Preparing for the First Apartment: Beyond Home Furnishings and Domestic Supplies
For many parents, a son or daughter’s move to their first apartment is a highly anticipated milestone on the path towards adulthood and independence. A parent’s role in preparing for the move often includes helping to furnish and supply the new living space. For a parent of a young-adult child with an intellectual or physical disability, managing an endeavor of this kind usually involves additional types of support. Having worked as an Independent Living Advisor at a university-based program for college-aged students with disabilities, I have learned that families who approach a new independent living space as a blank canvas rather than attempt to replicate the family home, achieve the most consistent success in building a lasting foundation for independence.
Whether the first move is six months or six years in the future, families can prepare for apartment living by using the “S.C.O.R.E.” approach. I came up with the acronym S.C.O.R.E. to convey to parents elements that are fundamental to preparing for the transition to an apartment. Families who formalize the concepts of Scheduling, Consequences, Ownership, Routine, and Expectations in the home are the families I have seen to experience the smoothest transition to apartment life.
The ways to apply S.C.O.R.E within the family home and then transition the concepts to an apartment home are unique to every family. Although methods may vary, integrating S.C.O.R.E. into your preparation process will help clarify everyone’s role during the transition to an independent setting.
Scheduling: Whether in the family home or in the apartment, establishing a schedule needs to include input from your young-adult child. A parent’s role in helping to define a schedule around apartment maintenance might be to discuss relevant tasks and to suggest using a large, erasable white board. While the white board is a useful apartment management tool, the restraint you demonstrate in leading your child to determine a schedule for him or herself is what is most important. In addition, accepting that your child may choose to vacuum their apartment once per week (not several times per week as might occur in the family home) will demonstrate your confidence in his or her ability to make sound decisions.
Consequences: Prior to moving to an apartment, you can support your young-adult by clarifying and allowing consequences to occur naturally. For example, the result of your child failing to do laundry might result in a favorite item of clothing not being available to wear. This would not be a time for you to do an emergency load of laundry! It is essential for a young-adult to understand that their decisions and behaviors determine outcomes, and it is important for a parent to be comfortable with missteps, oversights, false starts, and imperfection.
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