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What Loving Parents Should Do With Their Failure to Launch Adult Child


What Loving Parents Should Do With Their Failure to Launch Adult Child

Failure to launch is a complex and frustrating problem for young adults and their families. Sometimes known as Peter Pan syndrome, this phenomenon refers to adult children not making their necessary transition into adulthood.


Failure to launch affects everyone. The young adult often feels insecure and anxious about the situation. Parents often feel resentful and helpless about what they're supposed to do. And other siblings may become enmeshed or withdrawn from the dynamic.


If your child is struggling, here are some ways you can support them without enabling the problem:


Learn What's Really Going On

Mental illness often underlies failure to launch in young adults. Depression, anxiety, ADHD, eating disorders- these all represent challenging conditions that disrupt everyday functioning.

If your child hasn't already had a thorough medical and mental health evaluation, it's time to review these clinical issues.


While mental health issues may affect someone's ability to launch, many young adults are still capable of becoming more independent. For this reason, it's important that your child seeks appropriate treatment and manages their mental health symptoms.


As a parent, you may want to consider setting boundaries around your child's involvement in their mental health treatment. That may mean requiring that they participate in therapy or take their medication as prescribed if they want to continue living in the family home.


Discuss Realistic Expectations

Sometimes young adults experience failure to launch because they have grandiose expectations about success. They might look at people their age getting married or having well-paying careers or buying homes and feel like they can't compete. Instead of feeling motivated to start, they feel discouraged and give up altogether.


It's important for everyone in the home to have realistic expectations. Parents need to know that their child won't figure it all out overnight. But it's also important for young adults to know that life is full of hardships and experiencing failure is relatively normal.


Set and Maintain Firm Boundaries

If the home feels incredibly comfortable, there just may not be as much incentive for having an independent life. Most young adults don't want to be at home, but when their parents make it easy and cushy, those parameters feel much safer than navigating the real world.


Don't enable laziness or disrespect. At any given time, young adults living in your home need a plan for their future. If your child isn't doing anything constructive toward building their future, it's time for a serious conversation.


Make it clear that, to continue living with you, they need to get their footing. Only you can decide what footing really means, but for most parents, it means they secure employment, attend school, do chores around the home, and generally contribute to the family household.


If you aren't willing to set these boundaries, you might be dealing with failure to launch much longer than you'd like.


Embrace Natural Consequences

Highly-dependent adult children may lack the initiative to take charge of their own lives. That's why you must let go of the urge to fix, change, or control certain situations. When parents reinforce their child's own helplessness, the young person doesn't actually learn to take responsibility for their actions.


If you always rush in helping, they don't learn how to struggle. And even though it may feel painful to watch your child in pain, adults need to manage adult responsibilities.


All adults need to learn how to solve problems on their own. That means accepting they will make mistakes sometimes. Nobody builds self-efficacy or self-confidence when someone else does everything on their behalf.


So, if they don't make that doctor's appointment? It's on them. If they don't pay that important bill, it might get sent to collections. And if you want to bail them out? Pay attention to that urge, but don't act on it right away. The more you "solve" these young adult struggles, the more they rely on you for excessive emotional support.


Focus On Your Own Needs and Self-Care

It's so easy for loving parents to prioritize their child's well-being over their own. Even though the parent-child relationship is important, young adults are capable of using their own coping skills and being self-sufficient.


Make sure you prioritize having your own support system and your own life outside of what your child is doing. Self-care is not optional, and you need to carve time out for it.


You may also want to consider couples therapy if issues between your young adult child have impacted your relationship. Many parents feel stuck in their marriage due to what's happening with their children. If they aren't on the same page, they risk taking their hurt feelings out on one another.


Seek Professional Support

Therapy can help young people and their families come together to work through failure to launch syndrome. It's important that people feel empowered as they make necessary changes in their lives, and that applies to both you and your child.


If you're feeling stuck, we are here to help. We understand the roadblocks often affecting a young adult's ability to thrive. We also know how certain mental health issues impact independent living skills.


We are here to help your adult child obtain the skills needed to start living independently and thrive in the real world.


Contact us today to learn more about how we can help.




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