How To Help Young Adults Make The Transition From Home To Independent Living

Teach your teen the skills he will need before he moves on to independent living.

Everyone, at various points in their lives, makes a transition from one stage of life to another. It may be when we begin school, move away from our parents for the first time or get our first job. It could be when we decide to change careers, get married or return to school for an advanced degree. One of the most important life transitions is when young adults make the move from living with their parents to living on their own for the first time. It can be a difficult time for both the youth and his parents, as everyone may have conflicting feelings about the transition, and uncertainty about how to help the transition go smoothly.

The best thing you can do is to plan for the transition. Start planning early, when your child is in his mid-teens. This way, you can begin to teach skills and help him to set goals that will serve him well when he makes the move from the comfort of home to independence.

One problem that some young adults have with this transition is that they do not have a realistic idea about how much the cost of living is. Unless your child will be living in a dorm or apartment that is paid for by you, it is a good idea to investigate these things with your child before he decides to move away from home. Look up apartment prices together on the Internet. See which amenities are included. Let your teen know how much typical electric bills, gas bills, phone bills and cable bills are. Talk about the price of health insurance. Price cars and their monthly payments, and then ask him to call an insurance agent to get a quote on insurance. Talk about other expenses, such as clothes, groceries and entertainment. Add up the expenses. Will he have the skills that it takes to pay these bills on his own? If not, are there ways that he can live less expensively while obtaining those skills? Does he know what he wants to do in order to earn the level of income that he needs in order to finance his preferred lifestyle?

These activities can be a doorway to a good discussion about career choices. If your child has been resistant to the idea of college or vocational training, he may decide that it is worth a second look. The Department of Labor offers valuable information about the typical rates of pay for very specific occupations, as well as information on how to gain training.

The transition from home to independent living is not only about money. Perhaps you will be helping him with some of his expenses, such as car payments or insurance, or paying his way entirely. It is also about how he will spend his time. What will he do now that he will not be coming home in the afternoons to play basketball with his brother, or hang out with the family watching television? Does he have a good network of friends, some who have already made the leap to independence, who will be there for him? Are they positive people who will encourage him to make good choices?

If your teen has a goal that he wants to accomplish, the transition process will go much smoother. If he is spending his time doing meaningful work, going to school or learning a skill, he is less likely to end up in a black hole of unemployment, isolation and ultimately, failure. If he does not have a goal, you can facilitate this process by encouraging him to take a vocational interest and aptitude inventory, or engage in career exploration activities. Once he has a goal in sight, sit down with him and outline the steps that you both can take to help him achieve that goal.

Leaving the nest can bring up smaller issues as well, such as who will do his laundry. Unless you want a large, stinky bag of laundry delivered to you every couple of weeks, make sure that he has the skills to run a washing machine and separate clothes properly. If you don't want him to live on pizza and take-out, then make sure that he has at least rudimentary cooking skills. He may still choose to eat take-out, but at least he will have those skills to fall back on when money gets tight, or when he simply wants a home-cooked meal. Does he know what is involved in cleaning a house properly? Sure, he may have picked up his room, but does he know how to scrub a bathtub and clean a microwave? Both guys and girls can move out and quickly find themselves living in a virtual sty if they do not have or utilize these skills.

The transition process is almost never completely smooth. It is difficult to watch the child that you have spent years raising and whom you love dearly leave your home, even if he is going directly to Harvard on a full scholarship. However, if you know that he has some realistic ideas about the world out there, has a goal and basic living skills, the process will be much easier. You may even be able to avoid piles of laundry showing up on your doorstep!

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