Understanding Your Child’s Struggle With Failure to Launch

Published On: November 14, 2023Categories: Teen Mental Health

Failure to launch has become more well-known in recent years as a result of more and more young adults/adults (usually ages 18 up to 35 years) choosing to live with their parents. 

But failure to launch syndrome is more than just living at home. While not an actual diagnosis, it is a situation that may occur when a young adult fails to spread their wings and jump out of the nest. In other words, when they rely on the care of their parents and do not take the steps needed to become self-sufficient.

What is failure-to-launch syndrome?

Growing up is challenging and “adulting,” as pop culture refers to it, presents several difficulties to young and older adults alike. Responsibilities of finances, commitments to one’s social circles and demands at work can cause much stress. It’s something all adults face and not something many of us are allowed to hide from. 

Or so you might think. 

Contrarily, some adults struggle significantly with this level of self-sufficiency and rely on the care of their parents for much longer than is necessary. This is known as failure to launch when an adult child does not take the steps to take responsibility for their own life and instead relies on the care of their parents to do most of the work. 

Failure to launch syndrome is not living at home during a transitional stage, such as moving in for a brief period between one lease and another; nor is it accepting the help of one’s parents during particularly challenging times. 

Failure to launch is refusing to become self-sufficient and instead relying on the home, cooking and financial support of one’s parents for years into adulthood. 

What causes failure to launch?

Several reasons may be present to explain why an adult child is struggling with failure to launch. 

Helicopter parents

As unpleasant as the term may be, helicopter parenting – a parenting style that significantly inhibits growth in independence and self-sufficiency – is a common cause of failure to launch. Parents who tend to hover more and who want/have a stronger say in their children’s choices may have made their children feel inadequate or incapable of “launching.” 

By growing up in a home where everything needed to be “okayed” by a parent, these adult children may feel incredibly limited in their abilities to make choices independent of their parent’s thoughts, opinions or even presence. 

Personality traits 

Certain personalities are more prone to struggling with failure to launch. Those who struggle with trust or intimacy may find that adult relationships are intimidating and difficult, making them more prone to remain in the familiarity of their own home. 

Others may battle a lack of motivation, where they desire to move out, but cannot keep themselves accountable to doing so; they may set unrealistic goals, have no accountability in helping them meet goals of any kind and may overall have a lack of motivation to change. 

The result? Complacency and failure to launch. 

Mental health struggles

Battles with mental health conditions like anxiety, depression and OCD can worsen the already difficult transition of childhood into adulthood. Adults who struggle with social anxiety may find engaging in their community/work circles to be particularly challenging. Depression may cause a lack of motivation and OCD often leads to crippling overthinking.

When mental health struggles are the cause of failure to launch, it is important to seek out the guidance and care of a mental health professional to help young adults overcome this hurdle.

How is failure to launch treated?

Parents can help their adult children begin overcoming the struggles of failure to launch in various ways, including: 

  • Recommending lifestyle changes, including a sleep/wake routine, regular exercise and obtaining/maintaining a job
  • Requiring participation in the household, including making one’s meals for breakfast and lunch (and dinner if not a family event), household chores and possibly even paying some amount for rent or utilities 
  • Allowing them to go slow as they transition, but discouraging any displays of laziness or regression toward lack of motivation
  • Being empathetic towards challenges, but assuring them that growth happens in the difficulties 
  • Encouraging realistic goal setting and helping develop a plan on how these goals will be met 
  • Setting boundaries of what is and is not allowed, and what you expect from them if you are going to allow your children to live at home 

There is nothing wrong with your children living at home, and for many younger adults it has become a necessity due to the cost of living dramatically increasing. To prevent any kind of failure to launch, it is the role of the parent to still encourage facing adult responsibilities regularly.

Need additional help?

Whether you are a parent or an adult and need help addressing the difficulties of failure to launch, help is available. With a variety of treatment options, Tapestry Recovery can provide the right counseling for both parents and adult children in a failure-to-launch situation.

To learn more, contact us online or by calling 828-490-4032 today. 

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