Five Skills Your Kids Should Know Before They Move Out

Although we parents seem to be in a constant state of self-reproachment, wondering if we’re preparing our kids for an adult world that can be challenging and overwhelming, there are tangible ways we can prepare our children for independence. Instead of getting hung up on the small stuff, here are five major skills your kids should know before they head out into the great big world of adulthood:

1. How to Cook – not everyone is born to be a gourmet cook, but kids should know how to maneuver around a kitchen and cook something besides cold cereal and peanut butter sandwiches. This is truly a gift you can give your child by helping them feel comfortable and creative in the kitchen. They will save tons of money on fast-food and take out, and it will increase the likelihood that they will stay healthy – even when times are lean. A great resource is Everyone’s First Cookbook, published by Mud Puddle Books. This is a great basic cookbook for someone of any age and with pictures and simple recipes for all the basics – this is a good starter piece for the fledgling cook. If you are a fine cook yourself, share your own tips and recipes – you’ll be passing on more than self-sufficiency.

2. How to Do Laundry – it may seem a simple task, but you’d be surprised how many kids leave home without ever having done a load of their own dirty clothes! Kids need to know how to determine which clothes are machine washable and which aren’t, how to wash a load of bedding, and which clothes don’t belong tumbling in a dryer on high heat setting. You don’t necessarily have to take them to a laundromat, (it wouldn’t hurt) but do make sure your kids are capable around a washer and dryer.

3. How to Budget and Manage Basic Finances – this can be a real challenge, especially for parents who are still learning this difficult task for themselves. Plus, trying to talk to teenagers about anything where we parents seem “preachy” seldom works. Like many parenting tasks, the best bet here is to start early and do your best! Kids should be managing as much as their own money as possible from the time they are small. Depending on your own family values, incorporate tithing, charity, savings, etc. in your ongoing and evolving financial education. In teaching budgeting, I’ve tried to be open about my own budgeting process. As a single parent, raising three kids and having been entirely self-supporting of my household for years, my kids have had to learn the uncomfortable lesson that budgeting is a fact of life. As they’ve aged into teenagehood, I’ve had to lighten up on my lessons and become more of a bystander/guidance counselor as they learn to manage and budget their own money from jobs, work and gifts. The reality is that they will see various ways of managing and mismanaging money, some of which may not mesh with your values, and, you’ll be battling the seemingly endless consumerism and marketing aimed at teenagers. Still, stick with it and try to lay down the basics before they branch out on their own.

4. How To Use Public Transportation (bus, train, plane & make travel arrangements) – you may think that teaching your child to drive and outfitting them with the safest available automobile is a parent’s duty. I’m of the belief, however, that teaching them to travel and use public transportation without a car may be more beneficial – especially with the high price of gasoline and the uncertainty of the future of car travel! Knowing how to read a bus schedule, make transfers, arrange for a flight and other travel details are necessary skills for any 21st century adult. The chances that your child will travel internationally or live in a large city are higher than for any other generation, so feeling comfortable maneuvering without a car is an important skill to acquire. You may need to get over your own insecurity and aversion to public transportation, or find someone to help them learn the ropes!

5. How To Find a Job – Believe it or not, they do not teach this in most schools. There may be a lot of energy put into showing your kids how to get into college, but not much effort into the skills and determination needed in waging a successful job search. If your kids have watched you go through a job change, they may have some awareness of the process. However, chances are, they feel clueless and overwhelmed at how and where to conduct a job search, design a resume, interview, etc. There may be classes available in the community, but the truth is, this is one area where real life experience beats classroom instruction any day. Share your own experiences and tips for job hunting, help your child develop a resume (this is easier than you might think using a template with your word processing software) and share stories of your own interview experiences – both good and bad. By demystifying the process of job hunting, you’ll help build confidence and the expectation that your kids will become self-supporting.

Of course we parents could come up with hundreds of things we hope to pass on to our kids before they stretch their wings and fly the nest – for the most part, they will learn from the school of hard knocks just as we did. But, there are some major gems of knowledge we can share in hopes of giving them the tools to succeed.

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