As a parent of a transition-aged youth (TAY), you know, the age between being a teen and being a full-fledged adult, it can be difficult to stand back and watch as your child deals with life in all its harshness and lessons. This is a time when they head out on their own for a job, college or university, to some other new adventure  that will hopefully lead them to the life they want.  For a parent of a child affected by a mental illness, the time can be even more worrisome.

No longer are you able to go with your child to talk with the teacher, coach, etc. about issues and concerns and, where needed, give input to come up with a plan of support. Now it is about your TAY advocating solo for themselves, and you hope that over the years you have given them the means and opportunities to develop the critical skills to do this (which by the way are skills that are important not just for a person dealing with an illness or disability but everyone).  As a parent, at this stage of life for your child, all you can do is impart some sage advice and wisdom  – should they ask for it – while taking into account their perspectives and thoughts, and hope that the advice is indeed still sage and wise.

Animated person with the word 'hey'

A recent event this week made me think about some of the advice we as parents have had to give to out when things may not have gone as hoped or needed:

  • Life is not  always fair  (I know …” Gee, thanks Mom!”) even though you try and make it fair for everyone you encounter.  Unfortunately not everyone sees the world the same way you do.
  • When you are doing team or group work, sometimes not all the team /group pulls their own weight and you will have to figure out how to ensure each person does pull their weight, or how to share the work if they do not so that you are not taking on the extra burden alone. When setting up your group processes at the beginning, talking about what to do should someone not do their part will help alleviate strife (as life can get in the way sometimes and even though “that’s not how [they] do things”). If needed,  use your professor (or boss) as a mentor, ask them for advice on how to manage these things.
  • Those who are often the busiest are given more work to do.  Why?  An old adage says it’s because you will get things done. That could be true, but it may also cause you to become overwhelmed and impact you mentally, emotionally, and physically.  It’s OK to ask for help creating a priority list of what is practicable and by when. More importantly it is also OK to say NO.  Trust me, you are not letting people down when you say NO, rather you are keeping yourself up with self-care and mental wellness.
  • Even when you prepare to the nth-degree the unexpected can pop-up that can throw off the best laid plans of mice and men.  Plan Bs are made for these moments but there isn’t always the option of a Plan B.  Maybe you missed something that could have adverted the unexpected, but don’t waste time on what wasn’t done, focus on what you can do differently in the future, what you learned from it, and how to move forward from this moment.
  • Create a communication plan for sharing details – who needs to know what and by when. Make sure contact information is shared among those who need to know, include in it how to reach different people.
  • When things go wrong, own it if you are responsible, but don’t own it alone if you are part of a team/group and it was a team/group responsibility.  Equally, don’t “throw people under the bus” if you were the one responsible.
  • Apologize with sincerity when an apology is needed.  A sincere apology can go a long way in making amends. – whether it is done in person, through a note, an email, a call, or some small token of apology (a coffee), or offer to help in other ways.
  • Now about some of those adults you may encounter:  Sometimes they are leaders, mentors, coaches, and teachers, other times they are takers, blamers, lamenters, and harsh critics.  Some don’t always think about what they are saying or how it can be received or perceived (and I will put myself in this mix on the odd occasion) and the harm that words cause people, especially if the receiver of the words is struggling internally. Yes, sometimes they like to gaze at their own belly-buttons and not take ownership for things they may have been aware of, or could changed by effective communications or actions on their part.
  • Some adults can sometimes forget that you are still learning.  Reading a text book or writing a paper or exam does not make you an expert, it makes you a student, a person who is still growing.  The true leaders, mentors, coaches, and teachers know this and will use both the successes and the mistakes to help you learn and find opportunities to grow.  Figure out who these people are in your life; learn from them.
  • People can sometimes jump to conclusions and not ask for the other side of the story before reacting.  Make sure you give yourself a voice.  Seek the opportunity to explain so that both sides of the story are known and understood. It may not change the outcome, but with any luck it will ensure the complete picture is seen.
  • Remember that communications plan?  Share it with those adults who are involved in the things you are working on so that they too can be part of solutions or point out where you may be going off track.  Make them ad hoc team-members of the team,
  •  Ask for help if you are not sure.  Asking for help is not a sign of weakness, it is a sign of strength and courage, and it provides the opportunity to create understanding for those involved.
  • Be polite, respectful even when you feel you are being attacked.  As Michelle Obama said, “When they go low, [you] go high.” Stay above those who try to pull you down.
  • Know that you are loved, and believed in – and yes, I know I am your parent and you think I have to say those things … which I do … but I also say it because it is true.