Eight Questions about Failure To Launch, Answered


Whether you choose to call it Failure to Launch or Peter Pan syndrome, it’s a phenomenon that describes the young adult struggle or failure to make it through the transition to adulthood. When young adults fail to leave the nest, discontinue their education or get a job, and remain reliant on their parents for most things rather than establishing independence, it can lay the foundation of Failure to Launch. Add in unrealistic expectations, misplaced blame for their situation, and a lack of motivation to change, and this may create a recipe for disaster.

Parents and their young adult children often have very different experiences when it comes to failure to launch in the family, and circumstances like these can be incredibly stressful and heavily strain a relationship between the two.

Fortunately, while Failure to Launch has become increasingly common, there are methods of treating the underlying causes. Programs like Skyterra Young Adult can provide solutions for both parents and young adults. We know that navigating early adulthood can be a challenge and seeking extra support is perfectly justified in many cases. For young adults who might not feel quite ready for what comes next, our program may be a reasonable option to try, as we meet our guests where they are at to help them develop the skills and mindset to live independently and get unstuck. 

In the meantime, below are eight of the most important things we think you need to know about Failure to Launch Syndrome. This guide contains something for everyone. It is intended to help parents know the signs and how to better understand what their child may be experiencing. It is also meant to aid young adults in the development of coping skills and be aware of their options for treatment. Read on to find out how stepping into who you or your daughter wants to become can be made possible with the right help. 

What is Failure to Launch Syndrome?

Failure to Launch Syndrome describes a situation in which a young adult is struggling with the transition to adulthood. It is the inability to leave home and support oneself where an individual may appear to be “stuck” or not growing and maturing along the appropriate path. Many young adults find the rites of passage into adulthood exciting and encouraging, such as going to college or obtaining their first job. However for some, these big changes can cause regressive behaviors.

Failure to Launch does not include young adults who briefly move back in with their parents in order to get on their feet, as this is common. Failure to Launch Syndrome can only be considered after a long duration of dependency from the young adult, without reasonable progress or motivation to grow and expand.

At Skyterra Young Adult, many guests and parents alike struggle with similar situations. We are a program designed to help our guests build confidence while developing a new version of themself with newfound skills, hobbies and goals. Our aim is to address your or your daughter’s individual needs, and help to clear a path for growth.

What are the symptoms of Failure to Launch Syndrome?

Major signs and symptoms of a young adult experiencing Failure to Launch include:

  • Feeling stuck
  • Lack of motivation and persistence
  • Poor work ethic and lack of engagement in activities involving responsibility (school, employment, or even taking on more household tasks)
  • Low distress tolerance, withdrawal from participating in life, and/or isolation
  • Lack of vision for the future or long-term goals, including starting school or a job but quitting and not replacing it with something else
  • High expectations of others without reciprocation and failure to take responsibility
  • Lack of vision (for the future or long-term goals)
  • Lack of skills needed for adulthood (basic cooking and cleaning skills).

Questions for Parents, Answered:

What causes Failure to Launch in young adults?

Note that Failure to Launch often occurs for multiple reasons at once, and no one person is at fault when the transition to independent living doesn’t go as planned. Each individual has their own unique reasons for experiencing Failure to Launch; however, there are several known factors that interplay with one another when it comes to this disruption in development. 

General causes of Failure to Launch syndrome include the following:

  • Societal issues: Poor wages, high cost of living, and debt (such as high student loan payments) can influence a young adult’s dependency and poor economic conditions can be deterring
  • Social media and screen time: Young adults of today have grown up with an abundance of technology surrounding them and easy access to the internet and social media platforms. Consequently, many act as observers of life rather than participants in it. In addition, unhealthy and unrealistic comparison to others online can do a lot of damage.
  • Parenting and family factors: Often unintentionally, parents’ behavior can set kids up for a lack of independence as they age. 
  • Personality traits: Characteristics that can contribute to failure to launch include unrealistic goal-setting, lack of accountability/tendency to blame others for an undesirable situation, and lack of motivation to change.

What disorders can worsen Failure to Launch?

Existing mental health issues such as depression and anxiety may worsen Failure to Launch. These mental health disorders or challenges can interfere with young adults’ thoughts and behaviors and in many cases, make it difficult to function independently. For many emerging adults, imposter syndrome, fear of failure, intolerance of uncertainty, and toxic perfection may increase the likelihood of Failure to Launch. Unfortunately, anxiety and avoidance often go hand in hand. Because of fear, a young adult may find it difficult to face increasing responsibilities and not take the necessary steps toward independence.

How can you treat Failure to Launch?

We are happy to confirm that Failure to Launch syndrome is temporary. It can be overcome through a variety of treatment types, such as therapy, attendance of a Failure to Launch program, and life skills classes. Because each person experiencing this roadblock is unique, treatment must be individual. 

Here are four ways to treat Failure to Launch Syndrome:

  • Therapy: A mental health professional can help individuals explore underlying causes and develop the components for launch, including self-efficacy, resiliency, perseverance, goal-setting, and learning to balance independent decision-making with drawing on resources. From behavioral therapy to career counseling to family therapy, there are many options to explore.
  • Life skills classes: Life skills training and education can equip young adults with the skills needed for a successful launch. Low levels of motivation and an inability to act can simply be the result of a lack of knowing when to start. Having help in order to gain understanding can help emerging adults achieve independence.
  • Attendance of a Failure to Launch program: Families often chose to intervene and send their young adult to a helpful failure to launch program, like ours at Skyterra Young Adult. We offer young men and women a supportive, therapeutic environment where individual attention and personal needs are addressed. Our program, among others, teaches young adults how to plan for and live out the vision for their future, and helps to put them on a path of lifelong direction.
  • Lifestyle changes: Developing a routine, including a balanced wellness and mindfulness practice is another important step in facilitating a successful transition. Eliminating unhealthy behaviors and harmful lifestyle choices can be of equal importance. At Skyterra, we teach confidence-boosting tools and strategies that can be immediately applied in daily practice. Program focus areas include nutrition, fitness, life skills, and mental health. At Skyterra, we emphasize stress management, creating and eating balanced meals, structured fitness and an active schedule, exposure to nature away from screens, and hands-on integration of healthy life skills, including education and career planning.

At Skyterra Young Adult, our program includes all of the above four ways of treating Failure to Launch Syndrome. Your stay at Skyterra includes weekly therapist-led group sessions, private sessions, and family therapy among other modalities. You have access to life skills classes to ensure that you leave with the skills and mindset to live a more healthy and self-sufficient life. During your stay, you’ll discover the joy and power in mindfulness, and the importance of routines including structured meals, a healthy diet, and consistent sleep. You’ll learn relaxation techniques to help you cope with stress and improve your mental health. Through all of this and more, we believe our program will support you in your transition to a more independent lifestyle.

Questions for Young Adults, Answered:

What life skills are best for me to learn when experiencing Failure to Launch?

Important life skills to cultivate if you are experiencing failure to launch include, but are not limited to:

  • Social competence
  • Organization
  • Self-care and cleanliness
  • Planning and goal-setting
  • Accountability and responsibility
  • Stress management
  • Adjustment/adaptability

The Skyterra Young Adult program includes teaching and practical application of all of the above skills, through lectures as well as hands-on exposure and activities. Our community setting allows for interaction among guests in a safe environment, and shared living spaces promote organization and cleanliness. The creation of an individualized Home Plan allows guests to prepare for home in a detailed and concise way to ensure long-term success.

How can I cope with Failure to Launch?

In addition to seeking the proper and effective treatment, we encourage you to explore your interests and get specific with your goals. Interests and passions don’t develop quickly. Instead, they emerge over time as you actively try new things. Set goals complete with actionable steps based on what you discover brings you joy. Allowing yourself to be curious and explore new interests gradually removes the pressure to choose what may feel like a permanent path in life. Work to build a healthy support system, free of dependency and full of helpful, resourceful people that want to see you succeed. Lastly, adopt a mindful perspective, Notice and commend yourself for what is going well. When you live fully in the present moment, you learn to let go of expectations and take positive action.

Is participating in a Failure to Launch program a good idea? How do I find the right program for me?

Participating in a Failure to Launch program can be a great idea for any individual looking to be immersed in a place committed to their success for an extended amount of time. The program at Skyterra Young Adult specializes in addressing the whole person through a multifaceted therapeutic wellness-focused approach. Through lectures and the progress that accompanies dedicated time for self-care, guests increase their self-awareness, develop new coping skills and mechanisms, and gain a clear understanding of mindfulness and its effectiveness. 

Ensuring that the program you seek has your best interest in mind before attending is key, and in doing so, you ensure your time and investment into the program will be of great benefit to you or your daughter. It is our ultimate goal to help young adults learn, grow, and tap into their full potential, whatever that looks like for them. For more information on how our program can support you in your launch to a happy and healthy life, click here.

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