What do young teenagers today need to know before they graduate high school or turn 18? Many parents jump to conversations about college and careers, but there is so much more to consider. This is especially true for neurodiverse teens. Here are a few things to start thinking about now if you have a neuro-diverse teen in high school.
- Explore your teen’s values and interests.
Kids are often asked what they want to be when they grow up. When they become teens, they are often asked where they plan to go for college. But instead, what if we started asking them about what kind of person they want to be? For example, do they want to be caring, kind and honest? What interests them? What experience or story from their life impacted them the most? Encourage them to try different activities and take classes on topics they are curious about. If they make a commitment they should honor it, but they don’t have to stick to one thing forever. They can try new things in the future. Trying out as many experiences as possible will help them make choices in the careers and lifestyles they want to pursue. It will also help in conversations about budgeting and money. Focusing their spending on what is important to them will help them with savings in the long run. This goes along with the next item.
- Talk about money.
Speak to your child about money and how much things cost. Talk to them about why you might decide not to buy something. The more they are exposed to the concepts of budgeting, the more they will be prepared to handle it when they move away and have to manage their own money. This will create an incentive for them to work as well.
- Encourage them take care of their mental health.
Most of us visit a doctor regularly to check our physical health. Going to therapy for mental health is no different. In fact, mental and physical health are often connected. Your mental health can impact bodily functions such as breathing, sweating or digesting food. As a mental health professional, this is the reason I always encourage everyone to go to therapy. If your teen is encouraged to go at an early age, they will likely go as an adult. You may find it helpful if you attend as well or go to providers who work with family units as a whole. Your teen’s school may be helpful in finding resources for this. They may be able to meet regularly with the school counselor, social worker or psychologist for free. This is particularly important for neurodiverse students, as an evaluation or assessment can help them get services later.
- Listen to them.
There has been a lot of conversation about the conflict and differences between Gen Z, Millennials, Gen X and Boomers. One thing that has always been the same is that older and younger generations don’t often see eye to eye or understand each other. Consider that the world is always changing when speaking to teens and remind them to do the same.
- Encourage discussion about dating, relationships and sex without shame.
Every family has different beliefs and values about this topic. However, learning about it at a young age makes it easier to have safe and healthy experiences with dating, relationships and sex in the future. They will also be more open about this area of their lives with trusted adults if they learn early on. It teaches them to recognize unwanted or abusive encounters as well. All children can learn even if rules and boundaries about actually engaging in these activities vary in every family. Find out if your teen’s high school offers classes that teach about healthy relationships and sex education. There are a number of free online resources available to help, such as this list of sex education resources for all ages assembled by psychotherapist Esther Perel and this Toolkit for Social-Emotional Learning from The Dibble Institute.
- You don’t have to stop supporting them at 18.
Growing up in Indian culture, I was always taught that family supports each other for life. How parents support their children may change as they grow up, but it doesn’t have to end. Teach your teens that it’s okay for you to support them even in adulthood. Oftentimes, this means letting them know it’s okay to ask questions when they don’t know what to do. For instance, what groceries do they need to get to cook a certain food? What do they do if something goes wrong with their car?
- Encourage them to develop a community.
As mentioned before, family support does not have to end in adulthood. However, your teen may decide to go to college or move to an area far away from family. Teach them to make trusted friends. If they learn that it’s not only okay but good to be vulnerable and ask for help, it will help them develop a family away from home.
Transitions supports teens and young adults with autism and other learning differences with college, career and independence. We can help your student as they prepare for their post-secondary lives and what that means as they move forward with their individual journeys. Find out more by accessing the information on our website, or talk to an admissions counselor at (518) 661-6617 to see if Transitions is the right fit for your young adult.