Expert gives advice on getting young adults ‘unstuck’
Many have heard of the term “failure to launch,” which is often used to describe young adults who are struggling with the transition to adulthood.
Recently, Gregg Pauletti, director of the RCH Institute (the Institute for Restoring Cognitive Health) in Greenwich, gave a free seminar that addressed adults who are experiencing failure to launch.
The seminar, called “Is Your Adult Child Stuck?” was at Darien Wellness.
At the seminar, which was interactive, Pauletti talked about what he called a “crisis across the U.S. for the past decade,” and shared ways for parents and family members to get their child “unstuck.”
A young person who is considered to be stuck might not be attending school or applying to jobs, he said, adding, however, that “being stuck” means more than that.
“We’re talking about their ability to really see themselves in this independent face or getting over this developmental milestone and into this next step,” he said.
If young adults are going to launch from the home or get unstuck, they need to have their social, emotional, and physical needs met by themselves, according to Pauletti.
“They need to feel good about them,” he said. “They need to meet them in a positive way.”
Socializing, developing interests
According to Pauletti, socializing with friends is healthy for young adults.
However, when playing video games was brought up, Pauletti said that is not what he considers to be socialization.
“When playing video games, young adults may feel like they’re socializing, when in reality it’s a very different type of socialization,” he said, adding that he encourages in-person interactions.
In addition, stuck adults should be encouraged to find their interests, “what they’re good at — things that they have no problem sharing,” he said.
Those who want to help stuck adults should try to get them into activities they really love and enjoy.
Physical & emotional needs, motivation
Physical needs were addressed as well, in regard to helping stuck adults.
“In order to be healthy, we need nutrition, sleep, and exercise, in addition to having food and shelter,” Pauletti said.
Emotional needs are also important, he said. He defined emotional needs as having confidence and feeling comfortable, worthy, and cared for.
“The things that come up over and over and over again are confidence, self-esteem, and motivation,” he said. “It doesn’t matter how great your resume is, if you feel like you can’t do it and you’re not really motivated to put your foot through that door, then how likely are you going to get that really great job that you want or how likely are you to turn in that college ambition essay?”
“The reality is, it’s probably not likely,” he added.
Challenging stuck adults was another suggestion Pauletti had.
“Put them in a situation where they’re kind of scared. They need to be pushed into something uncomfortable — maybe they’ve never done it before but they know that the consequences of them failing in that particular instance are not going to bring the house down,” he said.
Enforcing a consequence was one more suggestion that was discussed.
One consequence can be “turning off the money,” he said.
Parents may feel fear or guilt and wonder what will happen to their children if they’re no longer supporting them.
They may wonder if getting the stuck adults a job and helping them out in other ways is a crutch or if it’s opening doors for them.
Pauletti said this depends on the personality of the stuck person.
According to Pauletti, parents can model for the stuck adults positive kinds of behavior so they can see in practice what that looks like.
Causes, parent behavior
According to Pauletti, the young adult didn’t get stuck overnight.
Some common factors he sees in stuck adults are situations where everything has been done for them, and “now they’re in a position where they’re being asked to do things for themselves and they’re scared to do it,” he said.
Other reasons that may have caused the adult to be stuck relate to learning, according to Pauletti.
“A history of something — either middle school or high school — where maybe they weren’t identified as having a reading-based learning disability but they had some anxiety, they had some attentional issues,” Pauletti said.
He emphasized both sets of parents need to be in agreement to help the stuck adult.
“The parents have to be in alignment, on the same page,” he said. “If they’re not, the young adults learn they can go to mom for one thing and dad for another thing.”
He also said an older adult can model for the stuck adults positive kinds of behavior so they can see in practice what that looks like.
Giving the adult a sense of responsibility is a suggestion Pauletti had.
“Ask them to take part in anything and stick with it for a period of time that you both agree on,” Pauletti said. “This could be feeding the cats, doing a volunteer opportunity for X amount of months — before you move onto the next thing.”
“It doesn’t matter necessarily what it is, but they need to actually do it and stick to it,” he added.
So as not to get overwhelmed, he said the stuck adult should look for things that are achievable, starting very small, according to Pauletti. “Waking up at a certain time, making breakfast — you get back to basics,” he said.
Establishing good communication is essential, Pauletti said. “Talking to them is really important,” he said. “It’s probably one of the most important things you can do.”