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Preparing Complex Teens to Leave the Nest

Welcome to Tea & Tips, where we respond to burning questions from parents and educators — taking aim on one topic at a time, guiding you to improve communication, confidence and calm.

Preparing any teen to leave the nest is a challenge for most parents. It’s all the more difficult when they have complex kids. But teens with ADHD and anxiety do leave the nest, and you can get them ready for it.

Diane: So, one of the questions we get. And actually, I'm dealing with this right now, is how to prepare your kid for launching to whatever the next step is. Whether it's dorm life. Or living on their own, independently.

Elaine: You know, I wrote an article about this at about 2 o'clock in the morning once, several years ago, before my first kid left the house. And I'll never forget, 2 o'clock in the morning. And I woke up in a panic. And I wrote down all of the things that I was doing for her, that she was gonna ultimately going to need be able to do for herself.

Diane: And I think that's really part of this step. A lot of times our kids really don't have a sense of all of the things we do for them. And I'm not saying to bombard them with it. But being a little bit more transparent. "Hey, I made a phone call today to your doctor, to make sure your medications were renewed. Hey, I did this. Hey, I did that." Just sharing with them really what your current role is, so that they begin to figure out, "Okay. What am I gonna have to do, that mom's doing now?"

Elaine: And it's not saying every time, "And you're gonna have to do this." It's just sharing it. Just saying, "Hey, I took care of that for you. Is there anything else?" Just sort of raising their awareness to it.

Diane: Right. And then, I think the next step is really kind of figuring out how to gently, and gradually, transfer some of those things to them. And it may be that some of them stay with you. There are some things that you can continue to do remotely, even if your child's off at college.

Elaine: Oh, boy.

Diane: To take the pressure off them. Because particularly if they're at college, trying to remember their books and their assignments, and all that other stuff can be really stressful.

Elaine: But it's really about being in a relationship with them about it. It's designing with them, "This is what you're taking care of. And what do you still need from me? Or how can I support you? "

Diane: Right. And mapping it out. And being real conscious, "Okay. So I'm gonna take care of the money. And you're gonna take care of this." Or, "We're gonna do this together." And I think that that's, again, it's that sort of, it's not you or them. There could be some collaboration, and working together, and once a week, we're gonna sit down and talk about these four things. Because we're co-managing it.

Elaine: Right. It's all about transferring that ownership a little bit at a time. I was thinking about my older kids, now in their 20's. And I'm still doing some things. But now, it's a really open, transparent conversation about, "Do you still need me to do this?" Because at this point, they’re starting to really say, "No, I've got this one. I got it." But they needed me to for a while.

Diane: Well, and I think that that's a big part of it, is giving them permission to ask for help. And encouraging them to ask for help. And giving them as much control as you can.

Elaine: In the process. Right. Absolutely.

Bottom Line: It’s a challenge to prepare your teens to leave the nest, especially when they have complex issues like ADHD, Anxiety and more. So take it step by step, prepare them for the transition, and remember that you don’t have to do it all at once.

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