At home

Hotel of Mom and Dad: When the children don't want to move out

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Why are children taking ever longer to move out? What conflicts does this phenomenon cause in families? In an interview with psychologist Marco Giorgetta, he answers the most important questions concerning the Hotel of Mom and Dad and gives parents useful tips in handling stay-at-home offspring.

So why are young people leaving home at an ever later age?

Marco Giorgetta: I don't see any fundamental trend here. Until 50 years ago, young people generally lived at home until their mid-20s – until they got married. There are now bigger differences in the age at which they move out, and there is a variety of reasons for moving out. In the past, young people stayed with their parents for social reasons; today for financial and practical reasons. The much higher proportion of high school students certainly plays a major role, with many of them going on to study following their baccalaureate. 

To what extent does the aspiration toward higher education influence the Hotel of Mom and Dad phenomenon?

MG: Degree programs at university nowadays are a lot more intense than they were 25 years ago. Long-term degree programs permitting you to work and study at the same time and thereby earn your living barely exist any more. This means that students are financially dependent on their parents until they complete their studies. In addition, rents are high in the Swiss cities - which is where the Swiss universities are located. Hence, even high-income parents ask themselves: Why pay 500 francs or more for monthly rent when there's an empty room at home?

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    Marco Giorgetta

    Marco Giorgetta studied psychology at Zurich University and has trained as a Gestalt psychotherapist and child and youth psychotherapist. He has worked in psychiatric clinics and in forensics – and has had his own practice in Bülach since 2016.

    More about Marco Giorgetta

What advantages do young adults enjoy when they live at home?

MG: The reasons can be very diverse: the feeling of security, less pressure to earn money, simple convenience, or avoiding having a bad conscience. I have often observed the latter case when a child is left with just one parent due to the other parent moving out, dying or emigrating. In cases like this, the child stays at home in something like a partner replacement role. 

What are the consequences of the delayed departure from home for family life?

MG: What's decisive is whether the children live at home for longer due to their inner needs or for financial reasons. If living together is a mutual wish, there'll certainly be fewer problems. In so-called intact families such as these, a more mature culture of mutual understanding may develop: In such an environment of security and mutual respect, everyone feels good and the children's need to break free is less pronounced. Moreover, today's hierarchies are flatter. In the past, obedience was a requirement, but nowadays, discussion and negotiation take precedence. Bringing up children has therefore become much more difficult. 

"Many conflicts from living together arise due to the relationship still being based on the standard parent-child model and due to the young adults remaining financially dependent on their parents."

Marco Giorgetta

What conflicts are inevitable when parent and child live together?

MG: The parents discover more about the life of their adult child than they perhaps really want to (laughs). This can lead to conflicts, with the children wanting to distance themselves. Especially when children aged 16 are still being asked where they are going, with whom, and till what time. From my experience, I see that helping out in the house is often a major issue. Do the children wash their own clothes? Do they shop for the family? Or do they just sit back , knowing that: Mom'll handle it all. 

What do you recommend to parents in this situation?

MG: If young adults live with their parents, some sort of contract is needed. It should define the roles and the mutual expectations, like for roommates sharing an apartment. It can also make sense for the family to sit down together on occasion to clarify questions about living together. 

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    The stay-at-home generation

    Young Swiss are leaving home ever later in life. The Federal Statistical Office (BFS) has calculated that between 1990 and 2000, children left home on average between 21 and 22 years of age. Between 2010 and 2016, this had risen to 24 – 25 years of age. The main reason, according to the BFS, is the extended period of education. A cultural component also plays a role: In Ticino, young people live with their parents for longer than in the other Swiss cantons.

How can parents prepare their children for life's adventures?

MG: In the first instance, parents are role models. If they regularly show their children the exciting side of life and do things together, the young ones will develop curiosity for life – and this will later give them the urge to move away from home. I consider it important that parents convey a feeling of security and reliability: The children are then free to discover the world in the knowledge that they can return to the security of home at any time. It's also important that parents make it clear to their children what they expect from them and that these demands are met. The children should understand the consequences, which should be predictable – and not be applied one day and overlooked the next. 

What type of children are more likely to stay at home?

MG: I think that certain personality traits can underline the tendency for a child to stay at home. Young people who lack goals or are overly conformist or fear change and have little inclination to explore could find living at home more attractive than having to establish themselves in the big, wide world. In this connection, some parents need to get to grips with their own fears before they can grant their children the necessary freedom. 

"In order to free themselves and live independently, young people must come to terms with the world and find their place in society."

Marco Giorgetta

When does the time come to give your child a "push"?

MG: If living together with an adult child results in permanent conflict, my advice is to persuade the child to move out. Even if only the parent wants this. Parents really shouldn't feel guilty about this. Because now's the time that their adult child finally learns that their inappropriate behavior has consequences. 

Is there a right time or ideal age for a child to move out?

MG: In my view, there's no ideal time. It really depends on external circumstances – for example, once the child earns his or her own income – as well as the inner readiness of the children and the parents. I've experienced many parents who were happy that their children were living at home for a long time. This meant they didn't need to think too hard about their own situation or partnership. 

Individually insured in your first apartment away from home

Sooner or later, you'll want to move into your first apartment away from home, or together with a roommate. In order to protect yourself from the financial consequences of any damage or loss – whether you have an accident at home or cause damage to other people – you should take out personal liability and household contents insurance. If you've not yet accumulated all that many possessions, AXA now offers all-round supplementary coverage for your favorite items such as your smartphone, laptop, racing bike or surfboard. 

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