Failure to Launch: Guiding Your Young Adult Toward Independence

Failure to Launch: Guiding Your Young Adult Toward Independence

Failure to Launch:

Guiding Your Young Adult Toward Independence

Parents can help their child who is failing to launch by making this one change


Is your young adult struggling with adulting? When your young adult is experiencing a failure to launch it can show up as regular forgetfulness, avoidance or refusal to do necessary tasks.


What causes failure to launch?


As teenagers grow into young adults, their bodies and brains are changing significantly. But just because the brain and body are making big changes does not mean a teenager feels like a young adult. Sometimes, they get stuck with the uncomfortable feeling of ‘now what do I do’?


As parents, you expect your older teenager and young adult to be responsible for managing their daily life. But for a young adult this responsibility can create a lot of anxiety and fear.


We all fear the unknown. We like routines and knowing what to do. But for young adults most tasks they do fall into the unknown category of life. It may be the first time they have to do something on their own. They need to learn to set appointments, apply for an apartment, register for classes, file taxes, etc.


Some young adults can take these new challenges in stride, with minimal stress and anxiety. But some teenagers and young adults struggle because they have no idea what to expect or what is expected from them. And this leads to a lot of uncertainty and feelings of overwhelm and anxiety. This can lead to your young adult or teenager putting up a wall or shutting down to avoid the unknown. This can show up as “forgetting” to do things, avoiding a task or flat out refusing to do something.


What exactly is happening?


Young adults who are failing to launch, are often struggling because of a fear of the unknown. They don’t understand the process or what to say or how the other party is going to react. All these unknowns prove to be too overwhelming and so they tell themselves it is safer if they don’t do it.


Even if there are consequences, it is not necessarily enough of a motivator for action. Why? Because the consequence is generally known. Fear will usually make those struggling with action choose the known. Because it is often viewed as less dangerous than the unknown they are facing.


So what can you do as a parent when your young adult experiences a failure to launch?


Go back to the basics. As parents, our main job is to teach our children how we expect them to act. So just because your child is a teenager or young adult does not mean your teaching days are behind you.


Ask your child what feels hard about the task. What are they worried about? Listen to their answer and then offer to do the task with them, like they are your shadow. This way they can see an example that takes away the unknown. Let them see how a business call goes, how to fix an error on a bill, how to talk to the bank about their account, etc.


Once your child sees what they have to do, most will feel relieved and ready to do the task the next time.


If your young adult indicates they still have fear, then practice with them again. For the second time though, let your child take charge and you be the shadow. This will give them the security of knowing they have backup. But at the same time it will give them the experience of how to handle the situation.


Final thoughts on failure to launch


As a parent, you may sometimes forget what it was like to be a young adult launching out into the world. And truthfully, launching into independence in today’s world with social media and teh gig economy is very different.


Fear of the unknown can lead your teenager or young adult to question their capability. This in turn can result in them avoiding life. These feelings do not usually go away by themselves. Nor do they disappear because your child now looks like an adult.


Fight the urge to do the task for your child. Instead, teach your child they are capable through practice.


For those parents that are reading this to prevent a failure to launch:

You can set your child up for success through chores beginning at an early age. Sprinkle in bringing them along for errands or listening in to calls with businesses. Modeling how to do adult tasks will make them more confident as they grow.

Modeling is one of the best ways to teach a child, so let your child see what you do!

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Phone: 612-440-1477
Address: 2700 Louisiana Ave, #26614, Minneapolis, MN 55426

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Copyright © 2024 Happy Parenting and Families LLC, All Rights Reserved.

The Path to Independence: Why Decision Making Skills Matter

The Path to Independence: Why Decision Making Skills Matter

The Path to Independence: Why Decision Making Skills Matter

Parent Coach Jen Kiss teaches you how to build decision making skills in your children and teens


Allowing kids to make decisions can help grow their independence. It can also give them confidence to handle new situations. Because decision making helps develop a lot of executive functioning skills. And once these skills are developed, they can be transferred to new situations. This not only leads to more confidence and better decision making, but it also reduces anxiety.


When is a good time to start letting your child or teen make decisions?


It’s good to start letting kids make decisions early on in life. And this can begin when your child is in their toddler years.This way they can practice on things with small consequences while they build their decision making skills. This allows them to be ready for the added challenge that comes during the teenage years; when peer pressure gets layered in along with bigger consequences.

When kids are young, they need more structure and firm rules. So the decisions they will be helping to make will not be anything big. But even young kids can build up their decision making skills through practice.

The decisions a child is included in and the impact their decisions create should grow as your child grows into their teen years to ensure the are continuing to build executive functioning skills. So along the way as your child grows, ask your child if their decision takes into account outside factors, other’s feelings and potential consequences that may come from their decision. This helps to build their skills for independence.


How do you begin?


Give your child a choice between 2 things within your set boundaries. This is a good way to introduce decision making by creating a structure they can work within. Offering only 2 choices allows for some autonomy, but helps keep things from becoming too overwhelming by introducing too many possibilities. 

To be clear, the choices you provide should not interfere with your parenting or your child’s safety. Providing your child with choices is not the same as letting your child do whatever they want. Nor are you letting your child make big decisions that are not appropriate for their age, such as deciding which preschool they should go to.


Next Steps


Once you are in the habit of giving your child small choices, add in follow up questions. Ask, ‘what made you choose that’ or ‘would you choose that again’. This helps children develop critical thinking skills as well as reflection. It can also help your child realize mistakes they may have made without attaching shame to it. This allows your child to learn from past decision making mistakes in a supportive environment.

You can also use decision making to help grow empathy in your child. When you give your child a choice, after they make their choice ask them ‘how does your choice impact others?’ or ‘how might others feel about your decision?’ This helps your child learn to think about another person’s perspective. And how to think about the impact they have on others when making decisions.


Decision Making for Older Kids


As your child gets into their pre-teen and teen years, it’s time to begin shifting your parenting style. From providing lots of firm rules to more flexibility and negotiable rules. These new rules are ones that should integrate your child’s decision making skills more.




If the rule is that chores need to be completed by the end of the week. Leave the decision making up to your pre-teen or teenager about how and when they get their chores done. If your child struggles or makes a poor choice, such as leaving all chores until the last 4 hours of the week, your job is to become a guide. Help your child realize what went wrong and how they think it can go better the next time. Mistakes and bad decisions should be expected in the beginning.

Avoid This Parenting Pitfall


Telling your child what decision they should have made does not build executive functioning skills. Nor does removing the chance to make decisions.

Instead, you want to help your child recognize any mistakes they have made. Not from a critical or shaming perspective, but from one of curiosity and problem solving. By acting as their guide and asking questions, it helps develop their problem solving skills. And that’s how they learn to make better decisions in the future.

Of course still expect some poor decisions. And the need to re-learn lessons as they continue to figure things out. This is normal for the age and the stage.


When Your Child is Struggling With Making Good Decisions


If your child is consistently making poor decisions or not following through with the decisions they make, pull back on letting your child have more flexibility. Repeated poor decisions are a sign that more growth and supports are needed.

In those cases, go back to more structure, like the 2 choices within your boundary. Or telling your child they need to do 1 chore a day, but they get to decide which chore to do each day.

Because sometimes your child or teen needs more accountability and practice before they can function more independently. But continue to offer flexibility from time to time. This way you can gauge how your child is growing in their decision making skills and if they are ready for more flexibility.


The Teenage Years & Decision Making


In the teenage years, kids should be more and more involved in the decisions that impact them. Let your teenager take the lead in the discussions and in trying to problem solve. It is great to express your viewpoint as a parent because your guidance in these years is still critical. Just be careful that you are not dominating the conversation. Or removing the opportunity to problem solve from your teenager.

Your job as the parent is to help them see all the different options and consequences. The best approach is to ask questions to help guide your teen to think about these possibilities. So if your teen wants to go to a party and you are worried about drugs and alcohol being present, instead of forbidding them to go, ask them if you go and there are drugs or alcohol present what is your plan? Do you know what to do if the person you are going with has too much to drink? What kinds of things are you going to do to keep yourself safe?

Teenagers don’t respond well to being told what to do. Impulse control is still being developed and peer pressure can have a lot of weight in their actions. But by asking them questions that make them think ahead of time about their decisions, they are better prepared to make a good decision when the time comes. Additionally, they will be more confident in their choice because it will feel familiar.

And sometimes your teen will surprise you and make the decision you wanted them to make all on their own. Because they had the chance to figure it out for themselves. This will give them confidence in handling situations and allow them to do better in new situations. Because the executive functioning skills they are developing can be transferred to new problems and situations.


What if I haven’t been giving my child a chance to make decisions?


Don’t worry, it is never too late to begin developing these decision making skills in your child or teen. You can begin to give your child more decision making opportunities at any time. But you still want to walk them through the above stages. You don’t have to spend years doing it, but the length of time you spend should allow them to master each step.

Decision making is a skill. One that needs to be built upon in order to learn how to do it well. So if you have a teenager and have been the one making most of the decisions, don’t throw them into the deep end by skipping straight to the teenage stage. Just because they are a teenager doesn’t mean they have the executive functioning skills needed for good decision making yet.

In short, you can’t expect your child to make good decisions if you don’t first give them the right tools.

If there haven’t been enough chances to practice, your child may feel more anxious about making decisions. Or try to avoid it all together. Because as they get older, the consequences that come with decision making tend to be bigger. And if avoided, this can lead to more significant issues later in life, like failure to launch, anxiety or depression.

So help your child succeed through practice and going through these stages. Because everyone makes more mistakes in the beginning as they are learning a new skill. And decision making is no exception.

And if you need help growing independence in your child or changing your parenting to better support your child’s executive functioning skills, reach out to me for a free 30 minute consultation and we can talk about solutions tailored to your child.


Chore list by age

Chore list by age

Chore List by Age

Need helo implementing chores? Check out our chore list by age.

Requiring your child to complete chores helps teach valuable skills for independence, builds self-confidence, and takes some of the work off your plate. The below chore list by age provides examples of what kinds of tasks your child could be ready for at a particular age. As your child grows, you can pull chores from their current age category as well as from any younger age category.

Please note, your child may or may not be ready to perform these tasks at the given numerical age based on their current course of development or if they have a disability or disorder.

You know best what your child is capable of. The important part about chores is teaching your child responsibility, accountability and self-efficacy. As long as you are requiring some chores and they are working towards these goals at a level appropriate to their development, what chore you choose does not matter.

If your child has a learning disability, special needs or a disorder, please read our tips on chores for children with special needs to go along with this chore list by age.

Help your child succeed

After you chose a task from our chore list by age, take the time to teach your child exactly how you want them to perform the task

With any new task, expect to have to break down each chore into simple steps and teach your child exactly how you want them to perform it. It may be common sense to you, but your child has never learned it before so be patient and understanding as they learn a new skill. Make sure to stick close to them the first handful of times and show them rather than tell them what you expect. Once they can perform the task properly two or three times, you should be able to leave them to complete the task on their own, depending on their age and ability.

When your child completes their chore, don’t forget to check their work and keep them accountable. If they have made a mistake, don’t get mad. Simply show them how to correct the mistake and ask them to re-do that part. If your child has a breakdown at this point, let them take a break first and tell them they can come back to the task after a specified period of time or before a different activity begins. If a chore repeatedly results in mistakes or a breakdown, it is either time to re-teach the task in smaller steps or to choose a different chore for a while.

Chore Lists by Age

Ages 2 – 3

  • Put away toys
  • Dust leather couch/furniture
  • Wipe down table
  • Pair socks
  • Water plants
  • Move chairs for vacuuming

Ages 4 – 5

  • Help carry grocery bags
  • Set table
  • Help unpack grocery bags
  • Make bed independently

Ages 6 – 7

  • Take out trash
  • Load/Unload dishwasher
  • Fold laundry
  • Help prepare a meal
  • Pack own lunch
  • Help take care of a pet

Ages 8 – 9

  • Put away groceries
  • Hand wash dishes
  • Vacuum
  • Rake leaves
  • Shovel snow
  • Prepare a family meal
  • Take care of a pet (give food, water, clean area and walk)

Ages 10 – 11

  • Clean bathroom
  • Mow lawn
  • Do laundry
  • Clean windows
  • Sew for minor needs/fixes

Ages 12 +

  • Help with more extensive house cleaning and organization projects
  • Watch younger children independently (for 2-4 hours)
  • Help run small errands

Chores for Children with Special Needs

Chores for Children with Special Needs

Chores for Children with Special Needs

Chores for special needs kids require adjustments be made to meet your child where they are

As a parent of a child with special needs, a learning disability, or a disorder, you want your child to grow into independence and be able to one day thrive on their own. However depending on your child’s particular struggles and challenges, you may question if this is even possible. Or you may simply question when to push them to do more or when to let things go.

The truth is raising a child with a learning disability, special needs or a disorder requires a complete overhaul of your expectations as to what they can and cannot do. Add into the mix that a child that requires “more” may have a hard time with accomplishing the basics in life, like hygiene, it can make chores seem like pie in the sky dreams.

Tips on implementing chores

Be realistic with what your child can do

A child’s numerical age is rarely, if ever, aligned with their developmental age when they have a learning disability, special needs or disorder. Understanding your child’s diagnosis and what their strengths and challenges are can help to guide you in setting the chores for your child with special needs.

Pay attention to sensory triggers

If your child is sensitive to a particular sensory input, make sure you take that into account when deciding what chore to give them. Are they able to handle the sound, vibration and sometimes smell of a vacuum? If not, don’t make that a chore for them. Perhaps sweeping would be a better fit. If your child has tactile sensitivity then maybe finding the right kind of glove they can wear when doing their chores is necessary before you can take on giving them chores.

Be realistic with what your end goal is

Some children will be able to live independently with proper supports in place, some will be able to live in a group home setting, and some will require more dependent care. As your child grows and you have more experience learning what their learning disability, special needs or disorder mean for them, adjust your end goal accordingly. View this as a fluid process and a slower launching process. Expecting too much of your “more” child too soon can cause them to shut down and become overwhelmed, which can lead to anxiety or depression.

Have a candid discussion with adolescents

For adolescents who will eventually be living in a group home or independently, have a candid conversation about what daily chores they struggle with. If they truly cannot pick up after themselves because the “more” part of them is making it too big of an obstacle, talk to them about their options. They can either agree to implementing and working through chore routines in small, manageable steps or they will need to always budget for a cleaning service to take care of this aspect of their life. If they choose the cleaning crew option, don’t fight it, don’t spend your time and energy on it, just move on to something that they are willing to work on.

Use visuals

For all chores, use a visual chart. For example, take a before picture of dishes in the sink, a picture of them doing the dishes, and then a picture after the dishes are done. Display these pictures instead of a chore list.

Use Choice Boards

Allowing your “more” child to choose the chore from 2-3 pictures can increase success.

Break Down Chores

Break down the chore into smaller tasks to be completed. If you can, continue to provide visuals for the smaller steps until they are learned. For example, if the chore is to load the dishwasher, have a picture of glasses to indicate all the glasses should be loaded first, then plates and so on.

Provide Rewards to Reinforce Habits

The use of rewards can be extremely effective for children with learning disabilities, special needs and disorders. It does not need to be something huge, perhaps a favorite snack, special art supplies only available when chores are completed, a game, screen time, etc. Make sure to show a picture of the reward next to the chore so your child knows what they are working for.

Final thoughts

Life with a “more” child can be very overwhelming, frustrating and full of worry. Please remember you are not alone. If you have any questions about parenting your “more” child or if you would just like support from someone who truly understands the challenges and struggles you are facing on a daily basis, please connect with us for a free 30 minute chat.

If you need ideas about what kind of chores to give your child, check out our Chore List by Age.

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