I was at a conference when I heard a well known and respected Psychologist, Henry Cloud, tell a wonderful story. It was about a couple he had counseled. They were sick and tired of their 21 year-old son living with them. He didn't contribute financially or with any of the household chores. They wanted to know how they could fix their son's problem. Henry looked at them and said, "Your son doesn't have a problem. He has it made. YOU all have a problem!"
I loved this example. This week we are talking about failure to launch. We do understand that sometimes there are circumstances when kids do have to come back home. But when there is no plan for an exit and no boundaries for the kids in the meantime, it can create more than just frustration.
Here are some challenges it can create that you may not have thought through that could impact them in their future relationships:
Enabling: When there is no plan or boundaries, we enable our children to act irresponsibly. We are teaching them that it is ok to feel entitled to something without putting any skin in the game. We can inadvertently teaching them how to treat people in relationships. This enabling behavior sets them up to seek out other people who will enable them as well. All of us want our kids to find emotionally healthy people to be in relationships. So teaching them to let people enable them is not setting them up for that.
Encourages or teaches addictive behavior: Many people who struggle with addictions admit they struggle with justifying their behaviors, which ultimately led them to feel like a victim. If your child feels "powerless" over their situation, they may start feeling like or acting like a victim as well. No one wants to feel like a victim, so what will they do to get away from those uncomfortable feelings? Many will start using something to numb the pain. Their lack of purpose or meaning in life could be overwhelming to them, so they may use to avoid those feelings as well.
Codependency: When we enable our kids it also teaches them codependency. We have written several blogs on the topic if you want to know more about it. But in a nutshell, it is being dependent on another person to fulfill you or find who you are. Codependents get so wrapped up in other people's lives and problems that they forget who they are. The couple in the above example were so wrapped up in their son's "problem" that they couldn't see their own problem. This is how codependents can get. Enabling your children models to them to either be codependent on someone else (by enabling them) or to use someone who is codependent (by them enabling you). Again, these are unhealthy behaviors we don't want to model to our kids.
Hopefully, if you are struggling with a failure to launch kid, you will seek some guidance and help. Tough love is still love. Getting them out of the house can be done in a healthy, loving way. You just might need a little guidance in doing so.
Thank you for reading! Tomorrow Joleen will finish out the blog with more information.
Natalie Chandler, MA, LMHC LCAC is a therapist at Imagine Hope Counseling Group. Natalie enjoys doing marriage counseling, individual counseling, and couples counseling. We also specialize in family counseling, child, and adolescent counseling. Imagine Hope serves the Indianapolis area including the surrounding areas of Carmel, Fishers, Noblesville, Westfield, and Zionsville.