Late Adolescence (Ages 15–18)
When the time for leaving home and living “on one's own” approaches, usually coinciding with graduation from high school, your teenager needs to be adequately equipped for managing more social freedom and responsibility than he or she has ever known before.
The goal for parents during the late adolescent years (ages 15 to 18) is to prepare their teenager for this challenging transition by dedicating much of their instructional discipline during high school to imparting all the knowledge and skills he or she will need to successfully step off into independence, making this next step as small as possible.
Growth is a gathering of power from dependence to independence, and a parent's job is to help the child gather that power in appropriate — not inappropriate — ways. In the late adolescent period, you are helping your child develop life skills that are appropriate for assuming more independence.
How is this preparation to be done? Use the late adolescent years to help your teenager acquire the varied responsibilities that support self-sufficiency. You have a lot of disciplinary work to do, and you can do it in three ways.
Begin by considering what responsibilities your teenager will need to master to function more independently in the world after leaving your care. Thus, when your teenager enters late adolescence, at about the age of fifteen, ask yourself a question: “What exit responsibilities need to be in place when our teenager leaves home to successfully master more independence?”
Then you list all the essential knowledge and skills you can think of that support independence. For starters, there is hunting and interviewing for employment, creating and living on a budget, basic car maintenance, filling out an income tax form, using public transportation to get around town, and managing a debit or checking account.
This is the curriculum you want to teach during late adolescence to get your teenager responsibly equipped to successfully manage the demands of greater independence that are ahead. Having made your list, decide at what point, and through what means, during the late adolescent passage you are going to teach these skills. You have a lot of instructional discipline to provide during the high school years.
Next, ask yourself another question: “What services and resources do we provide for our teenager that he or she can learn to provide for him- or herself?” Explaining to your teenager what you are going to do and why, one by one you begin to transfer these responsibilities to your child, giving instruction as needed.
In this fashion, your teenager now undertakes responsibilities for shopping, doing personal laundry, making personal medical and dental appointments, earning money, and paying for more personal expenses, for example.
By the end of high school, you want your teenager to be able to say, “I am used to taking care of most of my own needs.”
Finally, you focus on your teenager's senior year and try to approximate the full social freedom he or she is soon to have after leaving home. Turn over all responsibility for schoolwork, for managing any earned and allowance money, for nightly curfew, for example. You do this because, while your teenager is still living with you, you want to see how he or she manages the degree of freedom of self-determination soon to be available.
If your teenager can't handle all parts of it, you want to be there to help him or her accept responsibility for how ill-advised choice leads to unhappy consequence. During senior year, you want to put your teenager's degree of responsibility to the test. Of course, while still living with you, the young person still has to keep you adequately informed and meet various household membership requirements, like chores. Your job is not to punish bad choices, but help your teenager learn from mistakes.