‘Failure to Launch’- helping your teen

failure to launch

Helping your child overcome ‘failure to launch’

At a large Northeastern Ohio hospital system, the ER nurse manager said they’d seen a rash of transition age adults 19-24 with ‘failure to launch’ syndrome. A typical description goes something like this:  he couch-surfed from friend to friend, back to family- and then on.  Aimless, he slept in, played video games, maybe worked brief stints here and there in low paying jobs -and then gave up;  mostly partied. He intersected with the hospital ED because of a misadventure with bath salts or cheap illicit drugs.  Sometimes ‘he’ (prototypical example) wound up with a minor crime to his discredit. Allied professionals wonder what is leading up to this increase and what is happening in homes and schools that teens arrive at 18-or 21, completely unprepared for life.

Pomegranate’s Acute Therapist Steve Polovick brings his wisdom into the mix: “The most effective concept of combating FTL children is to introduce the idea of Freedom with Responsibility at an early age.  Teaching a toddler to throw away their own diaper paves the way to have them become responsible for picking up their room later. A child who can be trusted to pick up their room after being asked once is probably the same 16-year old who can be trusted to take the family car out when they are licensed to drive.  The freedom a kid is entitled to have, should be directly related to the level of responsibility they have shown.  When our kids are handed freedoms and privileges without having a commensurate level of maturity and reliability, they tend to do very poorly with it. I believe it does create a false impression of the world to assume that it is going to be somebody else’s job to teach your child the concept of freedom with responsibility. No landlord, employer or judge is going to be interested in teaching a 25 year old something that they should have learned when they were 2.”

A lot of things have been written about ‘failure to launch’.  We’ve posted links here.  Psych Central offered up several suggestions. Among them:

“ A) Recognize psychological problems that may be inhibiting his development. This might include anxiety, procrastination, lack of drive or persistence, need for instant gratification, a strong pattern of avoidance instead of confronting challenges, depression, inability to control anger, or substance abuse. Insist that he get help that specifically addresses those issues.

  1. B) Expect him to be a contributing member of the household with chores, if not money. Be clear on what his responsibilities are. Make sure he functions as part of the family, not apart from the family.
  2. C) Be aware of signs of narcissism and lack of concern for others. Narcissism may become a pattern when one is repeatedly told how special, smart, talented and great one is, without connecting these gifts to the personal effort and hard work needed to actualize them. The upshot? Kids can come to feel entitled to receiving what they want just because they want it. Make sure you don’t feed narcissistic demands. Be clear on what you will do for your young adult and what you won’t do.” http://psychcentral.com/blog/archives/2015/02/27/failure-to-launch/

How are some people successful at helping their adolescents’ transition? Charlie was in sales. He was a classic extrovert, but he was shrewd enough to think before he spoke, and he laughed a lot. His enthusiasm was contagious. He came from a large devout Italian family of hard-working entrepreneurs.  Charlie insisted his children work from the time they were able, and it had to be in a customer service role:  in a retail store (including grocery), a food service establishment, or a healthcare setting (serving  seniors). One kid had a paper route, another made pizzas;  a daughter helped at a beauty salon. It was his belief that in these settings they would be learning people skills, managing money, learning work etiquette and preparing for the real world.  Because it was a large family, they all had chores and contributed to the good of the whole.  When you ran into Charlie years later, his children were his pride and joy and he relished telling how well they were doing, and what they had parlayed their early experiences into.

What is Pomegranate doing differently to help our teen residents avoid ‘failure to launch’?  “Part of our programming is oriented around personal responsibility.  It starts with the patient handbook and helps adolescents become aware of their real needs and rights,” said Angela Nickell, CEO.  “Education is a key component.  I bring it home to them in a very tangible way- whether it’s the dangers of smoking or risky sexual behavior,” explained Wellness Nurse Lori Turner.  (Lori has brought in a lung to make her point etc.-she means business! and kids are into ‘hands on’).  Clinical Director, Demetra Taylor, PhD says, ‘We also teach the PREP curriculum here, which is personal responsibility education, in addition to CPST group, individual and group therapy. Our role is helping teens connect their thinking and behavior with outcomes, and making better choices. Growing up is a process into one’s mid ‘20s, and not a one-time destination which happens with a magical birthday, or upon discharge. Making sound choices is always a collection of decisions.”

Additional Resources:



[photo credit: innovatedcaptures/Dreamstime ID 33567529]


About Communications

Communications and Social Media @ Sequel-Pomegranate Health Systems
This entry was posted in adolescent psychiatry, behavioral health, behavioral health disorders, mental health, psychiatric care and tagged , , . Bookmark the permalink.

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