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Achieving Escape Velocity



Transition to Independence


Achieving Escape Velocity .

Last Saturday I read Carolyn Hax’s advice column in our local newspaper. (Yes, I am one of those die-hards who still reads the actual paper…  it’s a beloved week-end ritual for me, along with a nice cup of tea and staying in my robe until late in the morning!).   She was giving sound guidance to a mother whose teen-aged child was occasionally sassy.  Carolyn referred to the need for teens and young adults to overcome parents’ “gravitational pull” as achieving “escape velocity”.
These concepts are such a fit for my adult clients whose main goals are to achieve durable self-reliance and well-being.  Their parents love them  as they always have, but for everyone’s sake they need to see their child go to work, live in their own place, establish a solid circle of friends, and show that they will be safe beyond their parents’ wingspans.  Parents need some time to enjoy their “empty nest” years with freedom to go and do without constant reference to what it will mean for their child.
Young adults in the U.S. are strongly influenced to desire independence and productivity. However, these drives may be delayed or complicated when they have had lifelong neurological, cognitive and mental health differences that impact development.  Their “escape velocity” energy may kick in later than that of their peers, or may be directed more toward resisting efforts to get them out of the house and among peers.  The natural tendency to avoid doing anything that could cause pain results in resistance to leaving the safety of the nest, especially if he or she has no friends or sense of competence “out there”.
What to do?  Time to shift the balance and disrupt the status quo. Create a contrast that makes staying in the house or a room in the house less desirable, and going out more so.   Avoid making home so completely and consistently a source of gratification. By this, I mean:  keep the foods at home healthy, do not offer non-stop access to the internet and TV, and avoid accommodating this family member’s preferences so much of the time. The less you make your home a super-comforting, entertaining environment, the more you encourage the developmental process needed for achieving full, adult lives.
At the same time, locate supportive social opportunities in your community and schools that offer motivating activities and positive, skilled support for people who are socially delayed. Talk to your young person’s counselor, OT or psychiatrist about your plan, as he or she may have ideas to help support you and your young person during the transitional period.
Will there be some push-back from your young person? Yes, if you are doing this correctly.  Every shift from a stuck place to a more fluid, healthy dynamic is initially destabilizing, and a little scary. Resistance and some dismay are to be expected. Celebrate them as signs that the natural energy for achieving “escape velocity” is activating.  You may also feel a little off-balance, as your patterns and roles will be shifting, too!
Your child’s life and your life are precious, too precious to waste being imprisoned by anxiety and narrow routines that you have long outgrown. Some temporary discomfort is a small price to pay for the long-term joy that independence brings.
If you need some coaching and help with your son or daughter, seek expert coaching and support. I’d love to hear from you!