How to Help Your Adult Child When They Are Failure to Launch

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When failure to launch happens to a young adult, most parents do not know how to handle it. They want their kids to feel the drive to live independent lives, but sometimes even repeated pushes to leave the nest do not succeed. This requires finding failure to launch syndrome help. 

What Is Failure to Launch Syndrome?

Failure to launch syndrome describes when young adults fail to move out of their family home and establish independent lives. Some leave their parental or primary caregiver’s home to attend college, work, or for another reason, but then return home. Others never leave the nest, seeming directionless and uninterested in living on their own.

During childhood, certain stages of launching or spreading their wings happen for most kids. It may start with the first time a parent leaves their child in the care of a babysitter or family member or the first day of school. Other events can include moving from one school to another, joining sports teams and other groups, and getting an afterschool job.

Parents have the authority to push their children into school phases, and a certain amount of influence to get them to achieve other levels of independence. Once the child becomes an adult, it gets trickier. Many parents try waiting their kids out, hoping they will eventually decide to make the full move to adulthood. Others feel trepidation at pushing their child, afraid it may damage their relationship. 

Some parents aren’t sure if their child has become a failure to launch. Signs to look out for include:

  • Unemployed or underemployed
  • Not attending school 
  • Not motivated or ambitious
  • No plans for a different future
  • Uninterested in moving out of the family home
  • The assumption that they will always be taken care of by family
  • Refuses to take responsibility
  • Doesn’t follow through on plans or projects
  • Procrastinates accomplishing meaningful goals
  • Verbally abusive to parents who try to push them out of the nest

What Causes Failure to Launch?

Parents looking for failure to launch syndrome help may wonder how the syndrome happened. It may occur because an adult child has experienced something that emotionally or physically impacted them. It may be a physical or sexual assault or other types of trauma. Some children have trouble adjusting to being away at college, often finding the experience not living up to their expectations, and retreat to the familiarity of home. 

Pre-pandemic, almost half of adults from age 18-29 lived with a parent. COVID-19 drove many families to live together in order to protect their health and address economic hardships. For some of these adult children, moving out may seem more intimidating than ever. 

Helicopter parenting can bring on failure to launch by teaching a child that someone else will always take the lead in running their lives. Parents who overly involve themselves in their children’s lives when they are young may end up taking away the child’s ability to learn to become independent. The parent may believe they are making life easier for their kids, but actually are providing a roadblock that stops a child from learning confidence and valuable life experience they will need once they turn 18. 

For many people, no real cause of failure to launch can be found. They lack the desire to move into their own place and be financially responsible for themselves. The longer this lifestyle of dependence on others goes on, the harder it is for them to shift their focus and take on the challenge of fully growing up.

Addiction and Mental Health May Be a Factor

Individuals dealing with a failure to launch may be struggling with an addiction to drugs or alcohol. They may feel they aren’t steady enough to live independently or they want to spend most of any income they have on drugs or alcohol. Failure to launch children may also have one or more mental illnesses that may or may not be diagnosed. 

Both of these situations can contribute to a real fear of leaving home and becoming fully responsible for their lives. When addiction or mental health issues take center stage, it can make it difficult for young adults to conceive being able to fully take care of themselves. They may not have a real understanding of how to grocery shop and cook for themselves, prepare a budget, and pay bills. 

How to Help a Failure to Launch Child

Parents who need failure to launch syndrome help can start by having a serious conversation with their child and let them know that it’s time to begin living independently. Professional treatment programs can give a child a place to go and learn not only how to be responsible but be excited about it. Going to a residential program that treats failure to launch also gives parents a break from a stressful situation. 

Failure to launch treatment teaches young adults how to formulate a plan for an independent life and achieve it. They include therapy, educational, and career counseling. Children learn basic life skills and how to make a real break from their parents. This treatment also addresses any mental health diagnoses and addiction.

Failure to Launch Treatment in Los Angeles

If you have a child who demonstrates a failure to launch, Launch Centers can help. Our long-term programs provide talk therapy, life coaching, and family groups. We also treat addiction and mental health diagnoses.

Contact Launch Centers today and help your child prepare to become the independent adult they are meant to be. 

Our Team Members

Meet Our Clinical Team

  • Jess Beck, LCSW

    Clinical Director

  • Eric Chaghouri, MD


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    Chloe Kruskol, LCSW

    Family Program Manager

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    Chief Executive Officer

Our Testimonials

Clients and Professionals Share Their Experience

  • HO

    Launch provided care on multiple levels. The highly skilled therapist coupled with the focus on purpose and long-term goals refocused my recovery from what previous treatment centers pushed onto me. I went from believing that I needed years of treatment to believing I needed years happiness and success. I began to focus on what I wanted to accomplish with my life. I came to realize all the things my addiction and mental illness had taken from me, and I used my future goals as a reason to never pick up again. Due to the passion that Launch instilled in me, I have pursued my future with excitement and dedication.

  • Nicole

    This place changed my life! I’ve had good laughs, good cries, shared a lot of heart to heart moments and grew a loving bond with everyone at Launch Centers. I will always be grateful!!! I really do miss it time to time. I highly recommend Launch Centers!

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    The staff and clinicians are amazing and make you feel right at home from the second you walk in the door. I would absolutely recommend this place for a family member or close friend.


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