You’ve been the source of endless encouragement, unyielding support and “the rock” for your loved one who seems to depend on you for everything-potentially even beating their addiction. Is there a grown adult in your life who leans on you to manage basic, everyday tasks that he or she should be handling independently? Are you always bombarded with requests for money and wondering why your loved one has so much trouble holding down a job or being on time?
If you said yes to these questions, then it’s likely that your loved one is experiencing failure-to launch syndrome that affects millions of young people between ages 18-34. Failure-to-launch syndrome is the term used by mental health professionals to describe the difficulties young people experience related to self-sufficiency, responsibilities, and adulthood. In a nutshell; Adults failing to launch are reliant on someone else to take care of them.
What Causes Failure-To-Launch Leading To Addiction
If your child experienced many learning or attention problems during formative years or adolescence that may spell trouble for him or her later in life. Not only do learning issues create challenges related to self-confidence and poor academic performance, but your loved one will also struggle to find a sense of purpose and passion that drives them forward into meaningful work later on.
Autism, Asperger’s and other developmental disorders can cause problems related to impulsivity, inattention, anxiety and social isolation. Many times students are bright, often possessing above average IQs or unique skills. During middle and high school years, some students can sit alone in class or at home and learn school material accurately enough to proceed to the next grade level.
At some point, usually after high school, students with learning disorders are unable to succeed with their studies; the content seems too challenging, and their particular learning needs present challenges beyond what standard learning environments can accommodate.
Additionally, for learning problems that extend past mild to moderate, young people often need specialized environments that teach students basic socialization and life skills.
Clingy or Co-dependent Caregivers
Wouldn’t it be nice if you had a guidebook, expertly written, and divided into perfectly tabbed sections to address every conceivable parenting question or problem?
Unfortunately, miracle handbooks don’t exist. You figure things out on the fly and hope that you made the best decision. It could be that while your intentions are good, your abounding support and constant inclination to jump in to solve your loved one’s problems are having a counterintuitive effect.
There’s a popular children's cartoon, Daniel Tiger’s Neighborhood, that sends powerful life lessons which resonate with people of all ages. In one episode, Daniel told his mother that he knocked over her favorite flower vase by mistake.
Daniel suggested buying her a new one, but instead, his mother responded in song, and the catchy phrase echoed throughout the rest of the show to leave a valuable message:
“It's okay to make mistakes. Try to fix them and learn from them too.”
Learn how to let your child (no matter what age) solve problems without your help. As a caregiver or parent, you want to shield the people you love the most from harm. You may not even realize that your clinging on too tightly, and not allowing opportunities for him or her to become more resilient and assertive.
For grown children too dependent on you, stop being their maid, answering service, personal chef, wake up call and ATM Machine.
Let your thirty-year-old son oversleep again and lose his job because he was late for the last time. Then, let him iron his own shirt for the next job interview and tell them that he’s responsible for making it there on time.
Detaching from him to let him find his own might feel scary and you might think you're being a bad parent. However, if you let him fall down, and are not there to pick him back up, he will learn how to make it through life more independently.
A third reason why young adults struggle to meet their potential is due to addictions to drugs and alcohol. Often co-occurring mental health disorders such as depression and mood disorders further impede one’s ability to be self-reliant. Young people turn to drugs and alcohol at an alarmingly young age and it’s common for children in their pre-teens or younger to dabble with illicit substances.
When drug abuse and misuse occurs, your child’s emotional maturity comes to a grinding halt. While she may be twenty-three years old, if she became addicted to heroin at age 17, then she’s likely still functioning like a teenager if she just got sober.
When a young adult is actively drinking alcohol or using drugs, often they will develop self-destructive patterns of thoughts, feelings, and behaviors. They just can’t cope with minor setbacks the same way as their well-adapted and resilient peers can.
They have failed to launch into adulthood; and despite their best efforts, are routinely late, have poor insight and judgment and fail to accomplish routine tasks such as paying bills and maintaining an apartment.
Young adults with substance abuse need an inpatient drug rehab that provides a safe environment to sober up and get healthy. Only with sobriety can your loved one begin to examine the barriers preventing him from living life with self-sufficiency, determination, and confidence.
I Think My Loved One Has Failed-To-Launch. Now What Do I Do?
Congratulations. You're doing it right now!
Education is essential for caregivers of young adults who have failed to launch into adulthood. The same way your son or daughter is learning how to be independent from you; you must also learn to be less preoccupied with how they're doing, or how you can “fix it.”
Let them find their own way.
Will there be tears from your twenty-four-year-old when you tell her that she has to find her car keys (alone) that she’s lost for the fifth time this week? Absolutely. Will your thirty-four-year-old son call you “unsupportive” when you tell him that he needs to start paying rent? Probably so.
It may sound harsh, but you need to tell your grown child to “stop talking and make it happen.”
You can be empathic and supportive without allowing him to be overly dependent on you. Set some ground rules and expectations, and follow through with them. If you notice that your loved one has forgotten to pay his car note, allow the natural consequences to unfold. A hefty late charge (that you are unwilling to pay) might serve as a stiff reminder that bills have to be paid on time.
Above all, learn and move forward together.
Your family members will benefit from group therapy to increase awareness of the obstacles preventing your loved one from becoming more independent. You will gain knowledge about why you may be an enabler, and how you can let go of the need to control every aspect of your grown child’s life.
If substance abuse is part of the problem, address it now, not later!
Focus on getting your loved one into rehab first, and tackle the attachment and failure-to-launch issues second.
If you or someone you care about is experiencing a drug or alcohol addiction, they're not alone. One in five Americans will experience a substance abuse problem in their lifetime. Landmark Recovery helps people struggling with substance abuse disorders develop confidence and sobriety tools so that can live successful, balanced and happy lives. Call us today to speak to speak to one of our knowledgeable admissions consultants. Let’s do this together! Get sober now.