You may know that your child is neither “dependent” nor “entitled” in a percentage kind of way.
What can we do to ensure our children are prepared when they leave home in a few years’ time - poised to not only stand on their own feet but also aware enough of others to be positive forces in their communities?
Here are 10 concrete skills, experiences or perspectives I think are important for teens to have—and parents to encourage.
10 Things Every Teen Should Know and Practice
1. Basic Skills
Make sure your child has basic life skills before leaving home, such as cooking simple meals, doing laundry, sewing on a button, ironing a shirt, making beds, cleaning a bathroom, making travel arrangements, fixing a bike chain, and learning how to pay bills.
Two words that really matter are, “thank you.” Even though a thank you can be called in, texted, or emailed, there remains a place for a hand written thank you note. Encourage your children to write them, so they develop the habit.
3. Make Mistakes
Do not rush in to fix every mistake- let your children experience natural consequences and come up with next steps on their own. For example, say “I’m sorry you got such a poor grade on the exam. What are you going to do about it?” instead of calling the teacher and/or getting a tutor.
4. Learn How To Manage Money
The experience of a fixed income is an important one. Be it allowance or using earnings from odd jobs or a first job, do not allow your children to experience money in the way they might water, as a spigot easily turned on. If you give your child a credit card for “emergencies,” set clear expectations about how it should be used.
5. Work In A Service Industry
A service industry job is a great experience for a teen to have. Not every out-of-school experience needs to be “enriching” in the sense of program or internship. Work in a restaurant, supermarket, or coffee shop provides perspective, a different kind of mastery, and the chance to know you’re willing to do anything and everything when necessary. This is a piece of self-knowledge that can be very helpful going forward.
6. Let Them Earn It
Do not make your paying for college a given, even if you can, unless your children are serious about making their time in school worthwhile. It is too important a resource and too critical a time to endorse squandering. On the flip side, be willing to support a positive gap year (or longer) experience that might include time to work or travel—and includes earning one’s own way.
Volunteer as a family – you are a powerful role model. You can also encourage your child to do thoughtful things not as “official” volunteer activities, but as a good neighbor or friend. Let your child make a meal for a family friend experiencing illness or offer to mow a lawn when someone nearby needs that assistance.
Traveling, with and without you, gives your child with a wonderful opportunity to reflect upon the differences between how your family lives and how others live—in real time. Don’t just stay in chain hotels. Select accommodations - such as a renting an apartment or staying in a bed & breakfast - that allow you to experience a destination as authentically as possible.
9. Knowledge Is Power
Stress the importance of reading the newspaper, because knowledge really is power. Understanding the world around you lays down the groundwork for becoming an actively engaged citizen.
10. Spend Time Together
Spend quality time together as a family– with cell phones turned off. That’s why you had children! Enjoy them and make sure you are all bonded to one another through these years of growth and independence building.
What other ways can you suggest to help other parents to raise teens that are independent and positive contributors to society? Share your tips at www.teenlife.com