Avoiding the Failure to Launch: 5 Tips for My Young Friends Facing Lift Off

Avoiding the Failure to Launch: 5 Tips for My Young Friends Facing Lift Off

Therapy is way more than a toolbox of intervention. Information alone cannot replace professional help. However, information can be very powerful. So, for what it’s worth to you, here is a post offering a therapeutic idea, concept, or intervention that you can try out in your own life or relationships.

I tend to work with individuals, couples, and families during seasons of transitions. Change…even good, normal, developmentally appropriate change…brings stress and often triggers interpersonal and intrapersonal relational conflict. The “launching phase” is no different. Whether it is with individuals or couples, young people in their twenties and early thirties find their way to my office every week. I love this age group. So much is going on! It is the best of times and the worst of times. Here are some thoughts for all of you out there who might be traveling this leg of the journey. It isn’t meant to be an exhaustive “to do” or “not to do” list…just some things to think about.

1. Give your parents a break.

Sure, they are excited for you, but even the best of parents, the SANEST of parents, go a little crazy watching their “baby” leave home and strike out on their own. The relationship is changing and they are adjusting to those changes, too. They have a hard time learning that advice from parents is not what young people need anymore…not that they would listen to it anyway! Do your best to be patient with them as they are learning how to be the parent of an adult child. Here is a great book I have had parents recommend to me as being helpful.

2. Big or small…you might go through a faith crisis….and that is ok.

More than just ok…it is completely normal…and can be a good thing. James Fowler, who did a lot of writing and teaching on faith development, talks about stages of faith. There is a certain stage that often takes place at about the time of young adulthood where there is a great deal of questioning. Sometimes this season of questioning is very scary for a person who has been strong in their faith. It can feel like you are losing your faith. It is very, very, very important that you understand that this is not what is happening. Your faith is becoming your own. You are wrestling and in that wrestling you can come out on the other side stronger. The bible is full of people who wrestle with God, who doubt, question, and get angry…and are called some of the most righteous of the bible. What you don’t want to happen is to think you are losing your faith, that you are the only one, and to never talk to anyone about it. Remember, you are not losing your faith, you are not the only one, and there are people with whom you can safely discuss your doubts.

Again, parents can struggle to watch their adult child go through this phase. Hopefully, your parent will give you room to dialogue and discuss these questions. If, for whatever reason, your relationship with your parent is not a safe place to process these questions then I encourage you to do two things: 1. Learn what you can and can’t talk to your parents about during this time. Don’t throw the relationship out altogether. 2. Find a trusted, faithful adult with whom you CAN talk about your questions.

3. Overthinking…and great expectations…can lead to paralysis of analysis and missed opportunities.

Wow…you are making a lot of decisions during these years. Career, marriage, place of residence, when or if to have children…it can be overwhelming. In a world where we can control just about every minute of our life from the temperature of our home to when our coffee maker turns on in the morning, these kinds of options and unknowns can be un-nerving at best and paralyzing at worst.

For my Christian friends another wrench gets thrown into the mix in the form of one terrifying question: “What is God’s will?” This question can be terrifying because young people are so afraid that they will miss it. Let me remind you that in the New Testament when we are taught about God’s will the subject is NEVER something like…who should I marry? What job should I choose? Where should I live? What is the topic each time God’s will is discussed? Things like pursuing peace, becoming more like Christ, etc. It could be that we focus so much on the job, the marriage, and the location because this thing of becoming like Christ is actually a more difficult task! We want to do something GRRREAT! for God. The mundane daily living of God’s will for faithfulness isn’t as exciting or dramatic…but, ultimately what He wants from us.

Take a deep breath. Make the best decision you know to make. Seek counsel, do your best to be wise, but in the end trust that you will learn from any mistakes you make and that there is beauty in a journey with twists and turns. There is RARELY a decision that is completely without the possibility of being changed or done over.

Ultimately, trust. Trust that “all things do work out for good”…not as an excuse to do whatever you want…but, as freedom to do the best you know to do and to leave the rest up to God.

4. Learn the life giving rhythm of the mundane.

For those of you who went to college, particularly for those who enjoyed the college campus “experience”, life after graduation can come as quite a culture shock. People get up, go to work, come home, eat, maybe read or exercise, go to bed, and get up the next day to do it all again. Social events are not a few steps outside the front of your dorm anymore so friendship and building relationships will take more effort and initiative. You can stay up to all hours, sleep through class, and still manage to pass. You can’t sleep through work and get a paycheck…or keep your job. Self-care becomes a responsibility of adulthood. Good bedtimes, good eating habits, staying connected to those we love…a healthy rhythm of life…becomes part of your “adult” developmental work.

Again, this change can be quite a culture shock. Give yourself some time to adjust. Learn to inject adventure into your life. Learn to explore and love the world around you. Learn to do all of this in your newly acquired position called “adult”.

5. Try not to react.

People will have a lot of opinions about what you should do with your life. Listen. Be respectful. Learn. Be open to new ideas and the wisdom of others. Also be very careful not to react…in either direction…to what others say. For example, in what is a classic tale of humanity…as much as parents know that if they tell you how much they hate your girlfriend you are even MORE likely to date her…parents still struggle to keep their opinions to themselves. Same goes for faith development. If adult children sense that their parents are pushing them to believe in the same way they do, the more the adult child can resist. Be aware of this parent-adult dance. Try not to make decisions in reaction to your parents’ opinions (pro or con!) or anyone else’s. Either way…even if you go AGAINST what others are saying…you still aren’t making YOUR decision. It ends up being a decision made on account of someone else. Young people will say: “I want to make my own decisions!” Well, ok, then learn not to be reactive to those around you. Learn to make YOUR decision…even if…God forbid…it is the same thing your parents want.


I hope some of those thoughts help. What a wonderful time of your life you are traveling right now. I smile just thinking about it.