Your teen is a few years from adulthood and the responsibility that comes with adult life. Teaching your teen now how to function in the grown-up world will help her become the successful adult she needs to become. To make this task manageable, incorporate life skills activities into everyday life.
If your teen thinks your debit card is a never-ending supply of cash, now is the time to reveal the truth. You work hard and you manage your funds wisely. Teach your teen the same principle so he can manage money before he leaves home. Start a journal for tracking his funds and expenses from a job, paid chores and birthday gifts. Help him set goals like saving for a new phone, new jeans or tickets to a concert or amusement park. Once he is comfortable saving for small items, teach him the importance of longer term saving and start a college fund that he can contribute to regularly. Even if you are footing the tuition bill, he can save for school-related expenses and for his own pin money. Knowing how to save, budget and choose where his money goes is vital to his independence.
If your teen does not know how to look for a job, she will be living at home for a long time. Teach her how to look for work and to practice job interview skills. Learning interview skills now will also help prepare her for college interviews later. Having a job will help her save, so give her odd jobs around the house or let her take on jobs around the neighborhood, such as mowing lawns and shoveling snow. If she can balance school and part-time work, let her get a job at a restaurant, grocery store or bookstore, Alternatively, help her find service opportunities in the community, such as after-school programs or helping organize a park clean up. Volunteer work not only builds character and leadership skills, it looks good on college and job applications.
Your teen needs to know the basics of good hygiene like showering every day, remembering to brush his teeth and tossing last month’s gym socks in the wash, but he also needs real-world skills. Teach him how to choose health providers and how to keep up with doctor and dentist appointments and how to fill prescriptions. Help him assemble a first-aid kit and teach him how to use it. Have him take a basic first aid class and help him prepare an emergency backpack with snacks, a change of clothes and legal documents for an emergency like a house fire or natural disaster. Review home evacuation ideas. Talk about regular exercise and healthy eating so he can stock a fridge with nutritious food.
Help your teen become familiar with work around the house. Help her do her laundry and show her how to remove stains, how to press, fold and hang clothes and which items she needs to take to the dry cleaners. Have her help plan meals, shop and cook, and how to put together a recipe book of her favorite foods. Show her how to prepare these foods. Teach her car maintenance like how to change a tire and how to change the oil. She will likely have college roommates so it is important that she appreciate the skills of others. If she has younger siblings, they can work as a team to accomplish tasks.
- Life Skills 101: A Practical Guide to Leaving Home and Living on Your Own; Tina Pestalozzi
- Smart but Scattered Teens; Richard Guare Ph.D., et al.
- Janie Airey/Lifesize/Getty Images