable living with his mother.
By living with her, he had been able to maintain his adolescent lifestyle, avoiding the pain of changing.
Of course, it would have been painful to move out at the age of 23 and change his lifestyle completely.
Start taking care of himself, get a job, find a girl, and become responsible for his life in general.
That would have been a lot of pain whereas living at home as an adult child seemed easy.
His mother took care of him in every possible respect which meant he didn’t have to do much.
He was able to work from home by being a professional poker player.
That was also a very comfortable thing to do because before that John had been living at home playing video games and now he could be still living at home as an adult child and playing “games.”
And he kept doing that for almost 10 years even though he soon realized that this line of work wasn’t sustainable.
No wonder he remained an adult child who won’t leave home: he got to keep a comfortable lifestyle that he had had for all his life.
Reason 2: Love
Another reason for living at home was the love that John got from his mother as an adult child.
In fact, he did try to go out and meet women but failed.
Once, he was close to making a girl like him.
But she got tired of his chasing and being needy and dumped him even before any relationship could begin.
He went through a lot of pain.
So he thought, “Okay, why would I need all this trouble when I get so much love from my mother?”
At the same time, a huge problem was that his mother wanted to keep him with her because she would otherwise feel very alone, especially after her husband’s death.
John felt responsible for her and wanted to give back the love he was getting from her.
So by having this love towards each other, they both contributed to the unhealthy situation.
Reason 3: Significance
Yet another reason that was holding him back was lack of significance.
That was a vicious circle.
He needed to feel significant like everyone does.
And he got a little bit of significance from his mother who told him he was the best child in the world.
But at the same time, she kept treating him as an adult child who won’t leave home.
Whereas feeling significant is very important for a man when it comes to relationships.
He didn’t feel worthy enough to find a girl.
He was thinking, “Why would a woman like someone like me who doesn’t have his life together?”
Which in turn kept him from moving out and making him feel even more insignificant.
Reason 4: Health
Another reason that held John back was his health problems.
He kept sitting in front of the computer, didn’t exercise much, and felt a lot of stress because of losing money in poker.
He developed fatigue, bad sight, back pain, and migraines.
It was like his comfortable environment wasn’t challenging him enough to be healthy.
Yet, this became another reason for living at home.
Now he didn’t want to get a job because he thought all these problems wouldn’t let him work outside of home.
For example, because of feeling tired constantly, he developed a habit of taking a nap for one or two hours during the day.
But he wouldn’t have been able to do that if he got a job.
Reason 5: Analysis paralysis
The final reason was how he brought himself into analysis paralysis.
In order to keep getting instant gratification, John kept coming up with logical reasons not to move out.
His main one was saving money.
Living with his mother was cheaper because he didn’t have to spend money to rent an apartment.
The other reason was how he thought of getting a job.
He was sure that there was a shortage of jobs and those that he could find didn’t pay good money.
He was right by the way because good jobs were not available to him: he had no marketable skills.
So whenever John thought about changing his lifestyle he would end up with this analysis paralysis.
“I kind of need to change but then I have so many reasons not to.”
So these are some common reasons why adult children like John won’t leave home.
Let’s now look at the steps for overcoming this.
Intervention step 1: Understand why adult children won’t leave home
When I took John on as a client, I started by talking to him to understand his situation.
I also talked to his mother to get a 360 degree perspective on the situation.
That was when I found out that his mother’s mother had had a son who had lived with her all his life and died in his fifties.
So John and his mother had these negative role models in their life.
Intervention step 2: Find a leverage
This was an important piece of information because I used it as leverage to motivate John to make changes.
So his uncle lived at home as an adult child with his mother all his life.
He never married and rarely went out of the house.
H lived an unhappy, unfulfilled life and died prematurely.
I explained to John that he and his mother were unconsciously living out this same pattern.
This is a very common thing, especially for women.
I also explained that whatever instant gratification he still felt would be replaced with regret soon:
- Because of declining health.
- Because of feeling unfulfilled.
- And because they would fight with his mother more often as he needed to vent.
Intervention step 3: Interrupt the pattern
As a life coach, I had to challenge the way John was thinking about his situation habitually.
I had to undermine his belief that it was okay to live this way.
To do that, I strategically made fun of things he considered so big.
I would say, “When was the last time you went to a grocery store? Do you know at least one in your neighborhood?”
I could be very mean with my language: “If you love your mother so much that you can’t leave her, why don’t you marry her? There is no law against that.”
But the most effective method that I used was how I showed him exactly what the future was going to look like.
I know someone who is an adult child in his forties, with his parents supporting him.
And his life is an unbelievable mess.
I literally took my client to meet that person so that he could see how pathetic he was living with his parents when you are over forty.
I also made him read Mr. Mercedes, a novel by Stephen King.
It’s about a guy who lived with his mother and went crazy as a result, becoming a serial killer.
When adult children won’t leave home, this book can give them a push they need to change.
Intervention step 4: Explain the problem in a way that it can be resolved
John was defining his problem in a way that it just couldn’t be solved.
His definition was:
I know it might be better for me to leave home but there are just too many disadvantages to leaving.
My definition was:
I’m not fulfilled now because I don’t fulfill my need for growth. How can I fulfill it despite the disadvantages?
When John started asking himself that question, he began seeing opportunities.
Intervention step 5: Create an image of a brighter future for children who won’t leave home
Next, we came up with images of his better future.
- Feeling less bored because he’ll be doing all sorts of new things.
- Creating a new career.
- Creating a relationship that he always wanted, thanks to feeling more significant.
- Maybe even starting a family.
- Improving his health, thanks to becoming more active.
- Creating a healthier relationship with his mother.
Intervention step 6: Program the new behavior
To make sure that he committed to his future, I made Jon visualize it.
I would say, “Tell me what your life will look like one year from now.”
And I made him tell me everything about it in as much detail as possible.
I would also push him.
I knew that he loved his 8-year-old nephew.
For example, he would take him out to play soccer and really enjoy it.
So when he visualized his future family, I would use that and say, “Tell me how you are playing with your son and how happy you both guys feel.”
And he felt really inspired.
Then I made him switch back to his old state and asked how it felt.
Then back to the new state.
He kept alternating between these two states.
And he saw how good the future felt and how was compelling it was.
I also made him anchor this state to a soccer ball.
When he went into the new state, I passed the ball to him.
So now he can go into that state whenever he looks at that ball.
Intervention step 7: Help find a higher purpose
John always felt this unfilled need for contribution.
He wanted to take his mother to travel the world.
He always wanted to help his friends when he saw that they were doing something wrong.
And in many cases, he did have good tips to share because he was very intelligent.
But he would withhold those tips as he had this fear they won’t listen to him because of so many problems in his own life.
He wanted to spend more time with his nephew and teach him skills.
But the nephew would tell him that he wasn’t an authority for him because he lived with his mother.
So John would avoid that.
He also realized that by overcoming this problem, he would be able to help others with the same problem.
We discussed this to make sure he remembered this higher purpose—his need for growth and contribution.
Get rich quick: Mindset that keeps your child at home
“Get rich quick” is a terrible mindset. But a lot of young people adopt it anyway because our culture teaches them it’s possible.
As a result, they keep trying different things all the time half-heartedly and stay broke.
Here’s an idea that you can teach them instead. Money is great but the process of making it is equally important.
“Get rich quick” means missing that process completely.
Would you want to eat cake quick? No. There’s pleasure in eating cake not just the pleasure of feeling full.
Would you watch a movie quick? No. There’s pleasure in watching movie not just the pleasure of the memory.
Would you want to get a wife quick? No. There’s pleasure in falling in love not just the pleasure of getting her to say yes.
Same with getting rich.
Find something you want to master. Enjoy the process of developing mastery. And then enjoy the money, too
John left his mother’s home and is now on his way to what looks like a great future.
If John did it, so can you or your child or your friend.
I totally believe this is possible.
If I had to recommend one thing to deal with adult children won’t leave home is to involve a professional life coach.
The problem is pretty complex.
If you try to resolve it as a parent supporting an adult child, you might create resistance and resentment in the person that would even worsen the problem.
Help your kids leave home
If you have adult children and need help figuring what to do when they won’t move out, check out my life coaching services.
Here’s a link for you to contact me.