One of the side effects of doing everything for our kids is they won’t know how to do anything on their own. We’re setting them up for a big fail if we send them to college without basic life skills. In addition to the amazing grades, high SATs and sports achievements, they need to learn how to take care of their health, money, car and clothes.
I remember when I was 16, I took one of my best friends on a family vacation on our boat in British Columbia. One day we docked in Campbell River B.C. and my mom and dad divided up the chores we needed to get done while we were ashore. My dad went to the Marine supply store, mom to groceries, I went for bait and fishing gear. My friend was sent to the laundromat. A little while later, my parents met up at the laundromat and were shocked my friend had no idea how to do laundry!
I had done laundry since I was a little kid. My mom went back to college while I was in first and second grades. My brother and I were latchkey kids and we walked home from school to a daily list of chores. How we hated mom’s slanted handwriting that filled an entire sheet of yellow legal-sized paper. I understand now that she was keeping us busy and out of trouble by giving us a list of chores that we would never ever be able to finish. Either that or she was a slave driver. I prefer to think it was the former.
In any case at the age of seven, I could bake cakes, vacuum the house, sort laundry, weed the garden, mow the lawn, make my own lunch and do the dishes. I wonder how many high school seniors today do those chores? I know my kids could—but not often. I didn’t make them. It was easier for me to do it myself. My daughter came up with the best excuse ever–a unique mystery illness. While we were on summer vacations at the beach, we’d rent a cottage that didn’t have a dishwasher. She literally would break out in a rash on her legs and arms when it was her turn to do the dishes! Maybe it was an allergy to the latex gloves, but it looked awful enough for her to get out of washing dishes. Then, how could I make my son do them if she didn’t?
In the Montgomery Advertiser, Jenni Stahlmann and Jody Hagaman wrote “Parenting: Adulting goals for teens.” They have a one-hour syndicated talk radio show and give parenting advice. In their article, they list a bunch of things that our kids need to learn—before they leave for high school. I’ve also written about what our kids need to learn before they leave home for SwimSwam and here.
Here’s an excerpt from the “Adulting goals for teens article:”
Do our kids understand the basic principles of healthy eating? Do they know the difference between fats, carbohydrates and proteins, and do they know which foods are the best sources for each? Do they know that they need omega 3 fatty acids but should avoid trans fats? Are they familiar with which foods contain each?
Can they cook? Do they know the difference between a paring knife and a chef’s knife and why they would need to use one or the other? Do they know how to carve a bird or thicken a sauce or caramelize onions?
Can our teens self diagnose common illnesses? Do they know the difference between flu symptoms and the common cold, and can they treat either one with over the counter medicines or natural remedies? Do they know basic first aid and have they taken a CPR class?
Do our high schoolers know the difference between municipal, state and federal agencies? Do they know who to call if a stop sign is knocked down or what steps to take if they have a fender bender?
Can they change a tire, replace their windshield wipers and check their oil? Do they understand the difference between liability insurance and collision coverage?
The questions could go on and on, and of course, there’s no way to prepare our kids for every situation they could possibly encounter, but if we set a goal to help our teens learn the basics of adulting, we can be pretty confident that by the time they venture out on their own, they will know enough to do well and be able to find the answers when they are unsure.
How prepared are your kids for living away from home? Did you have more life skills then your children at the same age?