Episode 48: Parenting Through the “Launch” Phase

In this episode of The Family Couch, we talk with Carol Adkisson, LMFT, about parenting through the “launch” phase of childhood.  This is a process that is imperfect and difficult.

We jump in and discuss what a parent should expect of their children during this phase.  Adkisson provides that teenagers are scared to death during this time. When she asks them during therapy if they have any kind of worry or fear, they often answer, “The future.”  Kids often misbehave and act disruptive or have an attitude, but it is a manifestation of that fear and anxiety. Adkisson wants parents to understand their teen and the different phases they go through.  She likens the age of 17 to the age of three and sees this age as a three-year-old in a much bigger body. They are individuating and separating but they are going through this birthing process of separating from their parents.  They want to be grown up but do not want to grow up. She encourages open communication between parents and children so that they can express themselves.

If a parent is struggling with the concept of open communication now that their child is a teenager, Adkisson advises that it’s never too late.  She provides that she has always given her children her attention when they walk into the room. She would turn off the television and give them her full attention by looking at them, listening to them, and saying, “I hear you.”  Adkisson tells parents to be the alpha dog in the house, as this is what teens need.

We next discuss what to do when your teenager is ready to branch out and do things like stay out late and drive, but he or she is not ready to get a job or handle some of the adult responsibilities that come with these privileges.  Adkisson gives an example of not giving her children everything as they grew up. She would give them opportunities to earn money, or pay a deposit for a trip but let them pay the rest. Adkisson feels that many parents are not guiding their children this way.  They want their children to have what they did not have, so they just provide it for their children.

We discuss how children feel more loved when you say, “no,” than when you say, “yes.”  When you are the parent going through this, it is hard to see your children unhappy. Adkisson feels that as a parent, it is not your job to make your children happy but to teach them character, compassion, and depth.  This may or may not include happiness. Adkisson has seen so many parents do homework and projects for their children. As the child grew, the parent would have to do more and more to get them to the college phase. Adkisson did check-ins with her children on their grades and told them if they wanted help, she would guide them but that it was their life.  Not all children have the same path regarding college and schooling. It is about what fits for each child.

We next talk about how parents can deal with the discomfort of watching their children manage autonomy.  Adkisson provides that we have to manage our own feelings as parents and that our feelings have nothing to do with our children.  We have to manage these feelings with our own friends and resources. Adkisson says that we need friends that will tell us truths and not just agree with what we say.  When our children reach different phases and we have friends working through the same things, it is helpful. Too many people think they don’t need to worry about having friends outside of our marital and parental roles.  

We change gears and discuss that many parents put unrealistic expectations on their teens.  The parents do not remember that they were kids once and did similar things to their children.  Adkisson considers an unrealistic expectation a planned resentment. The parent will plan to resent their child for not living up to whatever it is they decided is normal for that age.  Teens brains are still developing. Adkisson mentioned the statistic that the average college student changes their major 3-4 times.

We circle back and discuss strategies and resources parents can use to manage the anxiety and discomfort watching their child move into adulthood.  Adkisson provided that for herself, she had therapy and other interests, such as volleyball. Adkisson advises seeking out communities or neighborhoods to create resources for yourself.  She offers that she reached out to her son’s school counselor when he was struggling. Adkisson mentions that she was a single parent and had to seek these resources out for support. She says that she often hears from other parents that they do not want to burden others or they do not want to risk asking and hear the “no.”  You have to take risks and show your children that it is okay to do so. Being a model for your child is very important.



Carol Adkisson is a Licensed Marital Family Therapist in Fontanta, CA.  She works will all kinds of specialties, but one area is families, teenagers and couples.  She has three children of her own who are all over the age of 18.



WEBSITE: https://caroladkisson.com/

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