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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Tips on How to Catch Typos — And My Three Worst Typos of All Time

images-3Some of my most embarrassing moments have happened with typos. I’ve been writing professionally since college graduation. I won’t mention exactly how many years that is. But, it’s plenty. Plenty of time to make a few mistakes.

1. I had a typo yesterday on SwimSwam. I left out a number on my tips.

My process begins with a small idea. Then I write a rough sloppy draft. Then I begin to hone it down into something tight and simple.  Along the way I cut out one tip that didn’t seem to fit. But, the story didn’t automatically renumber itself. Making a mistake like that on a busy forum like SwimSwam is decidedly embarrassing.

You can read that story here. 12 Parent Tips on How to Behave at Practice.

On the bright side, I got a RT by Natalie Coughlin. I was super excited about that, so the story still worked even if it was not perfect.

Natalie Coughlin

Natalie Coughlin

2. My second worst typo was in the 80s. I worked for a PR and advertising firm and I wrote eight newsletters a month, plus three or four press releases daily. It was a busy, intense job. I was in charge of a fundraiser for abused women which was held at a local country club. In my press release that ran just about everywhere — I mistakenly put in my own phone number instead of the club’s to RSVP! There was no taking that one back. I lived through it by hooking up an answering machine.

I felt humiliated though, when my co-workers relentlessly teased me.images-1

3. My all-time worst typo was when I had my own PR and advertising business. I had some super-duper clients including the hospital’s cancer center and a local branch of a major Wall Street firm. When the boss at the Wall Street branch was promoted to NYC to corporate headquarters, he still used me for all of his work. I was SO excited! Then I made a typo on a Power Point presentation. It was on the new logo he had me create for the Western Region of the United States of America. Ugh.

He was so angry with me, because I made him look bad. I’ll never forgive myself for that one.

imgres-2The thing with typos is your brain can trick you into seeing what you intended to be there.

My tips to catch typos are:

1. Read the piece from the bottom, sentence by sentence.

2. Read it out loud.

3. Put it away for a few days to get a fresh view.

4. Have other people proofread for you.

5. Don’t forget to proofread the title and headers. Numbers, too.

5 Things I Wish Someone Told Me Before The Kids Went to College

imgres-9This week I made the trek to the University of Utah to attend orientation with my daughter, who is an incoming freshman. Class of 2018 — does that sound scary or what?images-1

I spent two days in the pristine mountainside beauty of Salt Lake City with clear blue skies and intense sunshine. Parents attended most meetings without their kids, who were similarly engaged with topics angled for teenage consumption.summerFun_FrisbeeGolf_LBoye_067

Having been to college orientation three years prior with my firstborn, I didn’t think I’d learn anything new. However, in “Supporting your College Student” presented by Dr. Kari Ellingson, Associate Vice President, Student Development, I wished I’d heard her advice before I sent my first child to college.

“I think she’s met my son — the one who’s going to be a senior in college,” I whispered to a mom next to me. (He’s also the son who tried to give away the cat on FB.)

She answered, “No, I’m sure she’s talking about my oldest daughter!”

What did Dr. Ellingson have to say that we wished we heard the first time around?imgres-10First…

Children go through changes. But, if it’s your first child going to college, or your last, you will be going through changes, too. We are in the process of changing our relationship from parent to child to adult to adult. We go through transitions, pushing them away and holding them close.

Second…images-2
A student who works 10 to 15 hours on campus will do better in school than someone who works off campus, or doesn’t work at all. Students working on campus are making connections with the campus, student, and staff. They are completing their identity as a student first.

Students born from 1980 to 2000 are known as millennials. They don’t like to suffer —  they love nice things — and they don’t mind working for them. Unfortunately, this can interfere with their education. So, if they want spending money, suggest a job on campus.

Third…images-3
Cell phones according to Dr. Ellingson, are “the world’s longest umbilical cords.” Some students call home 5, 6, 7 times a day. In our day, we waited in line for the phone down the hall on Sundays — when long distance was cheaper — and horror of all horrors — there wasn’t such a thing as a cell phone!

Don’t let your child’s crisis become your crisis. Let them problem solve. Ellingson’s example was a daughter who called her mom and said, “I flunked my midterm. The professor hates me…” After consoling her crying daughter, the mother called back later with more advice. The daughter was like, “Huh? What are you talking about? Everything’s fine.”

images-5Fourth …
They are learning to become themselves. Making new friends. They will be grieving and letting go of high school friendships, but will build new and deeper ones. A main developmental issue is finding their identity. Their core stays the same, which has been developing over the past 18 years. But, how they express themselves changes.

They may try on new identities by copying new friends to see how it fits or feels. You may say to yourself, and hopefully not to your child, “Who the hell is this?” Then you meet their new friend, and say to yourself, “Oh, now I see who this is!”

Intellectually they are still developing. They see things differently than before. They love to debate. They will try out their debating skills, or how to express themselves by choosing opinions contrary to yours, even if it isn’t what they truly believe.

And Fifth…imgres-2
Dr. Ellingson talked about independence: “Their first steps as a toddler are towards you. Every step after that is running away from you.”

They need to discover how to be on their own — and this is one of their fears. Delayed maturation is common. It used to be people matured around 19, 20, 21. Today it’s 26, 27 or 28. They will say to you “Leave me alone!” Then, “bail me out!” This is normal. The pendulum will swing back and forth.

Just remember to love them, guide them, but let them figure it out. The more we solve their problems, the more we delay their growth into independent, responsible adults.

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And one more thing…”GO, UTES!!!”


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How to Help Your Grad Avoid Angst and Anxiety

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We’re approaching countdown days for my daughter Kat’s high school senior year. These last few months are busy, hectic and getting busier. She seems, how shall I put this? A tad bit cranky.

I’ve shared my son’s senior year with you in “My Son Wrote about his Crazy Mom for his Senior Project.” I have no intention of reliving that experience with Kat!

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What is it about the senior year that turns the smiliest kids into negative nellies?  Why do they hurl hurt at the ones who love them?

My daughter came into the world in fits of colic. I’ll never forget holding her screaming, wiggling little body for months — never able to calm or soothe her. Good meaning friends would say, “try the football hold,”  “press her tummy,” or “give her castor oil.” The moment my husband walked through the door I’d pass her off in the football hold, “Here! Take her!”

By 5:05 p.m. he’d pass her back, “I can’t take this!” and he’d leave the house. Relief would come to me around midnight, when the bright orange-red baby would fall asleep.  Miraculously, one day her colic passed — and I am not making this up — it was on her Baptism day.

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From that day on — until a couple weeks ago — I’ve had the pleasure and joy to be Kat’s mom. So what’s going on now to have her continually snipe at me?  I have joked with other moms that kids act out to make separation easier for us. We’ll push them out the door happily when the time comes.

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Last night, my husband urged Kat to sit down and talk with me. We sat on a double-wide chaise lounge in the backyard and she apologized for being so snarky. She confessed there is a lot going on and sometimes she feels out of control!

First, she told me that a good friend isn’t acting like a friend. This is someone she’s been close to for years. We had a discussion about how friendships change and it’s not anyone’s fault.

Second, kids and teachers from school question her college choice. I beg you all —  parents and kids: “People choose colleges for many different reasons, and we have no right to second guess or challenge their choices!” She could have gone to any number of prestigious schools and she picked the one that felt right. That’ s all we need —  throw in doubt when a kid has made a great choice! Don’t go there!

Third, she has normal fears of leaving home for the first time, like leaving friends and her home.

She also said I need to man up and not be so emotional about it, too!

My advice to parents of seniors, is talk to your kids about what they might be afraid of and what is stressing them out. Realize that you are going through a transitional phase, too. We need to give our kids space, but be there for them when they need a shoulder to lean or cry on.

Photos in order: My daughter in a peaceful moment during the colic days, my son and friends, Kat’s big yawn (thankfully not a cry), and my happy kids during the greatest days of my life.
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What is your child anxious about going away to college?  I’d like to create a top ten list and your input will help!