If you have an adult son or daughter who is in trouble with alcohol or drugs, or is having trouble ‘growing up’, your family may be facing a problem frequently referred to as failure to launch. You may find yourself sleepless, preoccupied, or distracted, as worry and frustration mount. You have likely tried everything you can think of to create change — including heartfelt pleas, bargaining, logical entreaties, bribes, and threats. Chances are, if you are reading this, that none of these have worked.
Symptoms of Failure to Launch Syndrome
Your grown child, living at home, may seem stuck in adolescence — sleeping in, resisting requests to help around the house or even to take care of his own needs, expecting you to do his laundry, provide transportation, and prepare meals while he sleeps in. He or she may be having trouble finding or holding a job, and lacking funds, may expect you to dole out money. Depression may also seem to be part of the picture.
Family Strains Created by Adult Kids Living at Home
In a two-parent home, the stress created by a troubled grown child can cause tension between you and your spouse as frustration and a sense of helplessness increase. Additional family strains may arise when other family members express concern or offer critical ‘feedback’. If you are approaching retirement, you may be worried about your own future and the impact of a troubled offspring on your own financial security, as well as your peace of mind.
How to Manage Failure to Launch
While at times a formal intervention may be needed, often there are effective alternatives that are far less costly and more effective. A good starting point is to get a consultation from a family therapist skilled at helping parents explore possible leverage that they may not have considered, and ways to use that leverage to effectively set limits and create change. If substance abuse is part of the problem, the consultant should also have expertise in assessment and knowledge of a wide range of treatment resources.
A therapist who has had a track record of success helping parents intervene with their troubled adult offspring can help you turn your situation around — working with you to help your grown child achieve one or more goals. It may be that he or she assumes more adult behaviors in your home, taking on responsibility for self-care and participating more cooperatively in household activities. Or you may want him or her to modify their use of alcohol or drugs. Another goal may be that your grown child obtains employment and/or medical insurance. Finally, you may feel that a critical step is that he or she embarks on a program of treatment to address behavioral and psychological issues.
Your work with a therapist skilled in this work will help you understand your potential to impact your situation to achieve your goals. Equally important, the therapist will help you explore any impediments that may make it hard for you to move ahead, and ways to address these impediments to create the change that you desire.
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© 2018 Marsha Vannicelli