My adult son refuses to move out of our house. He has no interests, no girlfriend, and a part time job. My husband and I are frustrated but we don’t know what to do. He is also depressed, and we don’t want to push or threaten him.
A: Unfortunately, this is a common problem in our society today. Parents, just like you are wondering what to do. Here are some statistics:
Millennials (Age 18-33)
26% of the Millennial generation is married.
When they were the age that Millennials are now, 36% of Generation X, 48% of Baby Boomers and 65% of the members of the Silent Generation were married.
Half of Millennials (50%) now describe themselves as political independents
Three-in-ten (29%) say they are not affiliated with any religion. These are at or near the highest levels of political and religious disaffiliation recorded for any generation in the quarter-century that the Pew Research Center has been polling on these topics.
Millennials are “digital natives”—the only generation for which new technologies are not something they’ve had to adapt to. Not surprisingly, they are the most avid users.
Millennials are racially diverse. 43% of Millennial adults are non-white, the highest share of any generation. Half of newborns in America today are non-white, and the Census Bureau projects that the full U.S. population will be majority non-white sometime around 2043.
Parents looking for help may wonder how the syndrome happened. It may occur because an adult child has experienced something that emotionally or physically impacted them, such as be a physical or sexual assault. Some children have trouble adjusting to being away at college, often finding the experience not living up to their expectations and retreating to the familiarity of home.
Helicopter parenting can bring on failure to launch by teaching a child that someone else will always take the lead in running their lives. Parents who overly involve themselves in their children’s lives when they are young may end up taking away the child’s ability to learn to become independent. The parent may believe they are making life easier for their kids, but the truth is they are providing a roadblock that stops a child from learning confidence and valuable life experience they will need once they turn
For many people, no real cause of failure to launch can be found. They lack the desire to move into their own place and be financially responsible for themselves. The longer this lifestyle of dependence on others goes on, the harder it is for them to shift their focus and take on the challenge of fully growing up.
Failure to launch cases are mostly, but not all, young men. Numbers indicate the problem is increasing. Indeed, in 2014, over seven million American men ages 25-54 were neither working nor looking for work, up 25% from 10 years prior.
What to do?
Because this is a relatively new problem, there are various answers to the solution. I’ve gathered this list from a handful of experts that I respect, and I included biblical insight from what scripture says about people who are lazy. Not every child who refuses to work has a problem with laziness as the root reason, but some do. Especially if they were raised in a home without chores, expectations, boundaries, or the need to work to get a reward.
Apologize. Yes, that’s first. If your parenting has been lenient during the child’s lifetime you need to own the mistake. “Joshua, I want to apologize for not being the parent I should have been. I let you get away with stuff I shouldn’t have, and it was a huge mistake. The reason you are struggling now, is because I took the easy way out and I’m very sorry”.
Explain how this has changed your future ways of parenting. “Now that I recognize what I did wrong, I’m accountable to God and to you to do things differently. I’ve asked God to give me wisdom. He isn’t lenient with us as His kids, and I shouldn’t be with you. I know this is going to be a learning curve for both of us. Again, I’m sorry. It would have been easier on you if I had done this long ago. You aren’t going to like this new way of me setting boundaries and consequences, but I love you too much to continue enabling you to remain as a child.
Communicate your expectations in writing: Tell your child in a calm, loving, reasonable tone exactly what you believe to be a reasonable first start expectation? Name calling, shaming, and yelling won’t work.
Start small, and concisely put one or two things on the list and explain clearly. In other words, put the dots (action steps) VERY close together.
Draw up a plan in writing for household and financial contributions. What is required for the child to do or provide for him/her to stay in your home? Rent? Gas money? Pay for their own cell phone? Utilities? Cleaning?
PLAINLY state the consequence you will implement if the agreement isn’t fulfilled. Therefore, start small with one or two things so you can show the child you mean business and you aren’t going to back down. EX: If you do not do___, I will turn off the wifi for ___hours. VERY clear and concise recapping.
Be ready for the child to test your boundary. In the beginning they don’t believe you will really do it. They will scream, rant, threaten, etc. especially if you haven’t implemented consequences in the past. If your spouse doesn’t want to implement consequences than you have a marriage problem, not a child problem. If you are a stepfamily, and the biological parent doesn’t see a problem with the child’s actions the stepparent CAN NOT parent more than the parent. He/she will need to get individual help from a stepfamily expert.
Intimidation. If they threaten to harm you, your spouse or themselves it’s time to contact a professional who can teach you how to set healthy boundaries with a child that is attempting to hold you hostage to their demands. This tough love typically requires advice and insight from those who specialize in defiant kids. Each situation, consequence, action, or threat is different. You need a professional.
Substance Abuse. If the child is using ANY drugs, (including marijuana and alcohol) understand you are talking, dealing with, and interreacting with the DRUG, not the child. You need professional help and advice. If they take prescription medication speak with the doctor and pharmacist about side effects. If they are combining both, it’s a very serious situation which requires professional help.
Pray. God knows how to deal with wayward, spoiled, obnoxious, selfish, depressed, and defiant kids (you and me). He will advise you. He often directs us to professional people who understand the root causes of these issues and how to overcome enabling behaviors. Celebrate Recovery can be a great place to start if you don’t have resources.
This is by no means an exclusive list.
I am not a therapist.
I am not an expert on failure to launch syndrome.
I am a life coach who works with many parents who are facing this issue.
This is merely insights and encouragement for parents who think they are alone in the journey.
You are not alone. You are not a bad parent. You are not a failure.
There are thousands of parents in the same situation as you are.
Please reach out for professional help to overcome the complicated situations. And know that God loves your kids more than you do.
Laura Petherbridge is an international writer, speaker, and life coach.
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