5 Gentle Ways to Transition Your Teen to Adulthood

by Melissa Deuter, M.D., (www.melissadeuter.com) a psychiatrist in San Antonio, Texas, who specializes in the care of emerging adults.

Raising teenagers can produce anxiety for parents, especially when you’re worried about whether they are prepared for adulthood. Transitioning teens into adulthood should be part of every parent’s focus.

Whether your teen is in middle school, or applying to colleges this year, thinking about their growing readiness for adulthood can help you guide them. Here are 5 tips to help them prepare:

1. Hug and say, “I love you.”

Psychological research consistently shows that healthy, loving families serve as the basis for psychological health and strong, stable adult relationships.

Many times, you may see your role as disciplinarian. But while you are teaching your teen to act responsibly and follow rules, remember to stop and take time for gentle, caring gestures demonstrating your unconditional love.

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2. Teach self-care.

Teens should be taught that it is their responsibility to regulate their emotions under stress and take care of their physical health. You are probably teaching your teen to clean her room and finish her homework, but it is also important to help her practice self-care and emotion regulation.

Teach teens to talk about difficult emotions, journal, draw, or seek support from someone wise. Teach them to rest, listen to their bodies, stay hydrated, eat well, exercise without overdoing it, and to be good stewards of their own physical and emotional health.

3. Focus on effort and the development of skills, not achievement.

Teach your teen that learning how to solve problems and cope with adversity is more important than achieving the highest grade in a class. The teen years offer a time for kids to have guidance while they take on escalating levels of independence. Prepare them for adulthood by helping them understand that the journey is as important as the destination.

4. It’s okay to slow the pace.

High school students can get anxious about the future. They can feel like every choice today will shape (or destroy) their future career. But life success doesn’t have to feel so pressured. Encourage her to take a non-AP class or learn something just for fun.

It’s okay to start slow, take a gap year, or choose trade school instead of a four-year college. Reaching goals doesn’t have to be a race.

5. Let your kid know you will be proud of him, no matter what.

The surest route to self-acceptance for a child is knowing his parents accept him without question. Tell him you’re proud of him. Acknowledge his strengths. Support his interests. Say, “You’re a great kid. You’ve got this!”

Your words will become his inner voice, so provide encouragement and ensure he is courageous later.