Question 7: What can parents do to prepare their son or daughter for transition from school to work and community life?

The road leading to a successful transition from childhood to adulthood begins much earlier than the teenage years. It starts when children learn about themselves, their strengths and weaknesses and, so doing, begin to value themselves. It ends when, as adults, these same children can take control over choices and decisions that impact their lives and take responsibility for their actions. This is called self-determination (Davis & Wehmeyer, undated).

Parents can be effective educators in communicating to their children the value of work and by teaching behaviors that develop their children's employment potential. Parents can provide opportunities for enjoyable community activities that allow children to see people at work in different settings. Parents can allow as much independence as possible, assign children responsibility of certain chores to help instill a positive work ethic, promote appropriate behavior at home and in social situations, assist their children in practicing good grooming skills, and emphasize the importance of physical fitness.

Parents can also support their children's development of self-determination skills by helping them learn to work toward goals, setting realistic but ambitious expectations for their achievements, and allowing them to take responsibility for their own actions. Parents should not leave choice-making to chance, but provide many opportunities for their children to make choices, ranging from what to wear to helping the family decide where to go on vacation. By being allowed the opportunities to make choices and decisions, to explore and take risks and to learn from experiences of success and failure, children will develop the abilities and attitudes necessary to be self-determined adults.