Failure to launch, Family Therapy

Failure to Launch : When adult children live at home- what can be done?

Failure to Launch

Failure to Launch

Many adult children are coming back home to live with their parents after college. Some do this on a temporary to set up their their next job or internship.  Some, however fall into a comfort zone and loose their focus on their future. Beginning in the 20’s a child needs to thing about the future and strategies on what path to take for the rest of his life.  Having a concept of the future is an important part of development as is taking risks.  The failure to do this leads to low self esteem and sometimes depression.  The longer it lasts the more hopeless your child may start to feel. What can parents to to help their adult child to launch ?

  • Make some rules and requirements of your adult child, such as paying rent, having a job, contributing to a savings account, working out, helping with home duties.
  • Help your adult child to resolve any emotional issues they may have.  Psychotherpy that is goal oriented is often helpful.
  • Forbid drugs and alcohol use while they are living with you.  These things lower motivation and self esteem.
  • Setting up structure with small achievable goals leads to feelings of mastery which naturally leads to more confidence in taking on new tasks and jobs

Above all, don’t feel guilty for making demands on your child because this will help him feel like he can succeed. focus

Moms,stepchildren, reduce conflicts

Reduce conflict between step moms and their step children…the most important thing to do.

Moms and stepchildren


Since more than half of marriages are now ending in divorce, we have many blended families or step families today. The problem is that families don’t blend all that well.  Children and teens have loyalties to the birth mother and often yearn to have their birth parents back together.

What comes out of this unsettling time when families are breaking up and getting” reconstructed” is that the children will “test” to see how far they can influence the family to get their way.  This is understandable because they are really searching for stability, even though they don’t consciously realize it. The stability and predictability of what the rules are has been taken away from them.  They need strong and enforced limits to feel safe again….that’s right…limits that are consistently enforced actually make everyone feel safe.

The cornerstone of a family is structure.


If you have a solid structure the family will work because each person knows what is expected of them and the consequences of “breaking the rules”.  In order to find out if there really are consequences for breaking the rules the child will test the limits.

The most common way of testing in a blended family is to try to turn one “parent ” against the other.  An example that I see working with blended families it where the daughter in a new blended family will try to turn the new woman ,a prospective stepmom ,against the father by telling her things about the father…. things like ” he won’t ever marry you” and things that will make the new woman  feel insecure about the relationship.

This is called “triangling” in family therapy speak, where one person talks about another family member when they’re not present and tries to turn one against the other.  So you may wonder, Why is this so damaging?

The answer is that by doing this the executive branch of the family ,( the father and stepmom or new woman) is being weakened by allowing a child to be pulled up into that position.  Structural family therapy is built on the fact that the structure of a family , like a house, needs to have separate levels.  The parents belong in the executive level  at the top and the children belong below that level in the child level.  Like a house, when you build a strong foundation, you will have a good house.  The parental dyad being united in the executive position ensures this structure which makes everyone in the family feel safe because there is a position for the parents and for the children.

Even though we all test limits to see if they are real, we really yearn for them because they make up feel safe and show us where our position is so that we can win in the family.  The best way to stop this attempt at “triangling” by a child is to have a hard and fast rule that says ” We don’ t talk abut the other person when they are not present.  Just having the rule is not enough, it MUST be consistently followed.  This will eliminate many of the conflicts in a blended family.