Help high school grads transition into adulthood

— StatePointJune 11, 2013 

Transitioning from high school to the next life stage can be a time of excitement for young people, but it can also be a time filled with uncertainty.

Whether one is off to college, entering the workforce, or starting another big adventure, he or she may need extra emotional support at first.

Experts say that parents and caregivers can play a big role in ensuring the transition is a success.

"Whenever your child is going through a major life change, it's important to consider his or her mental health and general well-being," says Dr. Thomas K. McInerny, President of the American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP).

With that in mind, the AAP is offering the following tips for parents and youth navigating this important time of life:

If your child is going to college, make sure he or she is familiar with the health and mental health support services on campus.

If your child has a mental health diagnosis, such as ADHD or depression, be sure to ask the college staff what kind of medical information they will need related to your child and how to set up prescription refills if needed. Talk to the college about special housing and academic accommodations, if necessary.

Once your child is settled into his or her new routine, keep in close contact and try to get frequent readings about how he or she is doing academically and socially. While you can't stand sentinel outside the dorm room, you can remain supportive from a distance.

Is your child entering the workforce? Even if he or she is remaining at home for a time, life will still change dramatically. Be sure to give your son or daughter extra space as a young adult, but offer help navigating new responsibilities, such as paying bills and managing health care responsibilities.

Once a teen graduates and leaves home, alcohol, drugs and sexual activity may become much more accessible. Making poor choices can have life-changing results. Continue to have conversations about peer pressure, good decisions and consequences.

As always, stay connected and be attuned to the warning signs of depression and other mental health issues. Look for "red flags," such as excessive sleeping, excessive moodiness, obsessive body-image concerns and personality shifts.

More health tips can be found at healthychildren.org.

Parenthood doesn't end when your child turns 18. By offering emotional support, you can make the transition from high school to the next life stage a smooth one.

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