My son's wasting his life and won't listen to me: what should I do?

Applying pressure will only make matters worse. You need to make him feel useful again, says Jeremy Bullmore

by Jeremy Bullmore
Last Updated: 25 Oct 2016

Q: My 35-year-old son quit his job as an investment banker in the City because he was burnt out. Three years on, he still hasn't found a new job and he's frittering away his money, despite having an astronomical mortgage. He won't take any advice from me (or his wife). How can I convince him that he needs to settle down?

Jeremy Bullmore says: The chances are that your son is just as unhappy as you are but is far too proud or too stubborn to admit it. Men in their mid-30s shouldn't be out of work - and they certainly shouldn't be taking advice from their parents. Any feeling he may have that you and his wife are ganging up against him is going to make him even more remote and obdurate. Trying to convince him that he needs to settle down is a bit like telling someone suffering from depression to pull themselves together.

I'd like to know more about his experience as an investment banker. You say he was burnt out. My guess is that he earned quite a lot of money doing a job he neither enjoyed nor respected - and went on doing it for longer than he should have done. He now, quite unnecessarily, feels a bit of a failure.

By far the best rehabilitation for him would be to find himself being useful. Don't try to bully or shame him into applying for jobs in which he has no natural interest. Instead, cast your mind over all your friends, relations and work colleagues and try to identify one or more who could do with a friendly helping hand. I'm not talking about a formal job; money probably shouldn't come into it.

If your son can begin to engage with someone else, and feel valued and appreciated, he'll get back on track. But it will take a little time.

Jeremy Bullmore is a former creative director and chairman of J Walter Thompson London. Email him your problems at editorial@managementtoday.com. Regrettably, no correspondence can be entered into.

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