Failure to Launch – Part 2

ByDr. Marshall

Failure to Launch – Part 2

A few days ago, I wrote a Morning Musing on one of the topics we frequently discuss in our office, FAILURE TO LAUNCH. Just before posting it, I added PART I to the title thinking that I would add to it later. Well, later came this morning. While perusing the internet, I came across an article by Dena Kouremetis, an author and mother titled “Failure to Launch: Whose Problem Is It Anyway?

Ms. Kouremetis begins with a fictional conversation between two baby boomer mothers, one of whom is terrified about the possibility of her 29-year-old daughter returning home to finish her degree. Though she loves her daughter, she definitely does not want her to move back home. But if she tells her no, what then?

She then goes on to provide this sobering statistic: “For the first time in more than 130 years, Americans ages 18-34 are more likely to live with their parents than in any other living situation… .” As for not letting go of our adult children until they have “found their path” she gets right to the point: Taking them back or supporting them financially simply delays the inevitable.

Ms. Kouremetis wrote this article after reading a two-part series by USA Today writer, Peter Dunn. I’ll be talking more about Dunn’s advice in PART III of this series, but if you happen to be a parent in your 50’s or 60’s and you’re still supporting an adult child, start by taking a look at the article by Kouremetis. While hers is a gentle reminder that it is a parent’s obligation to prepare children to become independent, she doesn’t mince words when she tells us that it is our fault if our children are not prepared by the time they graduate from high school, or, even worse, by the time they graduate from college.

We often remind parents that there are certain abilities that children should master by certain ages (see our podcasts for age 3, age 5, age 8, age 12, age 18). For example, five year olds should be able to regulate their emotions (no more temper tantrums); eight year olds should be able to keep track of themselves and their belongings; 12 year olds should be able to manage their own schooling; and 18 year olds should be able to take care of themselves with little or no parental involvement. If our child didn’t meet these milestones (including the last one), we haven’t done our job.

The final point that Kouremetis makes is that pushing an adult child out of the nest gets more difficult the longer they stay. It is easiest when parents treat it as a milestone to be achieved by the time the child is 18. Failing to have them ready to leave at 18 creates a “slippery slope” for both children and parents; as time passes, it becomes increasingly difficult to push them out. But push you must. Letting them stay attached to you denies them the opportunity to accomplish this crucial milestone.

About the author

Dr. Marshall administrator

Richard Marshall earned an Ed.D. in reading and learning disabilities at West Virginia University in 1982. While completing his doctoral studies he served as an educational specialist in the Pediatric Neurology. Upon completion of his degree he became an Assistant Professor of Pediatrics at the WVU Medical School. After moving to Florida in 1983, he joined the faculty in the Department of Pediatrics in the College of Medicine at the University of South Florida and worked for five years in the Neonatal Developmental Follow-Up Program. In 1993, he completed a Ph.D. in School Psychology at the University of Georgia with an emphasis in Child and Adolescent Neuropsychology. Upon degree completion, he taught courses in the biological bases of behavior and neuropsychology at the University of Texas in Austin. He also served as developmental psychologist at the Children’s Hospital of Austin. He and his family returned to Florida in 2001 and he once more became a faculty member at the University of South Florida. He is presently an Associate Professor in the College of Education and he is an adjunct associate professor in the Department of Psychiatry and Behavioral Neurosciences at the USF College of Medicine. In 2008, Dr. Marshall co-authored the Pediatric Behavior Rating Scale; in 2011, he co-authored The Middle School Mind: Growing Pains in Early Adolescent Brains (2011) and is currently revising the Handbook for Raising an Emotionally Healthy Child (2012). In addition to writing and a busy schedule of workshops and presentations, Dr. Marshall also maintains a private practice in Lakeland, Florida where he specializes in the assessment and treatment of children and adults with emotional, behavioral, and learning disorders; parenting; family therapy; and couples counseling. As part of that practice he maintains a daily blog and he co-hosts The Mental Breakdown Podcast (iTunes, Google Play Music, and YouTube) and the Psychreg Podcast. He has spoken to professional and community groups throughout the United States, Canada, Europe, and South America.