From living at home to living away

Reduce stress on your child by helping them make a plan for health services

Transitioning from adolescence to adulthood affects many aspects of a person’s life.  

A child’s “job” is to go to school and get an education. As teens move to the next level — vocational training, college, the workforce, etc. — it is a major life change. The loss of a familiar structure can lead to significant mental stress for youths in transition, and present challenges for the entire family.

In preparation for these life changes, both health and mental health should be on a parent’s radar when looking at schools or day programs. There are some great resources available to young adults and parents to facilitate this transition.

That’s important because nearly 50 percent of all college-age adults have some form of a psychiatric disorder. College students are seeking behavioral health treatments and help in record numbers. Based on a large compilation of College Mental Health center data:

1 in 2 students have received psychological services in the last five years.

1 in 10 students have been hospitalized previously for psychiatric issues.

1 in 4 students report self-injurious behaviors (such as cutting, erasing, etc).

1 in 3 students have seriously considered suicide.

Additionally, the age of onset for symptoms related to mental illnesses is 18-25, typically when youths have left home for the first time.

How can our young adults be supported through these challenging times? If your child is leaving the area for school or employment, here are some tips:

1. Know the crisis numbers in their area to call or text in an emergency.

2. If your youth remains on your health insurance, but is out-of-state, contact your insurance plan to determine whether their location is in- or out-of-network and what the out-of-network benefits are. Be aware that student health insurance offered through a college typically only covers the student during academic periods, not during school breaks.

3. Know the college’s policy about sharing academic or health information with parents. Even if parents are paying tuition, this does not ensure they will be notified  — because most college students are older than 18 and considered to be legal adults.

If your youth is in treatment prior to leaving for college, continuing treatment for the first year of the transition often is helpful, even if the issues appear resolved. Having a connection with a therapist while facing the challenges of being away from home, living with new people, managing a new lifestyle and interacting with peers, can help your youth stay safe and healthy. If a connection between your child and their therapist has to be severed because of distance, finding a provider at school or near school can ensure continued treatment.

What if your child has intellectual disabilities? What will their next phase look like? Typically these experiences are not as structured, nor as supported, as they were in the school system. The transition to less intensive supports can be a struggle and may present parents and staff with behavioral changes.

Anticipating the challenges can prevent some of the problems your youth may experience during this process. Be sure to include your youth’s primary care provider and behavioral health team in creating a plan. 

Additional resources:

Lisa Plotnik, MD is a practitioner in the Internal Medicine-Pediatrics Department at Children's Hospital at Dartmouth-Hitchcock Manchester. For more information, go to

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