Now that I am far removed from the diaper stage with my kids, we are rapidly approaching the “better think about college” phase. Apart from the obvious questions of where the kids may want to go to school and what they might want to study, I have started thinking about the skills they need to be successful, independent, young adults.
The following are skills/concepts (in no particular order) I am trying to teach my kids now – while they are teens/pre-teens – so that by the time they go off to college, these are not totally new!
1. How to Cook – Now I don’t expect the kids to be able to cook a gourmet meal, but basic cooking skills are important. By allowing them to bake cookies and brownies now, I am teaching them that the kitchen is not a place to be feared. Additionally, the kids help with menu planning and are often involved with our regular dinner preparation. Hopefully these experiences will enable them to have a better appreciation for food as young adults, help them eat healthy in college, and not make them so dependent on fast food.
2. How to Shop – From reading labels to watching for sales, kids need to know how to go shopping for their own basics. I have friends who never take their kids grocery shopping because it is too much of a hassle. My kids have been grocery shopping with me since they were little. They often have the job of keeping track of the list, making choices about the best brands and deals, and helping put the groceries away at home. We talk about the store’s marketing tactics and why generic brands are perfectly acceptable for certain items.
3. The 80/20 Rule – If 80% of your food choices during the week are good, then indulging in the occasional treat or meal out is fine – everything in moderation is the key. The same goes for alcohol consumption. The fact of the matter is that most kids are going to drink in college, but teaching (and practicing) moderation at home from an early age is going to make it much easier for them once they are in the college environment. I think that kids who have been in overly strict and overly protective environments as kids are the ones who really go to extremes once they are independent.
4. Be Active – Just Because – You don’t have to be training as a world class athlete in order to stay fit. One of the lessons I am trying to teach my children is that being active is a way of life and you don’t need an excuse to exercise. Go for a walk – and take the kids. Schedule family bike rides. Get involved in sports at a recreational level. Club sports in college are a great way to further the active lifestyle and will help stave off the Freshman 15!
5. Keeping Track of Your Finances – Starting with knowing where your money is at all times, teaching kids how to manage money is one of the most important tools we can give our kids. Kids need to understand budgeting, saving, how to think through a purchase, how to deal with buyers remorse and how to make their own purchases. We recently opened up a savings account for our son and it came with a debit card. The debit card allows him to have the ability to spend his own money in stores and online, but it also allows us to really monitor his spending and help him make good choices.
6. Time Management – one of the things I worry most about (especially with my oldest) when my kids go to college is their time management skills. Will they play video games and surf the web all day or will they have the sense of maturity to get to class, get their studies done and then goof off. By giving kids guidelines now and holding them accountable for their own success in school as teens will make them more prepared to make the right choices as independent young adults.
7. How to do Laundry – Doing laundry is not rocket science but college and bringing laundry home for Mom to do seem to go hand in hand. Its not that hard, but unless you teach your kids to do their own laundry now, you will be doing it by the basket loads when they come home to visit you on weekends. Even little kids can get involved – from sorting dirty laundry by colors to folding socks. By the time your kids are tweens they should be able to help load the washer, understand why you don’t wash whites with reds and, the basics of folding.
8. And probably the most important thing I want my kids to know it that you have to take ownership of your own success, happiness and actions!
Two more great resources are The 7 Habits Of Highly Effective Teens and The 6 Most Important Decisions You’ll Ever Make: A Guide for Teens.
Did I miss anything? What skills do you think are essential for preparing kids for young adulthood and independence?