Failure to Launch

 In Family, Parenting

It seems innate that every adult generation seems to be looking over their shoulder at the young people following them, worried about how they will adapt to the adult world, speculating on areas of particular concern. In today’s age, fears seem to center around the impacts of technology and one’s ability to leave home and support themselves on their own.

Some children leave home without a problem and easily become successful in independent living, although for others it is not as easy. This inability for a young adult to transition into adulthood is what is commonly referred to as failure to launch syndrome. While this is not an official diagnosis by any means, or even thought to be an empowering term, the described lack of maturity in one’s child or their struggle with “adulting” can make any concerned parent frustrated and confused about how to help.

The transition to adulthood often involves going to college, getting a full-time job, finding independent housing, or stepping up to pay for more household expenses and rent. For some young people, these changes may cause regressive behavior. An example would be a young man who has finished his college degree but finds himself back at home may be having a difficult time transitioning to adulthood.

Not every incidence of a young adult returning to live at home is cause for concern. Rather it is a long-term dependency on parents, or other enabling parties, without sign of forward progress that warrants more in-depth exploration.

Some common symptoms of young adults may require intervention:

  • Poor work ethic or laziness
  • Poor emotional regulation
  • Lack of motivation
  • Easily abandons challenging but doable tasks
  • Low self-esteem and belief in their own abilities
  • High expectations of others, often relying on them for basic tasks
  • Lack of accountability for actions
  • Lack of vision or long-term goals
  • Lack of independent living skills

The failure to launch syndrome usually exhibits itself in young adults any time after high school graduation or even after obtaining a college degree.

Contributing factors

o   Parenting styles, family experiences and the parent-child relationship. Overprotective parents often unwittingly raise children without their own sense of autonomy. When a child does not face age-appropriate challenges during the different developmental stages, he misses out on an opportunity to develop confidence in himself and his abilities. Enabling parents who are eager to make their child’s life easy may cause her to become unhealthily attached to their provision.

o   Substance abuse often leads to individuals living unmanageable lives, littered with distractions and complications that lead to diminished financial, cognitive and emotional stability necessary to transition into adulthood.

o   Mental illnesses like depression, anxiety, ADHD or a traumatic experience can prevent a young adult from launching into adulthood. They may want to leave but their mental health hinders them.

Help for failure to launch syndrome

The severity of this syndrome is different for every young adult. Some may only need a few boundaries implemented at home while others may require more intense treatment.

You can help by:

  • First, avoiding ‘walking on eggshells” around them or trying to appease them by helping them avoid consequences of their behavior, as this is just enabling them further
  • Setting boundaries and responsibilities for as long as they’re living at home (e.g. contributing to household expenditures)
  • Allowing your child to take responsibility as is developmentally appropriate
  • Using encouragement in helping them learn problem-solving skills of their own
  • Creating a structure for your young adult to balance between staying busy and having down time
  • Considering whether therapy or a treatment program is right for your child depending on the severity of the situation

In the midst of trying to help your young adult, don’t forget to take care of yourself. Ask for help and support where you need it.

Our program at Launch Centers is designed specifically to help children like yours, who are struggling to move on to the next phase of life. Let us help guide your teen or young adult towards successful launch into adulthood, no matter the reason that is holding them back. Contact us today to learn how we can partner with you today to create a brighter future for your family tomorrow.

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