Teach your kids these 10 skills — before college

After my son left for college, I realized that I was negligent preparing him for life. Yes, he had good grades. Yes, he had the right “stuff.” But he was seriously lacking on a few life skills. I spent time teaching my daughter the basics before it was her turn to leave. She was better prepared for the daily tasks–although that doesn’t necessarily mean life won’t throw you some bumps in the road.

 

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My son giving his high school graduation speech.

“He tried college a couple times. It just didn’t take,” a dad of one of my son’s friends told me last night at the grocery store.

Next, I got a call from a close friend, whose happy-go-lucky daughter checked herself into a campus hospital, because she felt so overwhelmed and out of control.

Another friend told me their son quit after one semester after too much partying and not enough studying. Yet another mom left on a rescue mission to help a child in need.

What the heck is going on with our kids and college? My own son struggled to find his way his freshman year.  

All of these parents, myself included, believed college was the best and only choice for their kids.imgres-1

Maybe college isn’t for everyone? Maybe we did too much for them? Maybe we didn’t let them fail often or enough?

I’ll talk more about why kids are struggling in college on another day. And if we have an epidemic on our hands.

But, first, I want to share basic things kids need to know before they leave for college. I was often surprised at questions my son would ask me during his first year at college. I’m going to make sure my second child checks off every item on my “top 10 things kids need to know before going to college” list.

  1. Banking skills. Know how to write a check, make a deposit face-to-face with a teller, fill out a deposit slip, and use an ATM card for deposits and withdrawals. Balancing a check-book falls under the banking list.
  2. Laundry. Have your kids do their own laundry so they know how to sort white and colors, hand-wash, hang dry, and fold–and what it feels like to be out of clean clothes. The clean underwear does not appear by magic! imgres-5
  3. Cooking. Teach your child some basic cooking skills like scrambling eggs, making spaghetti, baking a chicken, steaming vegetables, and cooking rice. 
  4. Grocery shopping. Just like clean underwear, the food in the fridge doesn’t appear out of thin air. Teach how to make a list, look for coupons, find sale items, and learn how to read unit pricing on shelves.imgres-6
  5. How to get to and from the grocery store. This may seem obvious, but I’ll never forget the phone call I got from Robert: “Mom. I’m at Costco and how do I get home with cases of water, yogurt, and Top Ramen on my bike?”  Hmmm. Good question.
  6. Budgeting. If your child hasn’t worked at a job and you provide their basic necessities, they lack budgeting skills. My son got his first paycheck working a summer retail job. The check was for $175. He bought his girlfriend a dress for $110 and spent the rest on dinner for the two of them. Very romantic, but not practical when he needed to eat the next week and month.
  7. Theft. At college, thieves are everywhere. My first week of college, I hand-washed some sweaters and hung them out to dry in the bathroom. Within minutes — gone. I had a bike stolen from my sorority storage room — and a locked bike stolen when I used a restroom during a ride around Green Lake. My son’s laptop was stolen when he left it in a study area in his dorm. Make sure they have “find my laptop” activated and never leave anything unattended! Don’t use a chain or cable lock for your bike — use a solid bar type. 
  8. Professors. They set aside office hours and only one or two students bother to stop by per semester. They are thrilled to help and meet students face-to-face. This can help for future referrals, references, internships — and grades. Have your kid meet with each professor at least once, every semester. It can’t hurt!images-2
  9. Cars. Basic things like checking tire pressure, oil and water levels, changing tires and pumping gas. Maybe they won’t have a car right away, but at some point they will and car maintenance is not an instinct. It’s a learned skill.
  10. Learn to say no! College means hanging out with friends, listening to music, parties, dances, rallies, job opportunities, football games, intramural sports, going out to eat, etc. Studying is priority number one. Learning to say no will help your kid stay focused.
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My daughter with Waffles.

What other essential life skills would you add to the list?

 

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How to embarrass your kids without trying

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Desolation Sound. photo credit: Pinterest

Do you remember being embarrassed by your parents? I do.

The summer before I was in 8th grade, we docked our boat across the street from The Empress Hotel after a few weeks of roughing it in Desolation Sound. Mom, dad, my brother and I badly needed showers and clean clothes. (If you haven’t been to The Empress, it’s a gorgeous Edwardian hotel built in 1908 and a landmark in the heart of Victoria B.C.)

Dozens of civilized people dressed in their finest, sipped their afternoon tea and munched finger sandwiches and crumpets. My dad wore denim bell bottoms, thick soled canvas boat shoes — and dragged a giant black plastic trash bag filled with dirty laundry across the fancy lobby — while I looked for a potted palm to curl up behind and die.

Why couldn’t we have walked around the hotel? Why was he making a scene? It was to embarrass me! I was a 13-year-old who cringed at whatever my parents did, so my dad loved to make sure I was cringing over something worthwhile.

All I can say is thank goodness there were no iPhones, Facebook or Instagram back then! I can’t imagine!

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The Empress Hotel and harbor where we docked. photo: TripAdvisor

Why am I sharing this moment of embarrassment? Because I read an article in The Daily Pilot by Patrice Apodaca called Stop ‘sharenting’ and start parenting. She explains that the one thing all parents have in common is embarrassing their kids. Then she goes on to talk about a new phenomenon called “sharenting” where we share too much online.

Read more here:

Parents share one universal trait. They’re very good at embarrassing their children.

They loudly and publicly boast, complain and share mortifying and intimate details about them. Then those kids grow up, procreate and proceed to engage in the same oversharing behavior regarding their own offspring.

This has probably been going on since the dawn of humankind.

There’s a new wrinkle, however, and it’s eliciting growing concern that it’s not a healthy one. It’s known by the portmanteau, “sharenting,” and it comes to us courtesy of social media.

Sharenting, the overuse of social media by parents to broadcast content about their kids, is increasingly one of the most hotly discussed and debated cultural trends revolving around the internet. In short, worries are escalating that parents who continually post photos, videos and stories about their children are unwittingly creating a host of potential problems.

To be sure, social media such as Facebook and Instagram have positive attributes. They allow parents to engage with like-minded communities, and to quickly and easily update friends and family members, some of whom might live far away, about the progress of their little ones. This can be a blessing for out-of-state grandparents, for instance, who appreciate the ability to regularly access information about their beloved grandkids.

But experts are increasingly warning about the dark side to all this sharing.

One cause for concern is that parents generally post this information without their children’s consent.

Of course, parents make decisions all the time that affect their kids without consulting them. That is the prerogative of being a parent. As children mature, though, they might come to resent their parents’ constant disclosures about their lives and grow uneasy about exactly how much they are sharing and who has access to that information in the online universe.

By age 2, one study found, 92% of American children have unique digital identities, which grow and follow them as they age.

One could imagine, for example, a child being bullied by her peers over a photo or story about her that was posted online by clueless parents, who considered such posts to be only a harmless sharing of cute or humorous content, or a display of pride intended for a friendly audience. The trouble is, once information is posted, it’s hard to control where it goes.

You can read the rest of the article here. There’s a lot more valuable info.

I used to post on FB all about my kids swim meets, awards, piano recitals, graduation pics, etc. I’m so proud of them and love sharing each and every special moment. However, I was fortunate that FB didn’t exist when they were born! Instead, it began in their awkward ‘tween years! At one point, my daughter told me I had to ask her permission to post anything about her. She was being teased by her peers. She also told me not to “friend” any of her friends. I respected her wishes.

I think it’s a good idea to let our kids know when and what we post about them. The exception is my blog 🙂  Actually, neither of my kids follow me or read it. They said they’ve lived it! Why bother? So, they don’t mind the old pics I post, or the stories. Or, I’m sure they’d let me know!

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Photos that could embarrass!

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Christmas Parade in the Nutcracker float.

What are your thoughts about the tendency for parents to share too much info and post pictures online about their kids? Also, please share any stories where your parents embarrassed you!

 

 

7 Easy Ways to Crush Kids’ Confidence

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Me and my brother who were fortunate to be raised by an exceptional mom.

I kept noticing an article on CNBC.com  called, A psychologist shares the 7 biggest parenting mistakes that destroy kids’ confidence and self-esteem. I didn’t want to read it because I figured it would spell out all the mistakes I made as a parent. It’s written by Amy Morin is a psychotherapist and instructor at Northeastern University.

 I was pleased to see I didn’t do all of them — I think there were one or two things I avoided. Yikes.

Here’s the opening paragraph and a list of seven things we’ve done wrong as parents that crush the confidence of our kids. The real article if you click the link above will offer the reason for each item on the list. It’s worth a read.

Every parent wants their kids to feel good about themselves — and with good reason.

Studies have shown that confident kids experience benefits ranging from less anxiety and improved performance in school to increased resilience and healthier relationships.

As a psychotherapist and author of “13 Things Mentally Strong Parents Don’t Do,” I’ve seen many parents engage in strategies they believe will build their children’s confidence.

But some of those strategies can backfire, creating a vicious cycle where kids struggle to feel good about who they are. As a result, parents may find themselves working overtime trying to boost their children’s self-esteem.

Here are the seven biggest parenting mistakes that crush kids’ confidence:

1. Letting them escape responsibility

2. Preventing them from making mistakes

3. Protecting them from their emotions

4. Condoning a victim mentality

5. Being overprotective

6. Expecting perfection

7. Punishing, rather than disciplining

Looking back on how my mom raised us, I have to say she didn’t do any of the above. So, why did I fall short? Was it a new age of parenting? Or was my mom an exceptional parent? She used to say her job as a parent was to let us fly from the nest and be free. That when she was needed anymore, she would know she had done her job.

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Mom and me in the early 90s.

Which of the seven mistakes that crush our kids’ confidence are you guilty of doing?

What do you think about unsolicited advice?

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My kids

I wrote this post about unsolicited advice several years ago. Yesterday, I failed once again in the area of butting into my children’s lives where I wasn’t invited. My daughter is at working and I chimed in on “how I would do it.” She didn’t take kindly to my unsolicited advice. She wasn’t snarky or mean–she’s a grown up now.

A few hours later, I realized what I had done. I was giving my daughter unsolicited advice on how to do her job! And she’s doing great at it. I thought about what the outcomes could be for me butting in. One, she could feel insecure about what she’s doing. She could second-guess herself. Two, she could be annoyed as heck at me! I could be harming our relationship. I apologized and said I was sincerely sorry. Here’s the story I wrote a few years ago about unsolicited advice. Obviously, I’m still working on it.

A few weeks ago, my daughter was telling me how she’d missed practice because she had a midterm and the time conflicted. Her coach wasn’t happy, she said.

“Well,” I said, “maybe you should call her and explain. Or, better yet, next time you’re going to miss practice, let her know in advance.”

“Mom, I’m telling you something. I don’t need your unsolicited advice. A simple ‘that sucks’ would suffice.”

I was offended. My feelings were tweaked, not exactly hurt. I thought, what is going on with her?

This week she called and asked for my advice about a sticky situation with a friend. I get it now. She had a problem she couldn’t solve on her own. She wanted my advice and then she would handle it from there.

In her dorm room getting settled.

In her dorm room getting settled.

My mistake has been offering advice when my perfectly capable, adult child is making her own decisions and finding her own way. She does not need her mom telling her what to do all the time.

This was reinforced again when she called with an issue with her university and paperwork for the fall quarter. I gave her a few suggestions of who to call, what to do.

“I’ve done all that, Mom. I’m just telling you about it.”

Yes, I understand now. She’s sharing the trials and tribulations in her life. She’s not asking me what to do. If she needs my help she will ask me.

With teammates after breaking the 8 and under 4 x 50 relay record.

With teammates after breaking the 8 and under 4 x 50 relay record.

I should be thankful that my daughter likes to share. That she can figure things out on her own. That she’s got a strong head and can handle the daily tasks of living in a house, paying utility bills, handling school bureaucracy, and getting a speeding ticket.

Welcome to adulthood! I guess a simple “that sucks” from time to time is all she needs.

How do you handle unsolicited advice when someone offers some to you?

Parenting Styles Can Affect Children’s DNA

threeI found an article called “Crappy parenting can damage your kid’s DNA: report” by Hannah Sparks  to be eye-opening. Parents today are scrambling for parenting advice from coaches, books, neighbors, friends and complete strangers online.  I don’t remember so much drama and concern over parenting styles and methods when I was young, or when I was a new mom. The big controversy back then was whether to put your child on a strict nap schedule or let them sleep whenever they were tired.

But here’s a new scary reason to think about your parenting skills. Not only have we learned that how we parent can lead to depression and anxiety in our children — now it’s been discovered that bad parenting can change our children’s DNA — and not in a good way. Here’s an excerpt:

Blame your parents for all your problems? Science supports that.

A new report by researchers at Loma Linda University suggests that aloof and unsupportive parenting damages their children’s health on a genetic level, potentially leading to disease and early death in adulthood.

“The way someone is raised seems to tell a story that is intertwined with their genetics,” says lead study author Dr. Raymond Knutsen, public health professor at Loma Linda University.

Telomeres are the protective tips at the ends of DNA strands that shield our chromosomes from damage and decay. When are DNA isn’t properly protected, our cells age quicker and we become more susceptible to illness and disease.

Of the 200 subjects tracked for this study, which will run in the July edition of Biological Psychology, researchers found that those who reported growing up with a “cold” mother had telomeres that were an average of 25 percent smaller than those with “warm” mothers.

“As early life stress increases, telomeres shorten and the risk of a host of diseases increases, as well as premature death,” says Knutsen.

I did a lot of things badly with my two kids. There are definite moments I’d love to forget or be given a “do over.” One thing that’s positive — I was not a “cold” mother, but was a “warm” mom. Thank goodness.

merobkatWhat are your thoughts about how parents can affect our kids’ DNA?

 

The look in her eyes overwhelmed me

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Downtown Seattle on a sunny day.

I will never forget the look in my mom’s eyes when I said goodbye. My daughter and I were visiting my mom in her assisted living home on a recent trip to Seattle. After lunch at our favorite sushi restaurant, we sat around a table in the lobby playing a card game our family played when I was a child, Demon.

It was fun and we all laughed as we got more and more competitive. They teamed up against me, as they tried to defeat me–but didn’t of course. My daughter slowed down her speed to make the game more fun for us old folks, because seriously she could beat us handily at anything involving speed and reaction time.

After that, we walked mom back to her room, got her settled in and said good-bye. My mom stared at me, sitting in her comfy chair, like her heart was breaking. Her big hazel eyes filled with water and I fought my own tears. I felt like I was deserting her.

My daughter asked if she wanted the TV on, and she said, “No, I’m fine.” As we closed the door, I peaked in and saw my mom sitting on her chair with her head dropped, staring at nothing.

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My mom was surprised to learn I had a camera in my phone. She enjoyed the selfie.

The good news is I came the next day, and the next. Each day she looked happier and her spark returned. She has a witty sense of humor and kept me laughing. By the time I said my final good-bye, she looked so much better. I think she’s terribly lonely and I need to visit more often.

If you live away from your elderly family members, how do you feel when you say good-bye?

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Nothing better than a mother daughter trip.

A Sadness Like No Other

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I can’t stop thinking about the mom who was talking to her daughter on the phone while she was walking to her car on campus the other night. I can’t come to grips with how awful it would be to relive that moment over and over. According to the mom, she heard her daughter yell, “No! No! No!” and that was it. She was afraid her daughter was in a car accident.

Jill McCluskey, mother of Lauren McCluskey and economics professor at Washington State University, shared this statement on Twitter:

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My daughter was friends with Lauren. They knew each other from athletics at the University of Utah, because it’s a close-knit community. This was such a tragedy for the entire campus, community and the family. My daughter said that Lauren was so nice! Once Waffles had run away and it was Lauren who found him and brought him back to her. My heart goes out to the McCluskey family. When we send our kids off to school, its with dreams and stars in our eyes for their great futures. We don’t expect anything like this.

Here’s a Go Fund Me campaign started by a fellow student at the University of Utah.  Please think about supporting Lauren’s family.