This phenomenon is highlighted in the movie "Failure to Launch." Matthew McConaughey plays Tripp, 30-something bachelor whose parents want him out of the house. They hire Paula (Sarah Jessica Parker), an "interventionist," to help him move out. Paula has a track record of successfully boosting men's self-confidence to spur them to want to be independent.
This story line is not as far-fetched as it may seem. Young adults are indeed becoming more difficult to coax out of their comfy childhood homes. According to Twentysomethings.com, since the '70s, the number of 26-year-olds still living at home has nearly doubled! Here are the top four factors I’ve found that contribute to this change:
1. Kids Are Unprepared
They are overwhelmed by the prospect of responsibility or unmotivated to live independently. They would rather play it safe by staying in their familiar surroundings, playing computer games, and just hanging out.
Often such young people have grown up living a privileged lifestyle. Well-meaning parents provide their children with all the amenities of affluence. The parents are focused on doing more for their children than their parents did for them—at the expense of keeping them dependent. Kids don’t move out because they’ve got it made!
How to Help: Teach young adults how to become self-sufficient by giving them opportunities to grow into healthy adults. Show them how to create a budget and how to save for big expenditures. Let them make their own choices and reap the consequences. Step back and let the Law of Cause and Effect happen organically; don’t rescue. Young adults need to clean up their messes; otherwise no growth takes place.
2. Kids Are Cautious or Clueless About a Career
They want a great life, but are unsure how to discover their ideal career path. They approach college with the same trial and error mindset their parents had only to find out that it no longer prepares them for today's competitive world.
Parents do their kids a disservice by waiting until they are 17 or 18 before initiating career-related discussions. In our dynamic society where change is a daily diet, this is much too late! It's best to start young, at age 13.
This stage of development is the perfect time to begin connecting the dots between what they love to do and possible career options. It can take years to prepare for the perfect career. Beginning early will help teens maximize their opportunities in high school and make college a much better investment. However, if this hasn't happened...
How to Help: Parents can help young adults get career savvy by providing career coaching services on how to get hired. Young adults can begin using networking (the #1 job search technique) by conducting informational interviews with family contacts or leaders in the industries that they are considering for themselves. There’s no need to wait until mid-life to learn how to build a satisfying future.
3. Kids Have Personal Problems
They don't have effective life coping skills, have failed relationships, are grieving some other loss, or are wrestling with a challenging life event.
In “Failure to Launch,” we learn that Tripp's parents indulged him largely because the woman he loved died and he hadn't gotten over his loss. When Tripp falls in love with Paula, his self-sabotaging habit of dumping a girl before she can get too close gets reactivated. Finally, his friends intervene, and Tripp eventually faces his demons--and begins his adult life.
How to Help: If your young adult is struggling emotionally, don't make the mistake of thinking it will somehow magically get better without an intervention. Tough love requires that you insist your son or daughter get professional help from a therapist or pastoral counselor so that he or she can move forward. (If you don't know how to have that kind of conversation, consider talking to a life coach or pastoral counselor yourself.)
They've accumulated significant credit card debt, and moving back in with their parents is a way to pay it off.
According to the National Credit Card Research Foundation, 55% of students ages 16-22 have at least one credit card. If your child falls into this group, make sure you monitor spending together online. Helping your child understand how to budget and manage credit cards will be important for handling a household budget in the future.
How to Help: Kids can't learn to manage money if they don't have any, or if parents always pay for everything. If your offspring moves back home, I recommend you charge a nominal amount for room and board. As an adult member of your household, it's important for your young adult to contribute to household chores and expenses.
If the purpose of your child's return home is to pay off bills or a college loan, have a realistic financial plan and stick to it to make sure your young adult moves in the direction of independence.
Determine Goals and Stick to Them
Most parents enjoy having their children visit and will consider offering some short-term help. However, indulging an adult child's inaction does not help a son or daughter "get launched." If your child defaults on your agreement, you might renegotiate more realistic terms; if it happens again, insisting that your child vacate the premises--as hard as that is--will help him or her launch into responsible adulthood.