What To Do With a Failure to Launch Child

What To Do With a Failure to Launch Child
Dr. Roseann Capanna-Hodge

Dr. Roseann Capanna-Hodge

Retirement. It didn’t turn out quite like you expected. You and your husband planned to be traveling the world; chatting happily in little cafes, and enjoying cocktails on the beach, or admiring the view from your hotel balcony. Unfortunately, you are still working because your unemployed 24-year-old son is still living at home. No matter what kind of parenting style you have adopted in the last six years, nothing is lighting a fire in this kid's belly. He’s a good kid but he’s just not a good adult. Some failure to launch young adults have a long list of issues while others have a few, but all lack the maturity to move forward. In our last blog, we discussed why some young adults fail to launch. Here we explored interventions designed to help not just the FLS child but the whole family.

What Are Some Failure to Launch Interventions?

Identify the Issues


There is no magic wand to make things better. Taking a hard look at the root cause is the only way to move forward. This step is key because there may be multiple causes. Is there a mental health issue? A neurodevelopmental or physical health issue? Do they lack executive functioning skills or have an attention problem that get in the way of them organizing their behavior for a future goal? Are you enabling? Once you identify issues, you can begin the journey toward change.

How Failure to Launch and Mental Health Are Connected

Step one in helping a young adult child launch is to address any clinical issues that have been overlooked. If your child has clinical levels of anxiety or depression, a disorder like Autism, a chronic health issues, or is smoking pot every day, then it’s time to seek help. You’re wasting your time trying to get him or her to move beyond this stage without addressing a clinical issue. They are chronically stressed and so are you and that means no one is thinking or acting clearly.  Finding the right therapist to work with both the adult child and the family is imperative. The right professional guidance is key in rectifying the situation.

Get Experienced Professional Help

With a third of adult children under age 34 living with their parents, you can take comfort in knowing that you aren’t the only one. Now that you know the problem, you need professional help from an experienced therapist. Seek professionals who regularly work with Failure to Launch cases and have a history of success. At our Ridgefield, CT center, we work with parents everyday who struggle with launching their child successfully into the adult world. And in every case, there is a clinical issue as well as a breakdown in family communication and there is an underlying clinical issue with the adult child. The adult child will continue to burrow without a professional extractor of sorts, aka “a tough therapist”. It takes a team effort involving all parties but success can be realized in a way that moves everyone forward. The first step is to get a QEEG brain map so we can get objective information about the clinical issues and make a treatment plan.  Neurofeedback is always part of the treatment plan so we get the nervous regulated and ready for psychotherapy. 

Learn About this Emerging Adult Developmental Stage

Education is a part of growth. You can’t correct a problem you don’t understand. Take time to learn about what contributing factors are delaying your adult child’s emotional growth. This helps you know how best to address them. When we understand why something is happening, it can help us to move forward with less frustration and greater intent.

Parent Self-Care

Parents often put their children first. Seeing your child not living independently and to their fullest potential is stressful. It’s natural to focus on what you can do to help them, without thinking about your own needs. If you aren’t taking care of yourself, you aren’t going to have the mental capacity to address this. You need to shift your mindset and realize that change begins with you. A therapist for yourself is a good start. Addressing the strain and stress that you are under is important. If you are going to help your child you need to be at your best.

Keep Communication Open

As annoyed and frustrated as you are with your adult child or other family members that may be enabling, open communication with everyone involved is imperative. If you aren’t communicating, misunderstandings and frustrations increase. This leaves everyone stuck and change becomes impossible. Sometimes communication breaks down to the point that you need outside help to restore it.  This isn’t uncommon and it’s not a cause for embarrassment. At our practice, we deal with cases like this often. The good news is a skilled clinician can help open lines of communication so everyone can move forward.

Express Clear Expectations and Set Boundaries

With failure to launch things can seem out of control. Parents can be afraid to set boundaries, especially with their young adult children but that is exactly what they need. Because parents and children often have different expectations, each assumes the other understands.  This is a major source of conflict and can contribute to communication breakdowns. By clearly stating your expectations and setting well-defined boundaries, everyone has a shared understanding. That doesn’t mean that your adult child will like these expectations or boundaries. It doesn’t guarantee that they are appropriate for the situation, but being explicit is crucial. Reviewing expectations and boundaries with your trained clinician is key to improving them, and should be part of every family’s plan.

Don't Accommodate

Parents can fall into that trap of providing too much emotional and financial support. As a parent. It is hard to watch your child struggle. The danger of helping too much is that you form an enabling pattern out of love and concern. However, too much extra emotional or financial support works against everyone in the family. This creates resentment. Let everyone know what the new expectations are and be consistent with them!

Be Realistic

Yes, your adult child is bright and funny but not everyone who is bright is going to make a million dollars. If your child struggled with daily living tasks like flushing the toilet or making his bed, what makes you think he is going to wake up fully independent the day he turns 18? Wishing that they will live to their potential isn’t enough to encourage successful independence. Guidance, care, and intervention can never be replaced by wishes. The constant pressure to be the best isn’t helpful either. The extreme pressure of high expectations never works with failure to launch kids and in fact, can be damaging causing them to retreat further down the rabbit hole.

Make Time to Connect

With your kid is living at home and not doing anything meaningful with their life, it can be hard to reach out to them. You are so concerned about getting them to help the last thing on your mind is doing something fun and enjoyable with your kid.  This, however, is exactly what they need. Connecting with your kid is critical! Especially when communication breaks down and it’s difficult to interact in a healthy way. Finding things you can do together helps to bridge the communication gap. It can be anything from a walk to catching a movie. Finding a common ground is key. This provides a way the issues can be put aside and you both can re-establish a connection.

Find a Good Therapist

In a failure to launch situation, the adult child or family is trapped and you need a lifeline. A good therapist can help turn things around. For the failure to launch young adult, a therapist can introduce techniques such as Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (CBT) to help them learn how to control negative thought patterns and challenge faulty assumptions. Executive functioning coaching that gives young adults the tools to take action toward a future goal or event are critical in giving these kids the brain tools that create lasting change. Addressing family systems is also an important part of the process. It helps to look at healthy ways you can support your adult child.

Facilitate Motivation

Gaining internal motivation is a huge obstacle for the failure to launch young adult. Lack of motivation exists for many reasons, these might be clinical issues like ADHD or executive function dysfunction, anxiety or depression or they might be due to avoidance or being shut down. Whatever the case, examining what is usurping motivation with a therapist is a top priority. When one feels stuck, regaining motivation is a process. With a good therapist, motivation can be rekindled through hard work and desire for something different.

Neurofeedback Improves Self-Regulation

Young adults who fail to launch face difficulties with self-regulation. They simply can’t manage normal day-today stressors. On top of this, they often have low frustration tolerance, and poor problem-solving skills. In order to move forward developmentally and psychologically, their nervous system needs to learn how to regulate. Neurofeedback is a powerful tool that teaches the brain to produce a healthy combination of brain waves. This leads to better self-regulation which shows up in better attention, thinking, and an ability to take action. Once the brain learns to self-regulate, one can deal with stress better, which improves focus and executive functioning as well as mood. Being better able to access the rational brain aids in the therapeutic process, increasing chances for success and reducing friction at home. As leaders in treatment for failure to launch kids, we use neurofeedback with teens and young adults all over the united with at home neurofeedback combined with psychotherapy or coaching. 

Short-Term Intensive Psychotherapy

One of the ways we support failure to launch young adults is with short-term, intensive therapy. At our Ridgefield, CT center we have found that the high level of repetition combined with family counseling is an effective treatment modality for young adults struggling with independence. Our failure to launch program combines neurofeedback with induvial and family counseling to help families break from stuck patterns. We focus on teaching those all important executive functioning skills that are key to young adults independently managing their attention and behavior. Meta-analysis research demonstrates that intensive, short-term psychotherapy is effective for a variety of conditions, including ADHD, OCD, medical conditions, Autism, anxiety, social anxiety, and depression. When clinical issues are addressed with intensity, the brain allows for a greater level of behavioral learning.  When the brain is regulated, positive communications and actions are possible.


Abbass, A., Town, J., & Driessen, E. (2012). Intensive short-term dynamic psychotherapy: a systematic review and meta-analysis of outcome research. Harvard review of psychiatry20(2), 97–108. https://doi.org/10.3109/10673229.2012.6773

Always remember… “Calm Brain, Happy Family™”

Disclaimer: This article is not intended to give health advice and it is recommended to consult with a physician before beginning any new wellness regime. 

Are you looking for SOLUTIONS for your failure to launch young adult? 

Dr. Roseann and her team are all about solutions, so you are in the right place! 

There are 3 ways to work with Dr. Roseann: 

You can get her books for parents and professionals, including: It’s Gonna Be OK™: Proven Ways to Improve Your Child’s Mental Health, Teletherapy Toolkit™ and Brain Under Attack: A Resource For Parents and Caregivers of Children With PANS, PANDAS, and Autoimmune Encephalopathy.

Are you a professional who wants more training from Dr. Roseann? 

Purchase her book, Teletherapy Toolkit™: Therapist Handbook for Treating Children and Teens

If you are a business or organization that needs proactive guidance to support employee mental health or an organization looking for a brand representative, check out Dr. Roseann’s professional speaking page to see how we can work together. 

Dr. Roseann is a Children’s Mental Health Expert and Therapist who has been featured in/on hundreds of  media outlets including, CBS, NBC, FOX News, PIX11 NYC, The New York Times, The Washington Post,, Business Insider, USA Today, CNET, Marth Stewart, and PARENTS. FORBES called her, “A thought leader in children’s mental health.” 

She is the founder and director of The Global Institute of Children’s Mental Health and Dr. Roseann Capanna-Hodge. Dr. Roseann is a Board Certified Neurofeedback (BCN) Practitioner, a Board Member of the Northeast Region Biofeedback Society (NRBS), Certified Integrative Medicine Mental Health Provider (CMHIMP) and an Amen Clinic Certified Brain Health Coach.  She is also a member of The International Lyme Disease and Associated Disease Society (ILADS), The American Psychological Association (APA), Anxiety and Depression Association of America (ADAA) National Association of School Psychologists (NASP), International OCD Foundation (IOCDF) International Society for Neurofeedback and Research (ISNR) and The Association of Applied Psychophysiology and Biofeedback (AAPB).

© Roseann-Capanna-Hodge, LLC 2022

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