Kids Health Info

Adolescent transition - basics for parents and carers

  • Transition is an important process for you as parents/carers to go through. As a parent/carer you have to cope with your own challenges as you encourage your child to look after their own health care and become independent.

    Your involvement in your son/daughter's transition is important because it will help you to support them during this time of change.

    We have developed some information and education modules on a range of topics that are also available on the RCH Transition website or from your child's clinical team. These modules are designed to help inform and support you and your child during this transition process.

    Aims of transition

    There are several aims of transition. These include:

    • To provide high quality health care which is appropriate for your son/daughter's age, culture and development, and is flexible, responsive and relevant to their needs and presented in a way they understand.
    • To help them develop skills in communication, decision-making, assertiveness and self-care, self determination and self advocacy.
    • To improve their sense of control and independence with their health care.
    • To provide support and guidance for you as the parent/carer.
    • To maximise your son/daughter's capabilities to live well and achieve their goals regardless of their condition or disability.
      [adapted from McDonagh, 2003, 2005]

    What does transition mean for the parent/carer?

    Transition is an important process for you as a parent or carer of a young person who is stepping into adulthood. The transition process helps parents/carers work through the challenges faced, as well as enhancing your knowledge about your son/daughter's experience. It will help you cope with the changing roles as you and your son/daughter move through this stage of their life.

    Transition phase

    There are four phases for an effective transition process:

    1. Introductory/Planning Phase - (12-15 years approximately)

    This phase involves introducing you and your son/daughter to the concept of transition, starting the information exchange, and an assessment of your child's knowledge of themselves, their medical condition and how to manage it.

    2. Preparation Phase (15-18 years approximately)

    This phase involves your son/daughter starting to visit their doctor without you, developing a transition plan, having a transition lead assigned (the person who helps manage the transition process), introduction to the concept of confidentiality and ensuring it is strictly adhered to. Correspondence will start to be addressed to your son/daughter rather than to you.

    3. Transfer Phase (18-19 years)

    This phase involves an assessment of how ready your son/daughter is to transfer, an information exchange between paediatric and adult services, providing you and your child with practical information about adult health care, and a process of allowing your son/daughter to write a letter of introduction to their new doctor.

    4. Evaluation (6-18 months post-transfer)

    The phase involves follow up contact with you and your son/daughter, including the opportunity for written evaluation and feedback of your transition experience.

    Transition challenges

    Challenges can include:

    • A changing role from managing your child's care to becoming more of a support and resource.
    • Feeling excluded or out of the loop as your child takes more ownership of their care.
    • Concern about your child's readiness to transfer to adult health services.
    • Adjusting to adult health care services and different processes and expectations.
    • Developing confidence in the new medical team.

    The parent/carer modules within the RCH Transition Program are very similar to that of the young person but with more of a focus on the changing role of the parent. The involvement of parents and carers in this process is highly important for the development of both the young person and the parent/carer.

    The transition process will support and inform you as you:

    • Encourage your son/daughter to take ownership of their health.
    • Step back into a consultation role instead of a management role.
    • Transfer your knowledge i.e. Medicare, health care, medical history.
    • Encourage direct communication between your son/daughter and the health care team.

    Your son/daughter will also face their own challenges which the transition process aims to help them overcome. These may include:

    • The children's service being familiar and comfortable.
    • The future is unknown.
    • Communication between services such as transferring health information.
    • Degree of participation/involvement in their health care for them and you as parents/carers.
    • Different health systems and different expectations.
    • Being independent and fitting the management of their health condition in with being a young person.

    Key points for parents/carers

    • If you or your child doesn't get along with the new doctor, it is ok to request a second referral.
    • Transition is a natural step for a young person and is best achieved with your support and encouragement.
    • You and your child have the right to participate in the whole transition process.
    • Ensure that you are attending to your own needs during the transition process, self care is important when big changes are occurring.

    For more information

    The Royal Children's Hospital Adolescent Transition Coordinator
    T: (03) 9345 4858


    Developed by the RCH Adolescent Transition Program. First published: November 2010

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This information is intended to support, not replace, discussion with your doctor or healthcare professionals. The authors of these consumer health information handouts have made a considerable effort to ensure the information is accurate, up to date and easy to understand. The Royal Children's Hospital, Melbourne accepts no responsibility for any inaccuracies, information perceived as misleading, or the success of any treatment regimen detailed in these handouts. Information contained in the handouts is updated regularly and therefore you should always check you are referring to the most recent version of the handout. The onus is on you, the user, to ensure that you have downloaded the most up-to-date version of a consumer health information handout.