It can be frustrating to stand there, watching your loved one spin his or her wheels without getting anywhere, especially if it is your child. However, there is a fine line between pushing too hard and not pushing your loved one hard enough.
It can be hard for parents to stop enabling adult children, especially when one’s child is experiencing difficulties becoming an adult. While “failure to launch” is not a clinical diagnostic category, the phenomenon of young adults living at home and not progressing professionally or emotionally is becoming more common. Here are four steps for parents wanting to help young adults living at home.
Stop Enabling Adult Children and Start the Process of Individuation
1. Be the Cheerleader Instead of the Critic
Sometimes, parents who have been enabling adult children can become overly critical when they finally recognize and stop their enabling behavior. This can be especially detrimental to the self esteem of young adults living at home. Everyone needs a cheerleader; focusing on building an individual’s strengths is much more effective than trying to remedy one’s shortcomings.
2. Allow Your Child to Plan His or Her Own Life
You likely know your child’s strengths and weaknesses better than anyone else, and therefore, have a great insight into what he or she would/should/could be good at. While it can be tempting to try and help your child plan his or her life, it could be harmful to his or her identity development. It is important to let your son or daughter plan events on their own, even if it contradicts your idea of what their life should look like.
3. Allow for Failure
If your child is trying, he or she will likely fail often. Failure is normal; in fact, it is an important part of developing one’s identity. While it can be tempting to stop your child as you see them begin to fail, just remember: it will be more helpful in the long run if you are there for support while he or she is picking up the pieces.
Allowing for failure can be extremely difficult for parents who have been enabling adult children; however, allowing someone to suffer natural consequences when they make mistakes can be very valuable in their developing years. In his book Choice Theory, William Glasser says, “Love them, but let them flounder when they are young when floundering doesn’t carry penalties it may later on.”
4. Offer Help Treating any Underlying Emotional/Mental Health Issues
Asking for help is hard. If you suspect your son or daughter has an underlying emotional or mental health issue that is contributing to his or her lack of independence, offer to help. Or, offer to get help. What may simply look like a lack of motivation or drive from the outside could be due to a young adult’s inability to deal with anxiety, depression, trauma, or a family conflict. If you and your child collectively decide that treatment is necessary, do your research before selecting a program. Helping your son or daughter transition into a successful, happy, well-balanced adult means making sure he or she has all of the tools necessary for independence.
Young adults living at home who are facing difficult life challenges are finding themselves stuck in a rut. Each individual’s journey toward independence is different; while some will make the journey on their own, others may need a helping hand, some guidance, and even a gentle nudge. Recognizing that your loved one needs help with the transition to adulthood is the first step to getting him or her back on the road to independence.
To find out more about helping young adults living at home achieve their independence, download our free, twelve page white paper, The Road to Independence Can Be Rough: It’s Okay to Ask for Help