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Failure to Launch Syndrome Symptoms: What to Look For

Failure to launch describes a situation in which an adult child does not become independent from their parents and live as a fully functioning adult. While most children grow up to move out on their own, attend school and/or begin a career, some seem unmotivated to make that move. If you are concerned this may be your child, read our failure to launch syndrome symptoms. 

How to Tell if Your Child Has a Failure to Launch

During the pandemic, many families hunkered down in one home, with more than one generation living together for health or financial reasons. COVID also made it difficult for many adult children to go ahead with plans to move out or leave for college. Outside of those situations, many adult children either seemingly have no interest in leaving the nest or they did leave, only to return home with no viable plan to move back out.

Parents may wonder what failure to launch syndrome symptoms look like. We’ve compiled a list of symptoms that may indicate a child has developed a failure to launch. These symptoms include: 

  • Does not attend college or other schooling
  • Unemployed or underemployed
  • Expresses no desire to move out or become independent
  • Expects to be taken care of for the foreseeable future
  • Does not accept responsibility for household chores or paying bills
  • Does not make plans for the future
  • Relies on vague plans like becoming an internet star or making money with a start-up business they cannot afford
  • Lacks motivation or goals
  • Becomes hostile when told they need to grow up and take responsibility

What Contributes to a Failure to Launch?

Identifying failure to launch syndrome symptoms may help a parent realize the issue at hand. But they likely wonder what caused their child to develop this syndrome. There isn’t one blanket answer that covers all situations. Sometimes, despite all the motivation and assistance, a child grows into an adult who won’t complete the growing-up process. They seem to resent the idea of “adulting” and resign themselves to staying in a perpetual dependent child phase.

Sometimes failure to launch stems from a childhood that deprived a child of having autonomous choices and adequate responsibilities. Sometimes “helicopter parenting” can clip a child’s wings before they have a chance to fly out of the family nest. Helicopter parenting involves parents who micromanage every aspect of their child’s life, including their education, jobs, and social lives. These kids become acclimated to someone else calling the shots and making choices for them. The lack of experience with adult responsibilities can make them fearful to grow up.

Sometimes, a child who experiences addiction may feel ill-equipped or unable to focus on moving into adult life. Addiction can diminish a person’s ability to think clearly, make sound financial decisions, and process their emotions in appropriate ways.

Many adult children who exhibit failure to launch syndrome symptoms suffer from mental health issues. These issue may or may not have been officially diagnosed. Some individuals with failure to launch syndrome may want to move into their own housing and become independent, but their mental illness makes them terrified to try it. Living with conditions like anxiety, depression, and trauma can overwhelm a young person to the point that they stick close to the home they know.

How To Help Your Child

If you have an adult child with failure to launch, there are different options for helping them become more independent. For example, sit down with them during a calm moment and explain to them that things are going to change. You can also let them know you love and care for them, but part of your job as a parent is to ensure they become independent adults who leave home excited for the future and able to thrive.

Tell your child that they cannot continue to live in the house without contributing. This may mean they get a job, enroll in school, or perform household chores. They may be expected to contribute financially, such as paying rent or paying for their own groceries, cell phone, and personal items. 

Most failure to launch kids will rebel, at least initially. It’s vital that parents or other heads of the household make it clear the child cannot negotiate or plead their way out of living like an adult. If you set a deadline, enforce it. When a child learns they must face consequences, it can be the impetus to making them take steps towards growing up.

If a parent has reached the end of their rope, it may be time for professional treatment. A licensed counselor can help evaluate any mental health or addiction issues, and help formulate a plan to address them. Many residential treatment facilities offer programs for failure to launch kids. When a child leaves home for treatment, it can open their eyes to how positive living independently can feel, and give their parents a much-needed break.

Failure to Launch Treatment in California

Riviera Recovery offers treatment for substance abuse, mental illness, and failure to launch for young adults. We provide modern, gender-specific sober living homes that assist individuals in becoming more independent and taking care of themselves. 
If you would like to talk about how to help your adult child with failure to launch syndrome, reach out to Riviera Recovery today.

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