Coaching The Young Adult With Challenges

Many children with learning differences and/or social and emotional challenges are surrounded by help during their school years. Parents, teachers, tutors, and counselors combine efforts to ensure that a safety net is in place. Anxious parents shudder at the thought of their emerging young adult leaving this protection for college or the workplace. The uncertainties of life await them, and independent living skills are often undeveloped and generally untested.

If your older child's difficulties have left them unprepared for many of the challenges of life on their own, read on:

Open up discussion by balancing praise for what's been accomplished and expressing concern for what lies ahead. Worry should not be labeled. Adult children with these difficulties easily misconstrue the message. Instead of perceiving help they feel defeated by parental worry. Identify some of the hurdles faced by everyone at their age, such as adjusting to an unfamiliar environment, creating comfortable new friendships, and staying on track to self-manage tasks ranging from hygiene to prompt arrival at school or work. Question how many of these hurdles they currently self-manage, and gently point out where skills could be upgraded.

Keep in mind that many young adults with challenges do not accurately perceive their need for help and/or resist seeking help. This pattern has been reinforced by years of “offered assistance” without their need to request it. It is critical to help them overcome “help-seeking hurdles,“ such as associating dependency with the need for help, ignorance of the appropriate means of soliciting help, paralyzing anxiety or embarrassment about asking for help, fear of disapproval, or some other mental block. Discuss these issues with emphasis upon normalizing the need for help at every age. Help them identify “red flags” that signal the need for help, acceptable ways to request help, and self-empowerment messages to soothe self-esteem wounds that may flare up when seeking help.

Ensure that your assistance has practical relevance and results in a greater sense of successful independence. Label steps to improve life-management skills, and encourage them to use everyday events and tasks to practice independence and the ability to “think on their feet.” For example, have them bring the car in for service, make calls to research future purchases, or approach neighbors with questions about mutual areas of interest. Review the event with your child, with emphasis upon how the experience can be called on to buttress future confidence and conviction to figure things out in life.

Keep a written file of “life management lessons” that pinpoints challenges and steps to success. Suggest that you do the writing as long as they fully participate in the review and brainstorming discussions. If they are agreeable, develop “life coaching cards” that specify the steps to self-manage various situations that they will encounter. Highlight those where they lack experience and knowledge so they can begin to broaden awareness and draw on new knowledge. Encourage them to broaden their “independent horizons” by putting these steps into practice.