Focusing on education is important but sometimes we forget most of what a teenager needs to survive the transition to adulthood is not in school. Straight A’s are great but if your teenager doesn’t know how to grocery shop, prepare food, and pay bills they are headed for an F in life. As you your teenager is preparing to launch help them have a successful transition by teaching life skills.
Getting An “A” In Life
Teaching teens to live independently does not have to be complex or difficult but it will probably require some patience. It is difficult for teens to see too far in the future so they may not be able to fully understand the importance of learning life skills. Helping your teen learn to live in the adult world may prevent them from boomeranging back home as young adults.
Learning life skills gives teens confidence in the adult world. The high school world in which they live now does not mirror the reality of life beyond high school but teens don’t understand. Help them understand by teaching them life lessons.
Life Skills to Learn
Insurance — As soon as teens learn to drive, teach them about car insurance. Show them how to compare policies, to get good rates, and what to do should they have an accident.
Money Management — Whether your teen has a job or not open a savings and/or checking account with them so they understand the process. Teach them how to make deposits, withdrawals, and how to manage their money. Budgeting and planning for emergencies are also important skills.
Cooking and Shopping — Give your teen increasing responsibility in the kitchen. Teach food safety and preparation. Start with simple recipes to give them confidence. Take them to the grocery store with you where you can teach them to comparison shop, read labels, and how to choose fresh produce and meat.
Laundry — If your teen is not already doing his laundry, now is the time to start. Detergent, fabric softener, and especially bleach all have rules. Teach about fabric care labels and how to make minor repairs such as sewing a button.
Job Skills — Too many teens graduate from high school having never written a resume. Help them prepare a resume and conduct mock interviews with them to give them more confidence for that situation in the future. Also discuss with your son the breakdown of taxes on his paycheck because taxes come as a surprise to most teens.
Housing and Utility Services — Help your teen look for housing and understand rental agreements. Deposits for housing and utilities often come as a big surprise. If your teen is going to college, help them understand the specifics of student housing contracts.
Don’t Take These Things for Granted — Today’s teens are used to a digital world but they still need to know how to address an envelope, read a clock, file important papers, and speak and write in complete sentences without text-speak. If you assume they are learning it in high school, typically they are not.
Even though this list is long if by no means includes every life skill your teen will need to bring with him to the adult world. Don’t let the length of the list overwhelm you. If you think about it, a lot of these things can happen really naturally and organically. Teaching life skills is about creating good habits. Cooking for example happens every day include your son. However things like looking for housing or learning to keep in file important papers will take just a bit more effort on your part to set up.
Personal Examples of Parenting Fails
Recently I went to the wedding reception of the daughter of a colleague whom I admire and respect. This father was absolutely giddy that his daughter received a microwave as a wedding gift. “Now shall be able to cook,” he exclaimed with glee. I was so taken aback by his excitement I tripped over my tongue as I said, “That’s great.” In my eyes, this man is a “super parent” but here he had just admitted that on her wedding day his own daughter did not know how to cook without the use of microwave. I just couldn’t believe it.
My niece visited our family for three weeks last year. When she was getting ready to go back home, she decided to ship her souvenirs home rather than try to stuff them in her suitcase. Great thinking, right? It was right up until she confessed never having been in a post office. She had no idea what to do once inside the building. She did not understand postage or addressing the package. It was a real eye-opener to me. This is my sister’s kid. My oldest son is just about 18 months younger than she is. When we got home I asked him if he would know how to ship a package. He just blinked. I am supposed to be “the expert” and it never crossed my mind to teach my own kids how to ship things.
It is almost cliché but how many young adults, especially boys, do you know who cannot do their own laundry. In some families, it is the result of gender bias but in others the kids escaped this life lesson. One of the things successful people know how to do is to do for themselves. They have excellent life skills.
As parents, we want the best for our children. It’s only natural. However, it seems almost unnatural to teach some of these skills. It is probably the reason why so many young adults fail to launch and/or return home after a short time away from home. If your teenage son is struggling, consider getting him the help he needs to move on to the next phase of his life. As you teach your sons life skills and give them the confidence they need to be successful adults.