Preparing for the First Apartment: Beyond Home Furnishings and Domestic Supplies
Ownership: The concept of ownership can be learned and reinforced in the family home by allowing decisions and actions to impact others. Together, you and your young-adult child may agree that he or she plans and cooks a meal once a week for the family. You may collaborate on choosing a recipe, making a shopping list, grocery shopping, and cooking. During your preparations, you might discuss how not preparing the meal could affect others – others may have to cook, dinner might be late, or the purchase of take-out might be necessary. Refrain from rushing to the rescue if dinner is not prepared as agreed. Allow some time for your young-adult to problem-solve, and use the event to demonstrate how the oversight affects others.
Routine: Defining a streamlined and skill-appropriate schedule that can be repeated is key for transitioning into a well-managed apartment. Introduce a simple routine while your son or daughter is living in the family home – agree to one or two items per day (exercise, wake up time, chores, hygiene tasks, enrichment activities, etc.). Maintain consistency from week to week, and collaborate when it is time to add to the routine. Encourage your son or daughter check items off when complete. A large whiteboard is an excellent tool for integrating routine. (See Scheduling.)
Expectations: The most significant piece of the S.C.O.R.E. acronym is “expectation.” When meeting new families every year, it is easy to identify those who are ready to make the transition to an apartment – those who have the genuine expectation for their young-adult child to take on the varied tasks and responsibilities associated with independent life. When a parent compromises their expectations, a child will often do the same.
Parents who maintain a boundary between the family home and their child’s independent living space and hold their son or daughter accountable to clearly defined responsibilities create a natural path for transitioning to apartment life. While it is important to supply a first apartment with the appliances, furnishings, adaptive devices, and assistive technologies to promote a safe, healthy, and comfortable home, it is equally important to formalize realistic and meaningful learning opportunities prior to the move. Successful parents appreciate the differences between their home and the new independent living space. I encourage parents to accept that an apartment will look and operate quite differently from the home provided during childhood. Remember to take comfort in knowing that the home you son or daughter is creating is possible because of the lessons and values they learned from you in your home!
Karen Oldoni is an Independent Living Advisor at Lesley University’s Threshold Program – a college -based posts secondary program for young -adult students with disabilities. She has collaborated with students and their parents for nearly twenty years as they success fully transition to apartment life. Ms. Oldoni has a B.A. from Colgate University.
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