Helping young adults succeed in work, relationships and life.
Are You a Parent of a ‘Failing to Launch’ Young Adult?
Do you have a 20-something son who spends more time at home playing video games or watching TV and perhaps smoking weed than on their studies or looking for work?
Does your young adult daughter feel too anxious to be with others at school or spend time networking to find work and spends too much time on her own surfing the ’net or listening to YouTube music videos?
Is your young adult disrespectful, lazy and become aggressive when asked by you to do something that seems fairly reasonable to you?
Does your 20-something keep failing courses at college or university and then drop out or drop courses just in time to avoid getting an F or financial penalty? Have they become skilled at convincing you to support them to try again, by promising to do better next time and then just presses repeat?
Are they unable to get a job and keep it once they have obtained it?
Do you think they may be experiencing depression, anxiety or some other mood disorder?
Do they have the additional challenges of a Learning Disability, ADHD, or poor work habits to meet the expectations of college or university for independent self-directed study?
Do they have an exaggerated sense of self-importance and seem to require excessive admiration and unrealistic expectations of their future based on their past track record?
Were you a generous parent as they were growing up, , maybe even indulging them, because you grew up wanting better for them? And now, do you resent them for being so ungrateful and feeling so entitled?
Are you as a parent, at your wits end, tired of nagging, having exhausted every idea you have to motivate them to engage in activities such as school or work?
If you said yes to any of these questions, then we know how really tough this can be on you and your family. It is not easy to be a parent of a 20-something who is not making progress. You have worked hard to raise them, and now you may feel like somehow you have failed. That is not how you thought it would be at this stage you your child’s life.
Are You a Teen or Young Adult Feeling Stuck?
- Are you at a point in your life when you feel nothing matters?
- Maybe you feel unclear about what to do and your future.
- Perhaps you are feeling more and more anxiety in social situations and you are avoiding things you used to enjoy?
- Are you bored filling time surfing the web or playing video games?
- Do you find yourself withdrawing and isolating more and more from friends?
- You may be smoking a lot of weed or drinking excessively.
- You are angry at yourself and confused about where you went wrong.
- Feeling frustrated and misunderstood by your parents.
What do we mean by ‘Failure to Launch’?
- Difficulties completing university or college, consistent failing grades and dropping out or dropping courses
- Disinterest in getting a job, trouble keeping a job
- Lost about what they want to do ‘when they grow up’
- Moody: depressed, anxious or angry
- May have learning challenges: Learning Disability, Attention Deficit Hyperactive Disorder (ADHD) or Asperger’s Syndrome
- Sense of entitlement, self-absorbed, and unrealistic ideas about self
- Few solid friendships (many have moved on with their lives)
- Excessive alcohol or drug use or video gaming
What Are the Struggles and Developmental Tasks of Young Adulthood?
The 20’s are a decade of intense change and exploration that could impact many aspects of their life moving forward. These are the developmental challenges that all young adults must face.
Their Developing Body and Sexual Identity
- Becoming comfortable with their physical sense of self, and accepting their physique.
- Adjusting to their sexually mature body and feelings about it.
- Achieving a clear sexual identity: heterosexual masculine, feminine, homosexual, bi-sexual or transgendered or not identifying with any gender.
Their Developing Brains and Minds
- Applying abstract and critical thinking skills to all aspects of their life and developing and increased curiosity for the unknown
- By 6 years of age, we have 95% of the size of our brain, but it continues to develop in the teen years and into the mid-20s. The front part of the brain, responsible for functions such as complex reasoning, problem-solving, thinking ahead, prioritizing, long-term planning, self-evaluation and regulation of emotion, begins to develop in early adolescence with a final developmental push starting at age 16 or 17. It is not that these tasks cannot be done before young adulthood, but rather that it takes more effort and requires practice.
Their Developing Emotions
- Accurately identifying their emotions such as anxiety, anger, sadness and shame
- Regulating or managing their emotions especially when disappointments in school, job, and relationships occur.
- Emerging confidence and self-esteem helps take on new unfamiliar challenges
- Developing will power, self-discipline, determination, ambition, and accountability to self and others
- Accurate empathy with others recognizing the experience of others as distinct from their own.
Their Developing Ability to Create Meaningful / Purposeful Activities
- Setting academic and recreational goals that are focussed and achievable
- Committing to and following through a plan that will help reach their stated goals
- Creating a healthy lifestyle that integrates pleasure and health in a way that will facilitate the achievement of their goals
- Revising and maintaining realistic goals based on successes and failures of all activities
- Seeing the connection between school/work activities are doing now is to purposeful and meaningful tasks to meet those goals of your future.
Their Developing Values and Beliefs
- Defining a personal sense of identity – who they are and what they hold as important
- Acquiring a set of values and an ethical system as a guide to behavior.
- Desiring and achieving socially responsible behavior
Their Parents and their Developing Sense of Identity and Belonging
- Achieving emotional separateness from their parents
- Working toward or achieving economic independence from parents and other adults.
- Relationship with parents changes to becomes more adult-like and egalitarian
Their Peers and their Developing Sense of Identity and Belonging
- Achieving new and more mature relationships with others in their age group and expanding beyond it.
- Developing stable and productive peer relationships
Their Romantic Relationship and Developing Sense of Identity and Belonging
- Learning about themselves and what they need in a healthy close relationship through positive and negative dating relationships
- May be preparing for a life-long relationship, marriage and family life.
Their Education and Career and Sense of Identity and Belonging
- Preparing for employment or a career through education and employment apprenticeship.
- Meeting demands of increasing responsibilities
This list above could be a checklist for you to identify where your young adult is succeeding, delayed or failing.
These are the challenges of young adults to successfully become independent. Accomplishing these developmental steps that are needed to develop age appropriate autonomy. College and university studies completion, ability to get or keep a job and having good romantic, peer and family relationships are signs of success.
Are Any of these Factors Delaying Successful Launching?
The successful achievement of developmental tasks, and whether they happen at all, vary profoundly from person to person. Many factors play a role, including the following.
Learning disabilities, ADHD, or Asperger’s are factors in challenging developmental progress. The match between the learning style of the young adult and the educational approach of their learning environment is critically important.
- Illness and Mood Disorders
Any serious illness can create delays in healthy development. The high rates of depression and other mood disorders among young adults are of particular concern. The temperament people are born such as extreme shyness affects the degree of openness to experiences that facilitate developmental progress.
- Substance Abuse
Growing evidence points to the serious impact of chronic substance abuse on young adult development. Recent research is demonstrating ways in which alcohol and other drugs affect the developing brain. Dependence and abuse of drugs and alcohol interfere with achieving the typical developmental tasks of early adulthood.
- Race, Ethnicity, Sexual Identity
Anything that adds to challenges around identity can make the developmental tasks of young adulthood more difficult, including challenges associated with belonging to an oppressed, victimized, or stigmatized group within society.
- Parenting Style
Parents vary in the extent to which they provide opportunities for young adults to receive the support and the challenges that foster positive development. Sometimes parents unintentionally inhibit the development of independence by providing too much for the young adult, by removing potential challenges so that success is guaranteed. Sometimes parents allow their own needs to interfere with the needed growth of the young adult.
- Cultural Differences:
There are differences in beliefs about young adult development across cultures. In some cultures there is more emphasis on interdependence and inter-connections than those societies that emphasize individuality and independence. For example Italians, Spaniards, Asians and tend to have their young adult offspring remain at home longer.
- Abuse, Neglect and Trauma
Traumatic events, such as physical, sexual or emotional abuse, neglect and exposure to violence, take a costly toll. Young adults with a history of trauma are vulnerable to getting “stuck” developmentally, or to growing more slowly and/or unevenly than otherwise.
A Successful Launch
Ryan went away to university for first year and by November had stopped going to class and was failing all his courses. He had been having a great time partying, indulging his weed habit daily and drinking to the extent of passing out often. He loved the freedom of being away, but was not used to the level of self-discipline and being organized that was expected of him. His parents were shocked and very upset when they learned at Christmas what had happened. While he had been an average student in high school, they thought he would do better than this in his first term of post-secondary studies. He was so eager to go despite his parents’ uncertainty.
Ryan promised to do better the following term. Despite past experience of broken promises, his parents paid his second term tuition and hoped things would improve. Ryan ended up failing his second term, as well.
When he was back home for the summer, his parents could not get Ryan to co-operate with them in cleaning his room or join them for dinner. They considered him entitled, unmotivated and lazy. It was a real struggle for them to get him to come to appointments with them to try to get help for him.
Ryan said he thought he had ADD, but test results did not indicate this. His challenges were behavioural and emotional. He had low self-esteem and was engaging in excessive drug and alcohol use. He was lost.
Ryan and his parents need help and we can help by providing:
- assessment of Ryan’s interests and aptitude
- assessment and counselling for Ryan’s emotional issues to help him overcome what is holding him back
- assessment of the extent of substance use and abuse
- family therapy to establish realistic expectations and consequences
- parent support and direction to learn how to deal with Ryan more effectively
- coaching on organization and study skills and employment preparation skills
It was found during the course of assessment of Ryan’s interests and aptitude that he enjoyed the carpentry work that he and his father did together at the cottage – building docks and ongoing repair and maintenance. In fact, Ryan was very good at construction work and had an interest in considering this trade. His parents were both university educated and had professional degrees. Their expectations for Ryan to be a university graduate needed to be adjusted. Ryan’s motivation needed to be understood.
In counseling, Ryan disclosed that during frosh week at university, after a late night of heavy drinking he had was physically assaulted and had his wallet stolen. He was too ashamed to tell his parents. He was having some PTSD symptoms and had turned to drinking to deal with them.
With a better understanding of Ryan’s emotional issues and his aptitude, his parents became more empathic and supportive. Respect between all family members increased. Ryan was more open and honest and felt he could ask for help from his parents now.
Ryan’s desire for his own success led to a recognition that he would rather be working with his hands creating than working in an office. Over the summer, he worked long and hard hours for a landscape company. Ryan enrolled in a college in a Construction Trades Techniques apprenticeship course that September. Study skills coaching was arranged while he was at college to prevent a repeat of what happened with his university experience.
Reduction in his alcohol and drug use was achieved. His engagement in work and study activities that he enjoyed seemed to help him feel better about himself and reduced his focus on substances.
The Defining Decade for the Emerging Adult
Our 20’s and early 30’s is a time when some of the most important and determinant choices of life are made. These decisions that can affect the rest of our lives. These include choices about education, employment and relationships.
Studies of successful people reflecting on their lives point to their 20’s as the pivotal time in which they made the most important decisions of their lives. This decade is when we make our most consequential choices that can define what lies ahead: career plans, where to live and our life partner.
The 2011 Canadian Census of Population showed that 42.3% of young adults aged 20-29 lived in the parental home. The reason for this was either because they never left the home or because they returned home after living elsewhere to pursue their post-secondary studies. This proportion of young adults living in their parental home has remained stable for the past decade.
However, this figure is significantly higher than it was in preceding decades. Only 32.1% of this cohort were still living at home in 1991 and the figure drops to 26.9% in 1981.
Additionally, the proportion of 25-29 year old young adults who live at home has more than doubled in the past three decades: from 10% in 1981 to 26% in 2011. Young adults may live with their parents as a source of emotional or financial support. More specifically, possible reasons young adults in their twenties remain in or return to the parental home include; not being part of a couple (which may be the result of relationship breakdown), cultural norms, cost of housing, pursuit of higher education or difficulty finding employment.
While this arrangement is generally perceived to be more beneficial to the younger generation, exchanges of support occur in both directions for some young adults and their parents. For instance some adult children who are ready to launch often contribute to the household in various ways including cleaning, repairs, snow shovelling, garden work, cooking and providing companionship or health care support for a grandparent.
Despite this trend of extended time living with their parents, it is important not to ignore the purpose and productivity of those who remain at home.
Our kids who struggle to launch usually do not contribute much to their parent households or do so begrudgingly. They are also not able to make the decisions that define what lies ahead: career plans, where to live, and a life partner easily or on their own. When they try and fail, they feel defeated and can stop trying altogether.
Smart Launch Services is dedicated to help parents and their struggling 20-somethings to believe in themselves.
We can help young men and women and their parents with a smart launch to success
Young adults will learn to navigate this important stage of life successfully. Our therapists are guides to help them learn how to see opportunities where they may see only barriers, and to read the “map” in a way that will remove the obstacles and address the challenges successfully.
We provide services that address a wide range of issues. Counselling, therapy and coaching for personal, learning, relationship and employment issues.
What You Can Expect from Smart Launch Services:
Most parents contact Smart Launch Services when the issues have escalated to an unbearable point and they feel exhausted to solve the problems on their own. Often issues have been developing for years without success or resolution. Some family members are more interested in getting help than others. Many young adults come to counselling reluctantly. We are very skilled at engaging the reluctant.
We provide a respectful and non-judgemental forum for expressing feelings, repairing misunderstandings and learning to renew healthy relationships. Weekly appointments are often necessary at the outset to help you and your young adult make immediate changes, prevent deterioration and generate hope.
Some parents come for a just a few sessions to consult with us and others come with their son or daughter for six months to a year or more.
- Counselling the Young Adult– to establish goals and direction, deal with obstacles such as drug use and address mood issues
- Parent/Family Counselling – Focus on understanding young adults’ readiness to change, establishment of realistic expectations and consequences, and promoting consistent messages and actions to facilitate success.
- Coaching the Young Adult – social skills, emotional intelligence, job interview skills.
Have more questions?
Book your FREE 15-minute telephone consultation.
1. When you book your phone consultation on our online appointment schedule, you will be called to explain a little bit about your situation so we know how we can help you. We will discuss if our services are right for you. We will discuss how the initial sessions will proceed.
2. First Parent and Young Adult Sessions.
We would like to see both parents and the young adult together for the initial sessions. If we can see everyone the same day it is usually for about two and a half hours. (We will work with you to organize the exact format on the phone before the first session).
Typically, we spend some of the time with all family members together, then one of us meets with parents while the other meets with the young adult. This allows parents to speak freely about the problems on their own without concern of hurting or upsetting their son or daughter. This also allows the young person to do the same. This process of separate and concurrent sessions helps us get to understand the issues, the family and each member more quickly.
For separated/divorced parents living in separate homes, we determine the best way to proceed on the phone before we meet. It is very important to that everyone consents to be involved.
Sometimes a young adult may refuse to attend at all and you may have to come without them. In this event, we will see parents and talk about how to help them cope with the young adult and if parents want them involved in the process, how to encourage them to come another time.
During the initial session, we will learn about the main concerns and will do everything we can to make it comfortable for each person to speak freely. We will also ask what the family hopes to accomplish by coming to see us.
This allows everyone to speak freely without concern about hurting or upsetting the other if said in front of them, yet is important for us to know, in order to understand what is going on in the family