Your child is now a teenager! Congratulations, and get ready! As a parent, it might be tough to accept that your child is nearly an adult, when it seems like only yesterday they were your sweet little baby.
As you navigate the teenage years, you and your child might feel like you’ve been thrown into a whole new world. Your child is taking on new challenges and learning about the adult they want to become. They might also face more heartbreaks than other teens.
Children with disabilities or special health care needs face unique challenges as they make their way from childhood to adulthood. Physical and hormonal changes might surprise you both. Your child might also need help understanding the changes to their body and appropriate behaviors. As your child goes through puberty, they will probably also have questions about sexuality. Our Puberty and Sexuality page can help. Let’s face it: These subjects are difficult for any parent to tackle! We’ve included conversation-starting tips, safety resources, and some facts your young adult needs to know.
You will likely witness frustration when your child encounters an activity or milestone other teenagers do more easily. Your child may or may not be able to date, drive a car, or take some of the steps other teens take to show their independence. All teens – whether or not they have a disability or special health care need – struggle to feel like they fit in. Remind your child (and yourself) that there is no “right” way to be a teenager. Maybe your child would like to have a mentor to talk to, or would like to spend time with peers that have a similar disability or special health care needs. Offer your child support and encouragement, and, if there are ways for your child to become more independent, help them take those steps.
High school is an important time for your child, because they might be considering what kind of adult life they want for themselves. You can talk together about hopes and dreams, career goals, and aspirations. Encourage your child to get involved in school activities, volunteering, or even just helping out around the house. You can help your child take on new responsibilities and be more independent by asking them about their priorities each morning and helping them focus on these things.
Learn more about educational transition, school accommodations, and more in our Education and Schools section. You can also look around in your local community for athletic or social groups for teenagers with disabilities or special health care needs. You can connect with other parents or read more about services and groups in your area on the Find Services, Groups, & Events page. All of these things help your child gain confidence.
If your child is thinking about pursuing higher education, learn more about education after high school and what your family needs to know.
Learn more about careers and how your child can gain work experience that helps them reach their goals.
Ask yourself if your child can answer these questions about their health care (Try asking your child too.):
All of these questions are great conversation starters that help your child find new ways to experience independence.
Florida Department of Health's “Since You’re Not a Kid Anymore” transition notebook for teens in middle school.
Florida Department of Health, “Imagining My Future” notebook for the transition to adolescence.
Texas Parent to Parent offers a care notebook to help parents plan the child-to-adult transition.