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5 Strategies to Overcome Failure to Launch (evidence based strategies)

Updated: Jan 25

Meet Nick, a 28-year-old with a degree in Graphic Design, residing with his parents in Eureka, a small city in Northern California near the Oregon border.

After graduating from a local college, Nick has been drifting through part-time jobs at nearby coffee shops and doing occasional freelance design work.

His dream is to join a creative studio in San Francisco, but he struggles to update his portfolio and apply for jobs, often losing hours to video games and social media.

Nick's parents, supportive yet concerned, encourage him to attend design workshops in nearby cities and connect with professionals online.

However, the thought of such big steps paralyzes Nick with anxiety and self-doubt, keeping him in a familiar but stagnant living situation.

Does this sound familiar?

You might be wondering:

  • What is failure to launch?

  • What causes failure to launch?

  • How can parents support their child who failed to launch?

If you are a parent of an adult child and searching for support, you've come to the right place.

In this blog, I explain 5 evidence-based strategies to overcome failure to launch in young adults:

What is failure to launch?

First, let's define what failure to launch means.

An adult, over the age of 18, who lives at home, is financially dependent on their parents and is not actively seeking a pathway toward independence, has failed to launch.

It is a time when everyone who supports the young adult is ready for them to move out, except the young adult.

Instead, they live at home and struggle to find their footing as an independent person. 

Of course, there are grey areas where this definition may not perfectly apply, but for this article, we will use the working definition above.

Let's learn about the causes, signs, and symptoms, and how to support young adults who failed to launch.

Why are so many young adults living with their parents? 

In 2024, it is not uncommon for recent high school or college graduates to live with their parents. According to a new survey from Harris Poll for Bloomberg,

roughly 45% of people ages 18 to 29 are living at home with their families — the highest figure since the 1940s.

While shocking, remember, that a portion of young adults choose to move home after college due to the economic burden of student loans and the increasing cost of rent.

They might need to save money and search for a job with the goal of moving out and living independently. Pandemic-related factors, decreasing marriage rates, and an unwillingness to take low-paying jobs also play a role. 

However, others never move out. They fail to launch.

young adult hitting on a bench, playing video games who appears sad and unmotivated.

What causes failure to launch? 

In many cases, parents blame themselves. In some cases, parents do enable their children. However, other factors can cause failure to launch. 

Weak executive function skills

Executive functions are a set of skills that allow us to self-manage. They help us set, plan for, and achieve goals while learning from past experiences. Essentially, they allow us to get stuff done. 

An adult child who has failed to launch most likely has weak executive functions. They might be unable to break down a large project, like finding a job, into manageable chunks.

They might procrastinate, mismanage their time, or forget about crucial deadlines. 

A very messy bedroom with young adult sitting on his bed in the corner, feeling upset.

Additionally, many adults with weak executive functions set unrealistic goals. We live in a world of billionaires, social media influencers, and celebrities.

Some adult children have grandiose goals like becoming the next biggest YouTuber without a legitimate plan or understanding of how difficult it is to accomplish. While their hopes and dreams are wonderful, their target is so big, it creates paralysis. 

Others feel completely stuck. They are unclear about their passions and life purpose and do not know where to big. This could be due to weak metacognition, one of our executive functions. 


For some, fear of failure causes paralysis. Young adults who fail to launch feel may engaged in fear-based self-talk. 

If they fail at something small, like getting a job or taking a driver’s test, what does that say about them? It is much easier to stay home and play video games where life is much safer. 

Parental enablement 

Sometimes, parents fail to teach adult responsibilities to their adolescent children.

Tasks like doing laundry, getting a driver’s license, to running errands, need to be learned. Without adequate adulting skills, young adults feel unequipped to take on the world independently.

Parents who do not provide space for their adult children to practice skills and, on occasion, fail, withhold opportunities for personal growth. 

Substance abuse 

Problems with substance abuse can cause failure to launch.

If you, your adult child, or someone you know is struggling with substance abuse, it is important to seek professional help from someone who is experienced in working with substance abuse disorders. 

Neurological differences 

According to Dr. Roseann, neurodivergent young adults, especially those with ADHD and autism, are more likely to fail to launch. It could be due to a lack of executive function, past failures, or a lack of professional support. 

If you suspect that your adult child has ADHD, consider receiving a comprehension evaluation.

You can learn more about the steps in receiving an adult ADHD diagnosis here.  

What are the signs and symptoms of adult ADHD? 

Common signs and symptoms of failure to launch are: 

  • Sporadic emotional displays, such as crying or yelling

  • Oversleeping or undersleeping

  • Blaming others for their failures and misfortunes 

  • Excessive engagement in screen activities

  • A noticeable withdrawal from social interactions

  • Reluctance or avoidance in assuming responsibilities, including school, work, volunteering, or household tasks.

  • Procrastination 

  • Starting educational or occupational pursuits but discontinuing them without pursuing alternatives.

  • Experiencing feelings of being lost or without clear direction.

  • A discernible lack of enthusiasm for advancing in education, career, or job opportunities.

If you notice signs and symptoms in your adult child, book a complimentary strategy session with me, Eric, and learn how adult executive function coaching can help. Click the image below.

white male with long, dark hair, standing in front of a green background, wearing a black jacket

What can parents do about it? 

As parents, addressing failure to launch in your adult child requires a blend of firmness and support.

The key is to set clear expectations and create a framework that encourages growth and independence.

Below are 5 strategies to overcome failure to launch.

Set expectations and make agreements

Start by establishing concrete expectations and agreements. This could involve charging rent to instill a sense of financial responsibility or setting a specific move-out date to encourage them to plan for independence. 

Clarify household responsibilities as well, such as taking out the trash, doing laundry, making dinner a few times per week, and maintaining cleanliness in their personal and shared spaces.

These actions are not just about maintaining order at home; they're crucial steps in teaching your child the responsibilities that come with adulthood.

Exposure to adulting skills

Exposing your adult child to essential 'adulting' skills is non-negotiable. Skills like budgeting, time management, and self-care are foundational for independent living.

Learning these skills equips them with the tools they need to navigate the world outside your home.

Create a gradual transition plan

Finally, develop a gradual transition plan with your child. This plan should be a collaborative effort, involving both your input and your child's aspirations and capabilities.

The goal is to create a roadmap that gradually increases their responsibilities and independence, paving the way for a successful launch into adulthood.

Adult executive function coaching 

Your adult child might benefit from a personal mentor who not only grasps the intricacies of their daily challenges but also has the know-how to help them overcome them. This is precisely what adult executive function coaching provides. 

At its heart, this coaching zeroes in on improving executive functions, the cognitive abilities that govern tasks like planning, organization, time management, and impulse control.

Coaches work with adults to pinpoint their strengths and weaknesses, as well as their ambitions. The coach then crafts a plan incorporating strategies, tools, and techniques aimed at bolstering executive functioning skills.

In these coaching sessions, adults learn to apply these strategies in everyday situations, slowly altering their approach to handling tasks, managing time, and making decisions. With persistent effort and expert guidance, personal growth and adulting skills will develop. 

If you or your child is in Person-Centered Planning and/or the Self-Determination Program, consider allocating funds to work with an adult executive function coach.

Executive function coaching indirectly supports person-centered planning by enhancing skills essential for independence and self-advocacy.


In some cases, adults who failed to launch benefit from therapy. If there are underlying mental health issues, severely poor self-esteem, or excessive amounts of stress, consider working with a licensed therapist.

Finding the right therapist is key and often recommendations from someone who you know, like a friend or doctor, are the best starting points. You can also find local therapists on

What if there is resistance?

It's natural to be apprehensive about how your child might react to these changes. Initially, you might face resistance or even anger. This reaction is a normal part of the process. 

In these moments, it's crucial to 'stick to your guns.' Allowing your adult child to remain at home without shouldering appropriate responsibilities does them a disservice in the long run.

Yes, this approach might seem harsh, but remember, it stems from a place of love and a deep understanding of what’s ultimately best for your child’s development.

Nick's story

Remember Nick, the 28-year-old graphic designer, from the beginning of this article?

Over there few months, we witnessed Nick create major change.

By implementing strategies like setting clear expectations and agreements, Nick and his parents created a foundation for progress. Nick's commitment to time management and financial planning, guided by adult executive function coaching, fostered his organizational and goal-setting skills. Gradual steps, such as updating his portfolio and applying for jobs, built his confidence. Therapy also played a key role, in helping him overcome anxiety and self-doubt.

With these combined efforts, Nick successfully launched into adulthood, securing a job in a creative studio in San Francisco!


The rise in young adults living with their parents, often termed Failure to Launch Syndrome, is a complex issue influenced by economic burdens, societal changes, and individual challenges.

At its core, it involves young adults struggling with the transition to adulthood, marked by financial dependence and lack of action towards independence.

Key factors contributing to this include weak executive functions, fear of failure, parental enablement, substance abuse, and neurological differences. 

To address the failure to launch, parents play a crucial role by setting clear expectations, teaching adulting skills, and creating a gradual transition plan. Additionally, adult executive function coaching and therapy can be instrumental in providing the necessary guidance and support for personal growth and independence.

These interventions, tailored to individual needs, can help young adults navigate the challenges of adult life, fostering the development of essential life skills and emotional resilience.

Stay engaged

About the author

Eric Kaufmann, M.Ed is a Professional Educational Therapist and Certified Executive Function Coach. He is the Co-founder of UpSkill Specialists, an online adult executive function coaching company designed to guide adults in overcoming disorganization, procrastination, and productivity roadblocks so they can unlock their potential. Eric is also the founder of Elevate Learning Solutions, an Educational Therapy practice located in San Clemente, CA, that guides students with neurological differences toward becoming independent and confident students and self-leaders.

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About 👋

Upskill Specialists was founded when two former special education teachers turned executive function coaches decided that adults need tools and coaching to improve their workplace skills and feel confident and empowered. Our mission is to ensure every adult with EF challenges has access to high-quality coaching services. 

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