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Building Transition Skills at Home

May 20, 2020
Shireen Khan
Community Voices

Since remote learning is continuing until the end of the summer, it’s the perfect time for parents at home with their youth to do special activities that don’t normally happen during the day. With practice and patience, they can teach their young adults some independent living skills and self-advocacy skills at home. 

I am a youth transition counselor and most high school students I’ve worked with have not developed those skills yet. Many parents feel that it’s quicker and easier to do things for their child, rather than encouraging them to learn to do things themselves. This time of family self-isolation is an opportunity for parents to bond with their children, create memories, and give young adults some independent living and self-advocacy skills. 

Successful completion of any of these suggestions depends on your child’s ability, age, and how often the skill is practiced—which only you, the parent, can decide. But once your young person learns how to do their own daily or weekly independent living skills, those chores will also help you in managing your household.

Challenge your assumptions about what your child can do. The more adults do things for their child, which they can learn to do for themselves, the more they’ll depend on those around them—even as young people become adults. 

Ease into a “let them try” mindset. It’s important to have the ability to believe “despite my child’s disability, I can at least let them try to do ___ (an age/ability appropriate task).” It is going to take patience and a willingness to see your child struggle, but once a skill is mastered, it will be better for everyone.   

Define the independent living skills and self-advocacy skills goals needed based on your child’s age and ability level. Independent living skills are the common activities and daily living skills that most adults engage in as they manage their own life. Take into consideration where your child needs help with daily living activities and what your young adult already knows and can do. Sometimes, these common activities can be challenging, so start working on them early on.


  • Make simple meals together, e.g. bowl of cereal, sandwiches, or pasta.
  • Do laundry including sorting clothes, learning how to work appliances, measuring detergent, ironing, and folding clothes.
  • Learn to make a phone call and/or how to leave a voicemail message.  
  • Stay on task until that task is completed.
  • Research neighborhood resources like grocery stores or libraries, and find out what’s open and available there.

Self-advocacy skills enable young people to understand their strengths and weaknesses, know what they need to succeed, and communicate that to other people. Young peoplecan have a say in decisions made about them and understand their rights, responsibilities, and options, especially for those transitioning into adulthood. 

Many young people do not know how to express their needs or ask someone for help. Parents can take this self-isolation time during COVID-19 to promote self-advocacy in their young adults,depending on their age and ability level. Be honest with your youth that life still goes on and they will still have responsibilities of schoolwork to do.


  • Develop research skills, asking questions like, “Where do I need to go? Who do I need to ask for information?” 
  • Build decision-making skills. Learn about expectations (what should happen) and explore both positive and negative consequences (behavior outcomes). 
  • Set short-term goals like. finishing homework and long-term goals like graduation.
  • Learn stress management by managing emotions and expressing feelings appropriately.
  • Practice communication skills, which includes both talking and listening: make a phone call, start a verbal conversation, or leave a voicemail message, ask for help by describing the problem. Keep connected to family and friends virtually or by phone. It’s so important for young people to socialize during this time of self-isolation.

Many of these suggestions can also help support young adults’ mental health during these trying times.