Sample 18+ and Bridgers Orientation


  • Co-hosted by youth and adult program leaders

  • For youth who are turning 18 and/or bridging soon. (Include any other youth who want to come. This is important info for everyone).

  • At least one parent of a teenager should be present to share view of parents with younger youth


  • After orientation is a possibility, but people are also tired

  • A meal the first day may be a better option

  • This conversation should not be a one-time thing through a program year but happen at multiple events

  • Bridging Con (for those who will be 18 the next year)


  • One’s legal and social world changes at age 18 and youth do not receive much notification of this, preparation for it, or discussion on navigating it. This is a form of neglect.

  • It’s all too easy for youth to get themselves in trouble through naivety

  • We should be talking with and supporting bridgers in the changes they’re going through

Ideally this is a relaxed conversation with room for questions, tangents, stories from youth and adults, youth sharing tips with each other, and so on. Try to be sure the main points below are covered.


This is a relatively narrow conversation. Bridging youth benefit from workshops, programs, and conversations on the whole of the life transition of bridging into young adulthood. If you have time to do a longer program you may find the Bridging Handbook helpful.

Sample Outline

Centering and Chalice Lighting

We do not grow absolutely, chronologically. We grow sometimes in one dimension, and not in another, unevenly. We grow partially. We are relative. We are mature in one realm, childish in another. The past, present, and future mingle and pull us backward, forward, or fix us in the present. We are made of layers, cells, constellations.
Anais Nin, becoming

Why Are We Here?

In the United States, our culture has determined that the legal age of adulthood is 18, but we also typically consider them “youth” until after they graduate high school. All cultures mark adulthood in some ways, and this is ours.

Because y’all are turning 18, are 18 (or older), we are here to have a conversation about expectations. Legally, you are adults. Here, you are our oldest youth leaders. With both of these roles, as however wanted or unwanted they are, come responsibility.

We have expectations for you, but before we go into those, let’s talk about the differences between 17 and 18 year olds.

Discussion/Brainstorm of Differences between 17 and 18 year olds (5 minutes)

This is meant to be a short, light-hearted way to introduce the deeper stuff below. You might get responses like “you can be sued, charged as an adult...etc.” You might also get “a year or a birthday” or something similar. Hopefully youth see that the designation of “adult” is arbitrary...who can tell the difference between a 17 year old and an 18 year old on sight?

The Details

Conversation about the details listed below--especially those that haven’t already come up.


What are commitments we can make as legal adults but still youth for this community?

Summary of Things to Cover

Legal Changes

  • Can now be sued

  • Criminal convictions are part of a permanent criminal record

  • Higher penalty for:

    • Con-consensual touch of minors

    • Possessing nude pictures of minors

    • Sending nude pictures to minors

    • Sharing substances with minors

  • While there is often lessening of legal penalty if the difference in age is small, the younger youth’s parents can still pursue legal action against you. (if you the leader can know your state laws about sexual contact between 18 year olds and younger youth, this is helpful information for the youth to have).

  • Minors can sometimes be prosecuted as adults; as adults, you would definitely be prosecuted as an adult.

Social Changes

  • Access to a different world—may have been happening gradually, happens at a different pace for different youth, may not fully emerge until out of the house but in general:

    • Don’t need parental permission

    • Often have access (if wanted) to increased substances, parties, etc

    • Increased sexual freedom—and social expectations/pressures/availability/ease

  • Parents of younger youth know all of this and may see you as a danger — they want to protect their kids from what you have access to...

    • Remember parenting teenagers is a hair-raising, terror inducing life stage. a little compassion is warranted even if you think they’re overprotective or out of touch

    • Parents of younger youth will hold you to a higher standard even than they hold their own child to -- you and a younger youth might both freely choose to do something, and their parents might hold you responsible and be mad at you instead of their child.

Changes in the UU World

Because of the changes in the world, there are changes here--

  • Parents’ signatures giving permission no longer have any legal meaning!! We still ask for parent signatures because we want parents to know where their teen is and agree to pick you up if you need it!

  • Because of the changes in the legal and social worlds--this could mean we would need to set more serious limits or consequences with 18+ youth if they have trouble keeping others safe.

  • We do expect you to be a role model!

  • If you start to realize you’re more of a young adult now than a youth, please come talk to a trusted adult. This transition can sneak up on you. 18-19 year old youth not in traditional schooling should be having some conversations with their religious educators and advisors about if they’re still youth or starting to be young adults.

Tips on Ethics

  • There are lots of kinds of power imbalances in the world. there are ways men have more power than women, for instance. age is another power imbalance and there are ways you have more power than younger youth.

  • Remember younger youth may think you are old (and cool or inaccessible or desirable or…). be sensitive about:

    • Touch, consent, inclusion without inviting into not age appropriate things, setting an example through your behavior, things they may perceive as pressure to do or not to something.

    • Pressure and role model status can be used for good too!

  • Remember appearances matter, what a situation looks like may matter as much as what is actually happening

    • Think a little about your surroundings when you sleep near other youth

    • May not want to jump into cuddle puddles with them

  • If you have a romantic thing starting with a younger youth

    • Think about letting them lead, don’t pressure

    • Cannot be overstated: meet their parents and be on the up and up

  • Be careful with sexting even without images with minors and skip images until you’re both over 18