How To Help Your Teen Transition Into Adulthood
Special thanks to our contributing writer – Stephanie Wilkins
Transitioning Your Teen to College and Adult Life!
Transitioning your teen into college, and adult life is an adventure that will take both parent and child on the ride of a lifetime. Do you like roller coasters? Dark tunnels, anyone? What I’m trying to say, is there are a lot of unknowns on this path to adulthood and for the average parent, it’s kind of scary.
Listen to the accompanying podcast on Transitioning Your Teen to Adulthood.
We embarked on this adventure for the first time in 2013. Our son, Nathan, was college-bound with two academic scholarships in hand! I’d love to tell you that all went well and that my son graduated with honors in 2017, but then I’d be lying to you and we wouldn’t have this intriguing article. So, with his permission and in Nathan’s words, here’s what happened, “I went, I was overwhelmed and underprepared, and then…I came home.”
Wisdom to Glean from Our Experience as You Transition Your Teen into this Crazy thing we call Life! Here are some life skills that I believe are necessary to prepare your teen for the future.
- Stop overprotecting NOW!
The inability to let teens engage in activities that have healthy risks attached could end up instilling a sense of fear, preventing your teen from trying new things or possibly giving way to rebellion once they leave home. You know the party your teen wanted to attend after homeschool prom? Well, maybe there was drinking and maybe NOT…but the character you taught her cannot be exposed and tested in the living room alone. Better to find out now instead of ten months into freshman year that she can’t say no to peer pressure.
- Let your teen fail. Don’t pick up the pieces.
I was the mom who organized the backpack and went through homework with a fine-tooth comb for our cooperative learning program that “we” attended. Am I relating to any of you ADHD Moms out there? This doesn’t solve issues or help you diagnose the ones you don’t know about. Remember, success is gained through many failures in life! I know, it’s hard to watch, but it’s necessary. Your role as a parent is to encourage, dust them off, offer recovery tools, and become great cheerleaders as they try again!!
- Freedom of expression at home is important.
Healthy conversation is not one-sided. A happy home is a place where people feel safe to share, are heard, and feel relaxed being themselves. Do you truly know your child’s heart? Well, sometimes it’s tricky to tell, but under all the head nods of agreement, you can bet they DO have opinions of their own, and some are definitely different from yours. So….listen more, talk less. I remember my son mentioning that he was not ready for college. I did not take his words to heart. I thought it was cold feet and did not pursue the conversation past “You’ll be just fine, no worries”. After all, he had the grades, the ability to do the work, and my parents lived about two hours from the college Nathan chose. He never said it again.
- Remember, habits that teens have now are the habits they carry with them.
Work NOW to instill good habits to replace the bad ones to prevent fall out. Some big ones that definitely affect many college students are: too much gaming, eating the wrong type of foods on a consistent basis, being messy, not drinking enough water, losing important items, being late, and neglecting your faith.
- A teen might consider summer camp work, stays with extended family, or participate in a mission trip during the summers leading up to graduation.
These experiences prepare them for the feelings of homesickness encountered at college. Our daughter Natalie was a camp counselor in Colorado the summer of her Jr. year. It was tough to let her go, but worth every moment we missed each other because of the peace she had when she left for college. Her experience told her that she would be okay!
- A job before graduation is a great idea! A job at college is even better!!
If you require your teen to pay for life’s extras, a job will teach them the important lesson that “nothing worth having in this life is free”. A child that understands sacrifice will work harder to achieve.
- Teach your young adult to manage money.
Let them open a bank account. Together discuss budgeting, tithing, bills, taxes, and saving for a rainy day. Require spending to be tracked daily through an on-line banking app until it becomes habit!!!! Naturally, there are spenders and savers, so teach each type of child the balance of their bent.
- Guide the college or technical school entrance process, but don’t do it for them.
Recognize, if your teen is not pursuing the process, he or she is not ready to go. Filling out the paperwork alone, asking you for assistance to meet the deadlines, choosing their degree, signing up for the classes, and organizing their schedule are the exact skills they need to be successful in college.
- Remember, adulting is a journey that will last a lifetime. Look back on your life and then give grace. Relax and be assured that God is in control.
So…what happened to our son after he came home?
Nathan, who already had a severe gluten intolerance, was diagnosed with ADHD, treated properly, got a job, paid back his scholarship debt, got two IT certifications, started a side business fixing computers, and achieved his Associates’ degree on-line. Later, he went full time with his company and moved out for two years. He’s now back at home due to some health issues, is paying off some debt, and considering a bachelor’s degree in Computer Science. It was and still is a progressive process. The transition continues and will for the rest of life, just like your life and mine! So, with Nathan’s words, I’ll close “Sometimes the road of life doesn’t go the way you anticipate. It’s a process and it takes determination and perseverance to get to your destination. It’s good that family has your back.”
More about Stephanie Wilkins
Stephanie Wilkins is a wife of 33 years to her husband Joe and the mother of two adult children, Nathan and Natalie. She is a 21-year homeschool mom veteran. She has had the unique opportunity to live around the world in four different countries and in four different states with her family. Stephanie is a board-certified nutrition consultant and a volunteer community health educator. She the founder of No More Band-aids, which is a ministry of encouragement to caretakers and those who suffer from Chronic Disease. In her past life before children, she was a marketing and advertising executive for different food companies. Currently, she serves with Patricia Holbrook of Soaring with Him Ministries as their Marketing Director. In her spare time, you may see her on TV singing on the Worship Team and in the Choir at First Baptist Atlanta. Stephanie’s blogging passions are homeschooling, travel, health and wellness, and her faith in Jesus Christ.