When Your Adolescent Prepares To Leave Home
Carol Edelstein, Director of AdoptionWorks
In some ways it is especially hard for adoptive parents when their adolescent children are preparing to leave home, whether it is to go to college, into the military, or because they have decided to move someplace away from home. For many parents who adopted their children at an older age, they may feel like they are not ready for them to leave so soon, while others may feel that their child is not yet developmentally ready for that level of independence. While this can be a time of inner conflict for all parents, it can be especially challenging for many adoptive parents.
Some Tips for Parents To Ease the Transition:
- Keep the Lines of Communication Open – Always strive for open communication with your child! Although he or she may be showing you how much they are looking forward to leaving, they may also be having many concerns and fears about leaving all that is comfortable and familiar to them. Assure them that it is perfectly normal to have apprehensions and yet be excited at the same time. Create an environment in which your child feels heard and supported. Remind them that you are there for them when they need to talk with you about anything at all that they may be concerned about.
- Be Clear About Your Expectations – Also share with your child what your expectations are about the level of responsibility they take for their own safety and wellbeing, their finances, and their academics if they are attending college.
- Continue Educating – As your child leaves the nest, they will face a combination of an increase in social pressures and little to no adult supervision. Speak with your child in advance about the risk associated with sex, drugs and alcohol, and the consequences of risk-taking behaviors, which will apply whether they are attending college or just moving away from home.
- Be Proactive – Create a safety plan with your child to have just in case of an emergency. Help your child create a list of emergency contacts and nearby supports. If your child is going to college, this should include the phone numbers for the counseling center on campus, campus security, and the campus health center. Identify any friends or family members who may live closer than you are to where your child will be in case of an emergenc
- Make Sure Your Child Knows That Help is Always Available – If your child has a specific need, research available resources ahead of time that are available in the area that your child will be living. If your child is heading to college, and requires special services and accommodations for a physical disability, a learning disability or a psychological challenge, plan ahead to ensure that the necessary services are in place for your child when he or she gets to school. Always include your child in any decisions made regarding his or her treatment and special accommodations.
- Communicate With Your Child On a Regular Basis – Be sure to have some form of communication with your child on a regular basis, whether it is talking on the phone, texting, emailing, Skype, face time, etc. Your communications do not have to be long, but they should be regular, and enough for you to have a sense of how they are doing and to remind them that you are thinking about them and are always there if they need you.
As difficult as it may be, remember that your child leaving home is an important milestone and something to be celebrated and supported.