By Jamie Leboe
From the moment your child was born, you wrapped them in a cocoon of safety, comfort, and peace. The desire to provide that atmosphere may have be even stronger if you have a child with a diagnosed disability. When they turned four or five, a full life outside the home began – they went to school, played sports, performed in plays, learned life skills, gained work experience, had wonderful teachers and administrators, made friends, and much more.
As the high school years came and your child was 14 or 15, you started talking about transitioning to adulthood with school personnel. You probably met with a DORS counselor and filled out paperwork to apply for services that would support your child after high school, anywhere between the ages of 18 and 21. You planned a special year end celebration, watched your child attend prom, and cried through a graduation ceremony with friends and family.
Your family looked forward to these special milestones, each one a greater accomplishment than the next. But along with all the excitement of this time, you may have felt some anxiety. The last 15 or so years have felt safe; you were always there by your child’s side, helping them along the way. And now it’s time to let go; let them find their own way with the help of others.
As much planning as we do as parents, the fear of the unknown can be hard. But there are ways to make your child’s transition out of the school system and into the world of work a little bit easier:
- Ask questions and teach your child to ask questions. There is no silly question and the more you ask, the more answers you’ll get to help you and your child feel comfortable with the transition.
- If they weren’t already, have your child do chores at home, like cooking, cleaning, laundry, yard work, etc. Not only will these chores help the family, but they are an important learning experience. Your child will learn to measure, chop, use the oven, mix chemicals, and fold. If your child has physical difficulty performing any of these tasks, this will help them to strengthen those areas and create confidence to perform tasks at work.
- Ask your child’s school if there are any families who transitioned in the last year or two who are happy to share their transition experience with others. It’s always good to hear from peers.
- Make sure your child has their own email account and encourage them to check their messages during the year before they leave high school so they make it a habit. They’ll need an email address and phone number when they start to look for a job.
- Encourage your child to take advantage of any opportunity to do work-based learning while in high school. Every opportunity is important in a different way and your child will learn important things about going to work and interacting with colleagues.
Jewish Community Services’ Employment Support Services is available to guide you and your child through the transition process. If you have questions, please call our Access Line at 410-466-9200.
Jamie Leboe is a Career Coach at Jewish Community Services
JCS is a comprehensive human services organization providing a broad range of services that meet the diverse, multi-dimensional needs of individuals and families throughout Central Maryland. To learn more, visit jcsbalt.org or call 410-466-9200.
For more information on navigating your child’s success from infancy through the teen years and into adulthood, when it’s time to enter the workforce and find independence, check out the JCS video series Different Stages for Different Ages.