Failure to Launch: Young Adult Children



What is "Failure to Launch" and what are the challenges of parenting an adult?

The U.S. Census reports that over one-third of young adults live at home with their parents (2017). There are numerous financial and social shifts that have contributed to the trend, and it has not been surprising to see increases in numbers of young adults continuing to live with their parents as an economic necessity since the financial crisis. However, mental health counselors are seeing an increasing pattern of young adults struggling to transition from adolescence into adulthood without significant financial and daily living support from their parents. These young adults may fail to complete college, choose a career, or maintain any employment. Parents are frustrated with their adult child’s apparent lack of motivation, unwillingness to work or pay their own bills, or failure to progress in higher education. Oftentimes, these young adults are just as frustrated as their parents, feeling stuck, incapable, anxious, and overwhelmed by the expectations of adulthood. This “failure to launch syndrome” is not a diagnosis nor a term that counselors particularly like, but it does describe the apparent difficulty of these young adults to successfully achieve important developmental milestones of early adulthood. What is contributing to this struggle? There are often a number of underlying issues that contribute to the struggle—low self-esteem, anxiety, depression, unresolved trauma, or substance abuse problems that inhibit their ability and confidence to become self-sufficient adults. Parents often exacerbate the situation by unintentionally enabling irresponsible or immature behaviors in an attempt to help, further preventing the young adult from growing into the responsible, independent adult they need to become. Read on for 6 tips for helping you navigate these unique challenges! Set House Rules and Boundaries “House rules” or appropriate boundaries for shared living with the young adult should be developed with the purpose of helping them learn the skills and responsibility needed for independence.The expectations for continued residence at home, as well as consequences for not following through, should be specific and clearly stated.Here are a few areas to consider in regard to living with your adult child and helping them develop into a successful adult:

Create Parameters for Work and School Employment or school attendance should be mandatory in order to continue living at home. If your young adult is not working or enrolled in school yet, give them a deadline to achieve this goal. Be specific in your agreement on how many work hours (or school credit hours) are acceptable to continue living at home.

Implement a Cost or Regular Contribution Develop an agreed upon monthly financial contribution to the household and be specific about what it covers. Your young adult child needs to be contributing a set amount for costs related to living at home. This may be a percentage of income, increases with time, or a flat rate.

Require Mental Health Support Mental health issues are almost always a factor for young adults struggling to successfully transition into adulthood. This time of life is a huge adjustment in the best of circumstances, and young adults often need assistance with goal setting, values exploration, low self-esteem, anxiety, or depression. Make them responsible for finding their own solutions with the help of a professional counselor.

Prioritize Communication Communicate clear expectations for family living in regard to household chores, rules about guests, and conduct.Spell out what is acceptable, be clear and specific.

FInd the Support YOU Need Get support for yourself. Parents often enable poor choices unintentionally with a “need to be needed”. It is sometimes difficult for parents to distinguish appropriate support from enabling. Seek out counseling for yourself to receive support and guidance on providing the right kind of help for your adult child.


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