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Kids Struggling With Life’s Next Step? Their ‘Failure to Launch’ Could Be A Sign of a Bigger Issue

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It’s no secret that taking that next step in life for young adults isn’t always the smoothest transition. And, over the past ten years, the term “failure to launch” is much less a comical term and more a serious issue among young adults between the ages of 18-28, especially those dealing with deeper issues.

“Launching” into adulthood isn’t always about leaving the nest. Psychologists use the term to refer to developmental milestones and transformations that occur much earlier in life (think back to early adolescence) when teens develop skills necessary for decision making. During this time, children start to develop their own sense of self, which can also cause some anxiety about where they fit.

“When we look at this dynamic with individuals who are dealing with mental health diagnosis and substance abuse disorders, it tends to be an additional dynamic that makes for a transition to recovery quite complicated,” says Brad Sorte, Executive Director of Caron Treatment Centers Renaissance and Ocean Drive Programs & VP Florida Operations.

“Somewhere along the line, in middle adolescents, there were opportunities where that individual did not develop the way that they should emotionally,” notes Sorte. “Now, what they’ve found is themselves in adulthood with very adolescent coping mechanisms.”

So, what are the signs that someone fits in the category of “Failure to Launch?” Sorte notes a few as:

  •  Extreme discomfort or intolerance dealing with uncertainty
  • Ambiguity about plans for the future
  • Fear of failure that results in a strong sense of avoidance of emotional situations

For professionals like Sorte, addressing the root cause goes beyond the individual. His team takes a deeper look at how families, friends, and the systems around young adults respond to them.

“It’s not just the individual who didn’t make those transitions to adulthood,” says Sorte, “it’s also the system around them that made that ‘failure to launch’ acceptable.”

Navigating the next step of life starts by talking to families, schools, and significant others that make up these systems to help them recognize how they may have stood in the way of their loved one overcoming challenges and seizing opportunities, Sorte says.

Caron Treatment Centers is unique in that it works closely with families to focus on core issues that may lead to addiction and failure to launch.

“We want to help move individuals from that ‘failure to launch’ place to that emerging adult place,” says Sorte. “Part of that is helping them become financially self-sufficient, being able to have healthy adult relationships with their parents as opposed to dependency on them, and completing whatever their vocational or educational goals are so they can make that transition to adulthood.”

Don’t let your loved one continue to struggle to take the next steps toward a productive, self-sufficient, and goal-oriented life; a life as an emerging adult. To learn more about the failure to launch concept and what resources are available to you, visit  caron.org.