Many parents say one of their greatest concerns is about their young person’s social life and relationships.
Not a child any more
How sociable we like to be has a lot to do with our individual personality. But all of us benefit from knowing how to interact with others and having people we can relate to.
You probably don’t want your young person to be lonely, but it can be challenging to let them take similar risks to their peers to build a more adult social life than previously. Some young people are OK with their parents being involved in their social lives, others would much prefer mum and dad to keep their distance.
There’s no one-size-fits-all approach because everyone is different, but it can feel safer if your young person meets others either through sharing an interest or activity, or by linking up with people facing similar issues or difficulties. Some parents group together to organise regular trips or activities for their disabled children. Others concentrate on developing someone’s skills so they can, say, go into a bar or club with their peers and know what to expect.
As always for parents, it’s about thinking ahead, spotting the challenges, and trying to come up with a strategy that works for you and your young person.
Guard against social isolation
When someone leaves school a lot of day to day contact with others can be lost. Even if they didn’t have close friends, the awareness of others and the routine and behaviour expected can easily be forgotten. That can become a barrier to trying new things or making the most of opportunities.
If a young person isn’t going straight into college or work related training, try and keep a routine to the week that involves at least something outside the home or with people outside the family.
That could be helping neighbours or friends, volunteering, or taking part in an activity they enjoy – anything that keeps them connected to the idea of a structure and being part of a community.
It can be hard to keep friendships going beyond school, especially if your young person is going to be living at home while others go away for college or work.
Talking about how relationships change over time and making sure your young person understands that’s a normal part of life can be important in supporting their self confidence.
After leaving school it can be easier to make friends with a people from a wider range of ages and backgrounds. Getting used to interacting with different people helps build social awareness and important skills for the future.
Sex and relationships
Many parents prefer not to think about this! But it’s important to address it with your young person in a way that’s appropriate for their level of understanding and awareness, for their own safety and that of other people.
Contact has a range of information on this including books for young disabled adults and for parents of young disabled adults.