Tuesday, May 2, 2017

The Importance of Helping Your Children Make the Transition from Children/Teens into Adulthood

Leslie Schultea, MS, LPC, LMFT

One of the primary goals of parenting is to raise our children to be responsible and fully functioning adults.  A legal adult is defined as “a person who has attained the age of majority and is therefore regarded as independent, self-sufficient and responsible.”  A common term for this process is “adulting.”  Regardless of emotional maturity of a person each child needs to be fully equipped by the age of 18 to accept and manage adult responsibility.

Unfortunately many parents delay or even avoid this process in an effort to “hang on to their children,” avoid upsetting their children or honestly not knowing how vitally important this process is for life long success.  Teaching your children to be responsible and independent can not and should not be rushed or hurried.  If you wait too long you are likely to over whelm and cause fear in your children.  Both parents and children should have a sense of excitement and pride in the adulting process.

Below is a list of the areas that parents need to address in an effort to successfully help your children become a successful, independent and self-sufficient adult.  In other words “adulting your children.”

1.      Taking Risks-Encourage your children to do things outside of their comfort zone and do not protect them for real life pitfalls and disappointments.   Taking risks will show them that they can rely on themselves and survive hard situations on their own without being rescued.
2.      Managing Finances-Teach your children basic banking skills and managing money.  Open a bank account for your children and give them a budget to manage.  Reinforce real life consequences if they do not adhere to their budget. 
3.      Navigate Around Town and in new/unknown Areas-Teach your children to identify roads, highways, routes and real life travel situation and allow them to find their way around without escorting them.  Teach them to also fill up their gas tank and take basic care of their automobile.  Educating them about public transportation is also very important.
4.      Cooking, Cleaning and Self-Care-Children must know how to cook at least basic recipes and measure ingredients in order to feed themselves.  They also need to know how to do their own laundry along with purchase their own clothes within a budget.  By the time a child is in their late teens they should know how to do their own laundry, care for their clothing and maintain it.    Basic hygiene must also be addressed early on and reinforced throughout the teen years.  This might seem like a simple concept but many tweens and teens resist basic hygiene skills which are necessary in adulthood. 
5.      Managing Relationships and Social Media-Children must learn to negotiate and mediate friendships and other relationships.  They need guidance in understanding social norms, non-verbal behavior and social clues that will help them adapt and adjust to different types of relationships.  Successful completion of these skills will ultimately help in social and work relationships.  Children must understand the risks of social media and posting things on social media that are not appropriate.
6.      Time Management-You must be a good example of time management and expect your children to adhere to a schedule and respect time limits.  Do not schedule things for them and do not constantly remind them of time constraints.  The best time to learn this skill is in childhood instead of late adolescence.  Have consequences for tardiness.
7.      Talking to Adults and Strangers-It is imperative to teach your children to look adults in the eyes when speaking to them and speak in an assertive (not quiet and passive) manner.  You can start this at a very early age by allowing children to order for themselves while eating out and speaking for themselves when meeting with teachers, Doctors and the like.  These basic social skills are mandatory when entering the adult world of college, work and other relationships. 
8.      Marriage and Long Term Relationship-It is the duty of parents to model healthy marital relationships as well as discuss with them what their personal expectations are in their own intimate relationships.  The teen years are the perfect time to discuss with your children and explain the positive qualities of a good partner along with healthy modeling what a healthy relationship looks like. 
9.      Critical Thinking-At the age of 12 critical thinking skills begin to form.  Parents during the teen years either encourage and reinforce this behavior and shut it down.  Allow your children to make decisions even if they make an error in judgement (within reason).  Children need to learn natural consequences of their choices and if their parents are always making their decisions for them those natural consequences will not occur.
10.  Learning and Understanding Politics-Teens must be educated about politics and the rights that they will hold when they are adults.  Parents need to encourage open conversations about politics even if their views differ.  It is your job to reinforce that  their opinion does matter and they have a voice which may influence their adult life.  Push them to look and talk about all things that are pertaining to politics and remind them how important it is to be a part of shaping their own future.    

“Adulting” can be a hard process for some parents and children but the best advice is to start early and be consistent through the teen years.  The skills listed above will make the path a bit easier in the long run.  Remember that you are setting up your children for success when they “fly the nest” and set out on their own.  Your hard work and persistence will pay off when you realize that you have raised strong, independent and self-sufficient adults who are ready to manage and master their world and environment.