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Transition to Adulthood

Information Pack Series

Personal Relationships Information Pack

Build and Keep Positive Supportive Relationships

As you gain independence, you will want to build your own positive and supportive relationships. This section provides some thoughts and ideas about how to build and keep positive, supportive relationships with your family and friends as a young adult.

Positive Personal Relationships

Some Dating Basics

Here are some tips for building strong, healthy and respectful relationships.

What makes a relationship healthy?

In healthy relationships:

  • Both people feel respected, supported and valued.
  • Both people make decisions together.
  • Both people have friends and interests outside of the relationship.
  • Disagreements are settled with open and honest communication.
  • There are more good times than bad.

What makes a relationship unhealthy?

In unhealthy relationships:

  • One person tries to change the other.
  • One person makes most or all of the decisions.
  • One or both people drop friends and interests outside of the relationship.
  • One or both people yell, threaten, hit, or throw things during arguments.
  • One person makes fun of the other's opinions or interests.
  • One person keeps track of the other all the time by calling, texting or checking in with friends.
  • There are more bad times than good.

Often people in unhealthy relationships make excuses to try to explain away the hurtful parts of the relationship. If you see any of these signs, talk to a trusted adult.

Sexuality

Sexual intimacy is difficult to understand before experiencing its power. Below are some points to consider;

  • Intimacy can progress quickly.
  • Intimacy must be controlled by butting up boundaries beforehand such as not being alone with someone, not staying out too late, not dating one-on-one until you feel safe and comfortable.
  • The use of alcohol and drugs often eliminates your ability to say "no."
  • Typically, older guys are more likely to pressure younger girls for sexual intimacy.
  • Sexual intimacy is the greatest treasure a person can give to another. Think long and hard and know if this person has proven themselves worthy of such an intimate and precious gift.

Building a Strong Marriage

Select your partner wisely and don't rush into anything you're not ready for.

  • Choose someone whose values match your own - not just where money is concerned, but more importantly, ethical and moral values.
  • Get to know your soulmate over the course of at least a year.
  • Passion is important, but trust is even more important.
  • Make sure you are free to be yourself.
  • Be aware, if you get married to an angry or overly critical partner, you will be subjected to hostility and may lose your sense of self. Conversely, if you are the one with anger issues, resolve them before they poison a good relationship.
  • Learn to make decisions with your head, along with your heart.

Family Life

Separating from Your Parents (Emancipation)

If you want to separate from parental control before the age of 21, you have to be legally emancipated. Emancipation is when a parent gives up control over their minor child. Emancipation is a legal process that gives a teenager legal independence from his or her parents or guardians. It is the same legal independence you would acquire upon reaching the age of majority and moving out of your home. Emancipation can only be granted through proper state legal processes and by a court judge.

Emancipation is not something you do because your parents do not understand you, because they do not pay attention to you, because you are unhappy, because you don't like your parents, etc. Emancipation is a legal tool that you may want to look into if:

  • Your parents have taken out loans and credit cards in your name, thereby ruining your credit and making you legally responsible for their debts.
  • Your parents have taken money from you that you have earned or that has been given to you.
  • Your parents have told you that you no longer may live with them.
  • Your parents have told you that for you to continue to live with them you must engage in activities that go against your values or that would be profoundly degrading or humiliating.
  • Conditions at your parent's home are unsanitary or unsafe.
  • Someone in your parent's home has physically or emotionally abused you, or threatened such abuse.

In New York State, your are entitled to be supported by your parents until the age of 21. However, you are under 21 years of age and are married, or self-supporting, or in the military, your are considered to be "emancipated" and your parents' support obligation ends.

You may also be considered "emancipated" if you are between 17 and 21 and leave your parents' home and refuse to obey your parents' reasonable commands.

New York State does not issue "emancipation orders", i.e., there is no official court process for becoming emancipated. A minor may only be emancipated as part of some other court action, such as when your parent thinks they do not have to pay child support because of your perceived emancipation

Some Benefits of Emancipation

  • You can enter into a contract (including lease, rental, and purchase agreements);
  • You can sue;
  • You can enroll in a school of your choice (provided that the school accepts you);
  • You can apply for public benefits;
  • You can keep any and all of the income you earn.
  • You can make any and all healthcare decisions for yourself (depending on your age, see below).

Combined, these provisions work to make it possible for emancipated minors to live and work on their own without the interference of a parental guardian.

Some Limitations of Emancipation

You cannot take part in activities which, by law, may require that you have attained an older age - such as purchasing or drinking alcohol, voting, or getting married. Specifically, an emancipated child under 18 years old still needs parents' permission to:

  • Get working papers;
  • Get a learner's permit or driver's license;
  • Get routine health care - unless it is an emergency, because of a sexually transmitted disease (STD), for family planning series, for alcohol or mental health treatment, or if you are pregnant, a parent, or married.
  • You must also meet the age and consent requirements to get married.

Bottom Line - Think very carefully before you start the emancipation process. It is a tremendous amount of financial, legal and personal responsibility to take on.

Perhaps there are alternatives to emancipation. If you need some relief from family problems that do not threaten your safety or your well-being, you could:

  • Stay with a friend or another family member for a few weeks or a few months.
  • Spend as much time as possible away from home:
    • in a job (and making money so you can move out legally at 18, without any need for legal proceedings);
    • in after-school activities;
    • volunteering;
    • studying and reading at the library; or
    • in activities in a community of faith.
  • Ask your school guidance counselor, parent of a friend or the leader in your community of father (church, temple, mosque).
  • Talk to your parents and try to negotiate better living conditions until you are 18.

Social Life

Relationships with Friends

Strong, healthy relationships with friends can be one of the best support in your life. Good relationships improve all aspects of your life, strengthen your health, your mind and your connections with others. However, if a relationship isn't working, it can also be a tremendous drain.

Friends have a huge impact on your happiness. Good friends relieve stress, provide comfort and joy, prevent loneliness and isolation, and even strengthen your health. But close friendships don't just happen. Developing and maintaining friendships takes time and effort, but even with a packed schedule, you can find ways to make the time for friends.

Making New Friends: Where to Start

  • Volunteering can be a great way to help others while also meeting new people. Volunteering also gives you the opportunity to regularly practice and develop your social skills.
  • Take a class or join a club to meet people with common interests, such as a book group, dinner club, or sports team. Websites such as http://www.meetup.com/ can help you find local groups or start your own and connect with others who share similar interests.
  • Walk a dog. Dog owners often stop and chat while their dogs sniff or play with each other. If dog ownership isn't right for you, volunteer to walk dogs from a shelter or a local rescue group.
  • Attend art gallery openings, book readings, lectures, music recitals, or other community events where you can meet people with similar interests. Check with your library or local paper for events near you.
  • Behave like someone new to the area. Even if you’ve lived in the same place all your life, take the time to re-explore your neighborhood attractions. New arrivals to any town or city tend to visit these places first—and they’re often keen to meet new people and establish friendships, too.
  • Cheer on your team. If you support a sports team, find where other fans go to watch the games. You automatically have a shared interest—your team—so it can be easy to start up a conversation.
  • Unplug. It’s difficult to meet new people in any social situation if you’re more interested in your phone than the people around you.

Some Tips for Making Friends

Friendships work two ways. A friend is someone you feel comfortable supporting and accepting, and someone with whom you share a bond of trust and loyalty and can be yourself.

The most important thing in a friendship is how the relationship makes you feel—not how it looks on paper, how many things you have in common, or what others think. Ask yourself:

  • Do I feel better after spending time with this person?
  • Am I myself around this person?
  • Do I feel safe, or do I feel like I have to watch what I say and do?
  • Is the person supportive and treat me with respect?
  • Is this a person I can trust?

Generally speaking, if the friendship feels good, it is good. But if a person tries to control you, criticizes you, abuses your generosity, or brings unwanted drama or negative influences into your life, it’s time to re-evaluate the friendship. A good friend does not require you to compromise your values, always agree with them, or disregard your own needs.

We all have acquaintances - people we exchange small talk with as we go about our day or trade jokes or insights with online. These relationships can be fulfilling in their own right, but what if you want to turn a casual acquaintance into a true friend?

  • Friendship is characterized by intimacy. True friends know things about each other: their values, struggles, goals, and interests. If you’d like to transition from acquaintances to friends, open up to the other person.
  • You don’t have to reveal your most closely-held secret. Start small with something a little bit more personal than normal and see how the other person responds. Do they seem interested? Do they reciprocate by disclosing something about themselves?

Determine if people you met could really become your friends:

  • Does the other person ask you questions about yourself, as if they’d like to get to know you better?
  • Do they tell you things about themselves beyond surface small talk?
  • Do they give you their full attention when you see them?
  • Does the other person seem interested in exchanging contact information or making specific plans to get together?

If you cannot answer “yes” to these questions, the person may not be the best candidate for friendship now, even if they genuinely like you. There are many possible reasons, so don’t take it personally!

Bullying and Cyber Safety Tips

What is bullying?

“Bullying is an act of repeated aggressive behavior in order to intentionally hurt another person, physically or mentally. Bullying is characterized by an individual behaving in a certain way to gain power over another person.” (Ducharme, 2010).
Bullying can take many forms. It can include:

  • Physical violence
  • Intimidation and threats
  • Name calling and belittling
  • Social exclusion (i.e., leaving someone out of social gatherings and activities)
  • Gossiping and spreading rumors about others
  • Public humiliation
  • Using slurs, words or phrases that characterize a bullied victim’s identity to suggest that something is unacceptable or worthless

Bullying - What You Can Do?

  • If you are being harassed, excluded, or assaulted, know that it is not your fault and that you are every bit as entitled to be there as any other student.
  • Tell the offender(s) to stop. Avoid calling them names in the process, but do speak up and stand strong.
  • Confide in someone – don’t suffer in silence.
  • Find something you love to do and where you can belong. Find a circle of peers who know and like you just the way you are – even if that’s outside of school.
  • If you are witnessing harassment, exclusion or assault, speak up in the moment; be supportive of your classmate in public or, if you just can’t, then at least in private.
  • Whether you are a target or a witness, Be an activist. Making change heals the changer even as it heals the community – so don’t put up with it – find other students and adults who will work with you to insist on change.

Cyber Safety Tip Sheets (from Youth Organizing! Disabled and Proud)

  • Cell Phone & Mobile Device Safety Tips
    These tips were developed by ConnectSafely.org, they are meant to help youth stay fun and safe on the cell phone. Defend and protect yourself with smart socializing, keeping your cell phones personal, beware of cyber-bullying, protect against "sexting", the value of "presence", and more…
  • Cell Phone Location-Sharing & GPS Locating Tips
    Most "smart phones" and even some regular cellphones allow you to run location-sharing software that uses the phone's GPS capability to let friends and family know your exact location…
  • Beware & Protect Against Cyber-Bullying
    Cyber bullying is the willful and repeated act of harming others electronically through email, instant messaging, Web sites, chat rooms, social networking sites, cell phones and other electronic means. About one-third of all youth using the Internet have been bullied…
  • Creating Secure and Protected Passwords
    A strong password is your first line of defense against intruders and imposters. Learn how to create a secure password and other techniques to protecting your password…
  • Beware & Protect Against "Sexting" with Mobile Devices"
    Sexting" usually refers to youth sharing nude photos via cell phone, but it's happening on other devices and the Web too. The practice can have serious legal and psychological consequences, so youth should consider these tips developed by ConnectSafely.org…
  • Safety Tips for Websites and Social Networking
    These tips were developed by ConnectSafely.org, they are meant to help youth stay fun and safe on both the fixed and mobile social Web. Learn more about what to post, online manners, and being smart about online predators…
  • Video Sharing Safety Tips and Publishing on the Web
    Many youth today are video-literate - able to communicate in a medium once reserved for highly trained professionals with expensive equipment. This is an amazing creative development for them and the participatory Web. To help keep their video-sharing safe and constructive, here are some common-sense rules of conduct...

Developed by the Council on Children and Families and Funded by the Developmental Disabilities Planning Council