When a teen "launches," it can be one of the most exciting and fulfilling experiences that a family can have.
However, more often than not, it is a time of stress, anxiety, despair, and doubt...and that's just for the parents! The "family life cycle phase" of launching is a pivotal milestone for which most families need to prepare in advance. It redefines everyone's role, including the teen to young adult, the parents to Empty Nesters, the siblings to new roles and functions, and maybe even who will now take out the garbage.
The launching phase doesn't just happen when a teen goes off to college; it starts years before in the preparation for leaving home. Most families focus on the academic factor of how a teen launches, asking "are their grades and test score good enough to get into a good school?" However, the emotional and social factors of the teen's maturity to "thrive in the world" also need to be addressed and developed. Additionally, the parents need to do their part in providing a sound and emotionally secure launch pad.
Some say "it takes a village" to raise a well-rounded child. In fact, with some statistics reporting that as much as 30% of incoming college freshmen will never graduate and 50% will take more than the traditional four years to graduate, today's parents may need a Support Team. A team could be compiled of tutors, consultants, coaches, and counselors to help their teen deal with the myriad of stressors in assessing the appropriate "next step" that leaving home may entail.
Taking a broader look at your child's future options is very important. "Options", by their very nature, help reduce stress and anxiety. Getting help to objectively look at your teen's personality, talents, strengths, and potential growth areas is not only a wise financial investment but also will help reduce the family's stress of managing the anxiety of an uncertain future. A well mapped and versatile course of options is just one way to insure a more successful launching.
Michael Fontana, LMFT
Michael Fontana, LMFT, is a Family Therapist and Coach with an office in Westport, CT. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org