Teenage Years: Preparing Your Teenager for Adulthood

This was taken directly from Child Welfare Information Gateway

An important part of parenting teenagers is creating the conditions in which they can master adult tasks and take on greater independence.

Mastering adult tasks

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Teenagers need time to gradually learn and practice adult life skills, such as finding a job, managing finances, doing laundry, preparing meals, driving a car, and arranging medical appointments. Some adopted teens need extra time, attention, and encouragement to learn adult tasks. They may not be ready for adult responsibilities at the same age as their peers. Help your child learn to be comfortable with his or her own situation and abilities.

Teens who experienced unstable living situations may not be ready to live away from their families until well past the teen years, even if they are developmentally able. Some may choose to live at home and attend a local community college rather than go to a university where they would need to live on campus. Some adopted teens have even experienced sudden drops in their grades as graduation approached, due to fears about having to leave home before they feel ready.

Teens with learning delays or disabilities will require extra time and effort to learn adult life skills. They may need to experiment with alternatives and adjustments for skills—such as driving—that are not within their reach.

What you can do:

  • Teach and re-teach your teens adult life skills (balancing a checkbook, paying off a credit card balance, cooking, laundry, car maintenance, making doctor appointments, etc.). Provide abundant opportunities for supervised practice.
  • If you adopted your child as a teen, check to see if they are eligible for any of the State’s Independent Living services.
  • Check with your teen’s school about any transition services the district may provide.
  • Explore substitutes or assistance for skills that are not manageable. Your family is the best judge of when your teenager is ready to partially or fully manage adult tasks.

Leaving home: Independent versus interdependent living

Very few young adults are ready for full “independent” living. We all need ongoing support and encouragement from family as we learn to negotiate the adult world. Launching adopted children from the family home brings some unique challenges. “Interdependence” rather than “independence” is a more fitting goal for young adults as they venture into the world.

What you can do:

  • Explain how you will help your teen move into adult life. Teenagers need to know how long they can live at home and whether or not their parents will help them with their first apartment rental, pay college tuition, keep them on the family health insurance, etc.
  • Base your support and expectations on your child’s abilities, level of emotional security, and history—and not on their chronological age or what their peers are doing.
  • Provide ongoing emotional and tangible support even after your young adult moves out of your home. Parents who visit frequently, assist with household management, help to fill out tax forms, and so on help young adults not feel too overwhelmed as they adjust to life away from the family.

Special considerations for youth with disabilities

Under Federal law, the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act, by the time a special education student reaches age 16, the school is to provide a plan that may include help obtaining further education, getting a job, or living independently. Parents need to advocate for these services. Communicate respectfully, clearly, and often with your school’s “transition coordinator” about your child’s transition plan.

Continue to Teenage Years: Seeking Help for Mental Concerns or return to Adoption Parenting

Resources

Child Welfare Information Gateway. (2009). Parenting Your Adopted Teenager. Washington, DC: U.S. Department of Health and Human Services.