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Failure to Launch

A catchy little title for a growing problem for many adults in their 50's and beyond who find that they still have their adult children living with them, for varying reasons. We know that currently, one third of adults in the US between 18-34 still live with their parents, according to the Pew Research Center.

Of course, there are many factors involved here including a difficult economy, academic inflation (a job that used to require a Bachelor's degree now requires a Master's), mental illness, addiction, ill-health and a host of others, some of which are not the fault of the adult child.

But if you are one of these parents, it can be a source of constant stress with no end in sight.

One of the problems is that we're dealing with our kids and sometimes it can be difficult for some of us to have certain expectations and standards because we feel sorry for them. And while that might be understandable, is it helpful in the long run? Gradually, two things can happen--the first is you slide into enabling behavior and have been trained by your young adult that he or she doesn't have to be accountable otherwise they might get "upset" (and we certainly wouldn't want that, would we?) and secondly, your young adult may engage in what only can be described as "emotional hostage-taking," which means if you try to hold them accountable for getting on with their lives, then something bad might happen like they might have a tantrum, quit their job or at the extreme, may threaten to hurt themselves or even be suicidal.

Your first instinct may be that they should be in counseling but haven't you already gone that route, perhaps several times and they're still living at home? It may be more helpful if you're the one who seeks counseling on how to create change in this dead-locked drama.

By you learning what dynamics have developed over the years, you may now learn new approaches to your son or daughter in ways that are more effective and reduce the effects of enabling or of being held an emotional hostage. You can learn how not to feel subtly manipulated or be positioned into repeating the same behavior patterns which keep everyone in the family "stuck."

First you recognize what the patterns are.

Second, you can learn how to change them so that your young adult is faced with having to take more responsibility and start being more accountable for their choices and decisions.

Third, you and the other family members can learn how to set and maintain healthy boundaries and not cave in to the same old dynamics which keeps you in a state of anxiety.

And fourth, you can help launch your young adult into full adulthood from a state of protracted adolescence. This doesn't mean abandoning them or kicking them out onto the street--it means you learn how to foster and support their independence which in turn allows you to re-claim your own independence.

Otherwise, one day in the future, you both might end up in the same nursing home!

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