Negotiating During Failure to Launch

The term "failure to launch" is something that is becoming an increasing problem in our society.  As a mother of young adults myself, this has become more in my awareness as I do my best to help my 19 year-old twin sons transition into adulthood.  Young adults enter into a new developmental stage requiring them to learn to have greater independence and responsibility, as well as learning the skills necessary for more independent activities and decision making.  When a child is unwilling or unable to make this life transition successfully, it can have a great emotional impact on both the child as well as the parents.  

When the child fails to meet the "normal" expectations of becoming an independent adult, complicating issues, such as relational stress, frustration, fear and conflict can be created in your relationship as a couple.  You and your partner may have a difference of opinions on what "independence" means, how much financial and emotional support you should provide to your child, and what limitations or boundaries are needed.  If you do not agree on these issues, it can increase conflict between partners.  To work through these issues, each partner will need to be aware of what you are each doing to perpetuate the problem (i.e., unwilling to detach from child, fear, loss of control, etc.).    

It is imperative that parents negotiate the terms of an adult child living in the household.  Some of these may include: financial contributions (room & board), chores, meals/cooking, use of car, and other miscellaneous expenses.  If you do not address these issues and seek solutions that will help your child learn responsibility and independence, you need to be aware that you are also responsible for your child's failure to launch.  One way to help parents is to provide the child with a contract of parental expectations, boundaries and consequences.  Once this has been done, the harder part for parents is enforcing the consequences of unmet expectations or commitments from the child, but this is absolutely essential!  If parents do not do this, they are inhibiting their child from experiencing the growth required to be successfully independent and will continue to perpetuate the problem.

Helping our children grow into independent young adults is difficult.  It is a huge life transition for both parents and children and can be very hard to navigate and let go, but it is necessary for the good of everyone involved.  Tomorrow, Natalie will be discussing the long term impact failure to launch has on your children.  Stay tuned!  

Written by guest author Emily Freeze, MPH, MA, LMFT

Emily Freeze, MPH, MA, LMFT is a Marriage and Family Therapist at New Beginnings Family Counseling in Provo, Utah. Emily enjoys doing individual counseling, couples counseling and family counseling. Emily specializes in women's issues, specifically maternal mental health and reproductive mental health.