Article: Adolescence and Transition: Ages 14-21
Adolescence and Transition: Supervision and Patience
Adolescence can be an exciting, but difficult time for families and individuals impacted by an FASD. It is important to remain calm and not to match the everchanging emotions of your teen. When challenging behaviors occur, ask yourself, is this a typical teen behavior or is this FASD that requires a different strategy?
Critical Issues in Adolescence
Supervision is key to being a proactive parent or caregiver and decreasing risky or challenging situations.
- Adolescents have a strong need for socialization with peers. Provide opportunities to socialize in groups with adult supervision, create rules when at a friend’s house, and connect with other parents and caregivers to ensure there will always be adequate supervision.
- Create opportunities for independence with supervision. For example, allow your teen to go to places they enjoy with a friend while you are “waiting in the wings” and stay on site.
- Technology supervision is especially challenging. Most teens want access to technology to communicate with peers, but it is important that you provide intense supervision.
- Learn about parental controls and Apps that help you provide adequate online supervision. Talk with other parents and caregivers about effective tools for youth with an FASD. If you’re in Minnesota, click here to join our Virtual Family Center on Facebook.
- Sexual curiosity and changing hormones are a normal part of adolescence. Young people with an FASD are at a higher risk for being victimized and often struggle with understanding boundaries. Create an open dialogue and answer questions. When you do not know the answer, find it together.
- Discuss body hygiene and hormones, private vs. public behaviors, dating etiquette and consent, healthy boundaries, online relationships, inappropriate texts and online images (pornography)
- If you are not comfortable discussing sexuality with your child, find an FASD-friendly class or series where they can learn about healthy sexuality and healthy relationships [insert link to Proof series, LSS, Mad Hatter Wellness
- If your adolescent is asking for support related to gender identity or sexuality, remain supportive and see appropriate resources.
- Developing appropriate and healthy relationships can be challenging. Find safe groups and organizations for peer interaction with supervision
- Model healthy relationships by verbalizing teaching moments. For example, “I am angry with X, but I better wait until I calm down to reply to this text.”
- Oftentimes, young people with an FASD have difficulty understanding the difference between strangers, friends, dating partners, etc. Work together to help define relationships. Explain stages of relationships and the importance of getting to know someone before you trust them.
- Adolescents with an FASD can be vulnerable to victimization due to their longing for social connections. They often can be the “scapegoat” in troublesome situations. Help them understand healthy friendships and to identify when they are being victimized or used. For example, tell them if a friend is asking for money and not paying them back, it might be an unhealthy friendship.
- Being proactive can help to decrease situations where your child has opportunities to make impulsive decisions. Due to brain deficits impacting impulse control and decision making, they may require extra support
- Help them identify when they are making risky decisions and identify a “safe person” to consult in these situations (parent/caregiver or another adult)
- Use scenarios to help assist in decision-making. For example, discuss situations where they may encounter peer pressure and consequences to poor decisions
- Issues with depression, anxiety and other mental health conditions may be exacerbated during adolescence. Be sure you and your teen are happy with your therapist and psychiatric medications*link to resource directory of providers are in place if needed.
- Watch for red flags that may indicate self-harm or suicidal thoughts. This can include observing unexplained cuts or burns on areas normally hidden by clothing, such as thighs. Many teens may say “my life is over” or “I want to die.” Investigate and dig deeper by asking them to share more about how they are feeling. Do not disregard as simply being dramatic or minimize their emotions. Reach out to your mental health provider or a suicide hotline to identify if your child needs immediate medical attention.
- Adolescents are often bombarded by messages about alcohol and drugs and have easy access to them. They may feel curious about trying drugs or alcohol and want to experiment. Be clear about your expectations for them and learn how to spot the signs of use.
- If you are concerned about drug or alcohol use, reach out to a substance use treatment center. [Link to resource directory and DS team