Failure to Launch: When Kids Won’t Leave Home

It’s not unusual for topics to come from my counseling work. In fact, I’ve found that when I have a string of clients with the same issue, that is a sign from my guides to share it with a wider audience. Now, I’m not naming names or placing blame — I’ve done the same things too — it’s simply to share what I’ve learned in order to help others find solutions. In this case, I’m talking about young people in their late teens and early 20’s who don’t seem to be able to leave home and get on with their lives. We call it “failure to launch” as in young birds who can’t seem to launch themselves from the nest to begin life on their own.

What causes this problem? And why does it seem that the current crop of 20+ year-olds have such a high percentage still living at home? There are many factors including the economy so many that it can be quite overwhelming to understand. I’ll write about just one today; our dysfunctional belief about using our masculine or “dark” abilities that was instilled in us, especially women when we were young. This belief literally disables a child so that when they reach their 20s they are too frightened to launch. I’ll explain.

As I wrote in Dancing with the Dark, the 5th Key of Compassion, the masculine or dark abilities are those that enable us to get our needs met. That can include, making money, being assertive, setting boundaries, saying no, and being selfish. did you notice how your stomach clenched on that last word? We have learned that we can do all those things except being selfish — that is the big no no! Why?

As women, society tells us that we are to be the nurturers; not ourselves but others. Through numerous examples we are shown that women who follow this rule, excelling at it, are the ones that are given respect, approval and appreciation. The message is clear, when you give to. others you are valued. In fact, you can use your masculine abilities as long as it is for others.

Combined with admonitions of the evils of selfishness, generously given from the pulpit, we learn very early in life to BE FOR OTHERS and NOT FOR OURSELVES. We have no value other than what we give. Regardless of what is said about God’s unconditional love it has little bearing because society’s love is conditional and since we live in society, it takes precedence.

So we grow up to be great nurturers faithfully using our masculine side to earn our right to live, to take up space on the planet and be loved. All is well, or at least we try to tell ourselves that until some time in our lives when something occurs to make us acknowledge the untold depths of resentment, rage and bitterness we carry from having given so much and received so little. For some it’s chronic depression or breast cancer, for others, an unfaithful partner, or a child that fails to launch.

Here’s where the kids come in.  Some of us find it hard to keep our bitter feelings inside and we share them with our children. There’s usually one child that is more sympathetic and it is that child to whom we turn to pour out our unhappiness. The focus of our plight is usually our husbands, those mean, selfish men we married, or those selfish people in the government, or some selfish neighbor, boss, coworker. We resent it when others have no problem getting what they want. We judge them as selfish and in our anger utter hateful ugly words to our child.

What we don’t realize is that by dumping our pain and our judgments on our child, we send him/her the message that these abilities are wrong to use and cause mom pain. Not wanting to cause pain or risk mom’s disapproval, the child stifles those qualities and instead, becomes hyper sensitive to mom’s needs. When it comes time to leave the nest, our now 20 something year old child is unable because the very qualities needed to launch are the ones that have been stifled.

Now, I not saying this is the case for every young adult’s failure to launch and there are other aspects that can contribute, more than enough for several weekly messages. But as with most things taking it one aspect at a time seems to make it easier to grasp.

So what’s the solution?

  1. See these qualities from the higher perspective, Selfishness, aggressiveness, setting boundaries, making money, all have value when done in balance.
  2. Go back over your past conversations and see if you have perhaps sent your child a negative message about using their masculine side.
  3. Reintegrate these qualities by using them. As you do you become a role model for others…not to mention happier. You send a new message to your child of how to use his/her masculine side. In other words, how to give but also how to received.

I know its easier said than done but it is doable. If you don’t want your child still living at home when he/she is 40 making excuses and falling into self destructive behavior to cover his/her feelings of inadequacy, then there’s no time like the present to begin.

For more on our masculine abilities and how to reintegrate them, read Dancing with the Dark, the 5th Key of Compassion.