Failure To Launch: How To Help Someone Who Is Stuck In A Rut

Wilderness Therapy can help with “Failure to Launch” Syndrome

The transition into self-reliant adulthood is difficult for some. Some young adults use their safety net of family and friends in an appropriate way as they prepare themselves for independence. For others, the safety net becomes a way of life. Plans to move out stall, goals fade away, and a comfort level sets in, along with a resistance to change. As a parent, it’s a fine line between caring for a young adult who is facing a challenging time and enabling them to continue down a destructive path. For those who have “failed to launch,” a wilderness therapy program can help to guide them into responsible adulthood.

Failure To Launch: On The Rise

It is becoming increasingly common for young adults to remain living under their parents’ roofs and to rely on them as if they were still teenagers. In fact, a recent Gallup poll indicates that nearly 30% of all young American adults between the ages of 18 and 34 still live with their parents, with more than 50% under the age of 24 remaining at home. The unemployment rate for those who remain at home is more than twice that of young adults who live independently. This has come to be known as the “failure to launch” syndrome: young adults stuck in a cycle of reliance and co-dependence, with no sense of urgency in moving forward into the next stage of life. In general, these young adults are unemployed, not attending college, and uninspired to lead independent lives away from home. Understandably, this leaves many parents frustrated, as they are unaware of how to help their child transition into responsible and functional adulthood.

Money And Poor Decisions: The Main Causes Of Dependence

There are a number of roadblocks on the way to independence: student debt, a weak job market, the cost of living, or family obligations such as caring for an aging parent are some of typical reasons young adults choose to live at home. Then there are other kinds of roadblocks—the sort that are destructive and result from a history of poor choices. These include: alcohol and drug abuse, ongoing negative behavior, dropping out of school, associating with harmful peer groups, or playing video games addictively, to name a few. There are also mental health issues that may prevent a young adult from being capable of living an independent life. Short, brief stints back at home may be what a young adult needs to regroup, refocus, and land on their feet. But when the duration begins to seem permanent, it’s time for parents to intervene.

Parents can also work to reshape their role into a healthier one. Through communicating with a therapist, parents learn to define boundaries, realize the appropriate amount of co-dependency, and understand the difference between helping and hurting.

Recognize The Signs Of Failure To Launch – What does failure to launch look like?
  • Lack of motivation
  • Long hours spent sleeping or playing video games
  • Easily distressed
  • Doesn’t accept responsibility
  • Self-absorbed
  • No work ethic or career plans
  • High expectations of others but expects very little from self
  • No long-term goals and lacks purpose in life
  • Lack of basic domestic skills, like laundry and cooking
  • No desire to earn own money and expects money from parents
The Transformative Power Of Nature

Nature is an inherently healing and transformative environment. The challenges that come with living in the wilderness—setting up shelter, cooking, hiking—make the challenges that come with living life back in “reality” seem less intimidating in comparison. Grocery shopping, laundry, and applying for jobs no longer seem like crippling obstacles in comparison to walking 10 miles and setting up camp in the pouring rain.

Coupled with the guidance of professional mental health workers, the physical and mental achievements a young adult accomplishes in nature helps them to develop the confidence they need to launch. Once participants overcome their initial fear and anxiety, many are inspired to move forward into the next phase of their lives. wilderness therapy can be a powerful resource in assisting with dependency issues, contact Rites of Passage at (800)794-0980 to learn how, and more regarding our programs.