Psy.D., MFT, LPCC
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Do you have a child college-age or older who is having difficulty staying in school, keeping a job, having lasting relationships, handling money and/or responsibilities in general?
The adult-child has a sense of entitlement that is hard for parents to understand. Perhaps other children in the family have hit the normal pathways to adulthood and don’t seem to be similarly troubled.
Do you feel obligated to keep helping but feel that nothing is working or fear that to not help will result in your adult-child not being able to succeed in life?
This quandary, popularized by the movie, “Failure to Launch” is a painful process for families. (Unlike the movie, a beautiful actress isn’t coming to the rescue!) Often, the problems started in youth. There might have been difficulties with grades, often a diagnosis of ADHD, depression, or bipolar disorder. There was dabbling with drugs and/or alcohol. And yes, marijuana counts as a drug and can contribute significantly to arrested behavioral/emotional growth in a young person. If more serious mental disorders exist, they are likely to become diagnosable somewhere around the age of 18-25.
Common obstacles to young people on their path to independence include drug/alcohol problems, family problems and mental health issues.
The idea that the young-adult needs more protection for some reason (e.g. excusing a child for being in trouble with others frequently because dad left when he was young) creates another obstacle to launching. Over-compensation sends a message that, a.) the young adult deserves special favors or b.) they aren’t capable on their own.
Children need to find their own level of competence, especially once they reach adulthood, no matter what the cause of the non-launching is.
For parents, taking action is imperative. Taking action doesn’t mean taking over.
It means taking stock of what you’ve tried that isn’t working and deciding to NOT keep doing the same thing. If you’re the parent or caregiver of a non-launching young adult, counseling can help you move forward and hopefully open more doors for your adult-child.
I have conducted groups, written professional articles and advised parents on how to help their young adult successfully “launch.”
My work with “failure to launch” families includes individual sessions, providing resources for all concerned, and support groups for parents. These groups provide a confidential place to discuss what’s not worked along with space and hope to strategize what might.