According to educational consultant Christie Woodfin, MEd, “Failure to launch” is an increasingly popular description for the challenges some young adults encounter in moving forward following high school or college. It's a useful description, but Christie and I both agree that these young adults do not need one more failure in their lives. So we refer to the next step in their life as just that – The Next Step!
After all, it’s a fairly recent development in our evolutionary history that we even carry this expectation of “launching” at a given age or age range. For much of our evolution, human beings worked in small groups of 50-150, supporting one another and tending to the needs of the community as a whole. So our brains did not evolve with this modern expectation of flipping a switch for launch at 22.
Sociologically, I believe that this relatively new expectation stems from the growing industrialization and incorporation of our basically "new" educational system along with two successive generations that struggled with and endured two World Wars, when young men were conscripted into service.
So, what if anything, does it really mean -- to launch into adulthood?
I think what we are actually seeking are fundamental developmental milestones:
1) a growing sense of the capacity to make good decisions (or at least better, more informed decisions)
2) a sense of place within the society.
We are also hoping to see evidence of what we now understand as neurotypical brain development: sensory motor coordination, additional social skills and the capacity to acquire new learning skills. We are also hoping to see what we commonly refer to as motivation – a sense of moving forward in the world while accepting our responsibility for contributing to society. Such contributions may take the form of radical rejection of the society norms and establishing new alternatives or the embracing and understanding of those norms.
If your child or adult child encounters obstacles in emerging into the next step of development, we may be able to help. We offer career coaching, preparation for college, mental health evaluations, and individual counseling. But most importantly, we offer a supportive environment for parents to decompress, renew their energy, or consult about the best options to move forward.
You’re not alone in this – ask for our help.