Sunday, February 27, 2011

Soapbox: Talk to Your Kids About Transition

The other night I was watching my son sleeping. His eyelids were fluttering a bit, and I thought that he was probably dreaming. He looked so peaceful, like all sleeping children do. There's nothing more relaxing than watching a healthy, sleeping child. Yep.

That's when the thought came to me: Zane will be driving in thirteen more years. Holy Crap! And then I wasn't so relaxed anymore. But it does illustrate that parents need to think about the future for their kids NOW.

What I am referring to is more than the standard, "What do you want to be when you grow up?" talk. There's so more to this than that. We all want our children to have dreams, and most of us want those dreams to have some fulfillment. But those dreams need to have a foundation of realism to them.

For example, let's go back to the "What do you want to be when you grow up?" question. I have lost count of the number of teenagers who tell me that they are going to play for the NBA/NFL/ETC. Parents need to steer their kids toward more realistic expectations for their career choices. Teach your kids to give themselves options. A Plan B, or Plan C, etc. And this is just the tip of the iceberg.

Does your child want to go to college? How do they intend to pay for it? Do they have the grades to earn the scholarships? There was never a time in my life that I did not intend to go to college. It was just assumed that I would. But my parents didn't talk to me about paying for school until they told me that they were going to pay for it. Up until that point, I just figured I was going to get by on my good looks. (I was kind of cute back then--and naive!)

Does your child understand the concept of budgeting? Do they understand that the paychecks that come into the house pay for 'invisible' things such as electricity, internet access, or garbage pickup? Do you talk about mortgage payments? Right now, we tell Zane that we have to work to pay for his "presents" at Christmas. When he's older, we will discuss how the money comes in and where the money goes, so he has a realistic concept of what he will need to live as an adult.

Does your child want to drive a car? How are they going to pay for a car, if you don't have one to give them? Who will pay for the insurance? Who will pay for the gas? Are you freaking out yet? Take a deep breath.

I work with special needs children. Some of these kids are going to need a lot of help to be successful. That need for help isn't going to cease once they hit 18. Is this child going to be able to make decisions for themselves once they hit 18 and are considered an adult? Is this child going to live in a group home? Is this child going to be able to get a job? Is this child going to be able to drive? If not, how is this child going to get from their house to their job? Is this child able to take care of their medical needs? What is going to happen to this child if their parents or siblings are not around anymore?

These are scary questions for some people to think about, but they NEED to be thought about, and talked about, throughout your child's life. In the world of Special Education, this is called Transition Planning, but this stuff should be for all kids. The great people over at Autism Speaks have created a tool kit about transition. It is excellent, and even if you don't have a child with autism, you should check it out.

I'll get off the soapbox for now. I hope I've got you thinking!


  1. Fantastic post!!!! It fits in perfectly with what my husband and I were discussing the other night. We have an 8 year old with special needs (ADHD and ODD) and a 5 year old. They are both strong willed boys who are having trouble grasping the concept that money means work. We are looking for resources to help us steer them in the right direction and prepare them for the real world that they will soon have to move through self directed. Thanks again, wonderful post! I am following you from Mom Blog Monday, and would love you to stop by at Have a great day!

  2. I heard recently that parents shouldn't ask "what" do you want to be, but rather "who" do you want to be. The more I thought about it, the more I agreed. Love your post, as you seem to be getting to this realm, and not just the doctor, lawyer, indian chief area of things.


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