Moving out of home, whether for further education, a big overseas adventure, or going flatting, is the biggest change in your child’s life – and no doubt it will have a huge impact on your own too.
Just as we equip our children with skills needed to grow and develop throughout their early life, there are also skills that teens and young adults need to start this next phase of their life successfully, ie without the need to run home to mum when they need some washing done!
Whether you start building these skills up from their tween years (or earlier), or you do a last minute dash before they fly the coop, here’s some of the life skills that will stand them in good stead.
Cook a meal or two – preferably more!
Anyone can throw a ready meal in the microwave, but actually cooking a nutritious balanced meal is a whole different thing. If your child has had food technology classes at high school then that’s a great start. Encouraging your teen to cook for the whole family once a week can be a gateway into them discovering new recipes and cooking techniques, while being mindful of dietary requirements and nutrition.
Food boxes are a great way to get them into cooking with a set plan, and ingredients and instructions on hand.
Teens should also be able to:
- Operate a microwave (ie knowing what NOT to put in it)
- Use an oven and elements (positioning pots safely, pre-heating, etc)
- Load a dishwasher correctly (or near enough to correct, because we all know how pedantic we can be about this one!)
- Use measuring cups, vegetable peeler, grater, food processor, etc
- Store food safely (cos leftovers are king when you’re on a budget)
Buy groceries on a budget
Most young people won’t be flashing the cash when they move away from home so learning how to make a meal plan and shopping list, compare prices, and stick to a budget is essential. Give them a few trial runs at it with the weekly shopping budget!
Get from A to B
Without their private chauffeur to call on, and a job or school to get to, teens need to be familiar with their transport options (depending on what is available). Do they know about safety around trains and tracks? Can they understand a bus timetable? Can they read a map?
Drive with know-how
Getting a driver licence is only the beginning of being an independent driver. Drivers also need to know:
- How to pump gas (seems obvious but sometimes parents forget to take a back seat on this)
- Change a tyre
- Check tyre pressure
- Jump-start a car (including IF they should jump-start their own car, or someone else’s)
- When to get a service
- Checking oil and water
- What to do if they breakdown or in an emergency
- How to pay for parking
- Registration and WOF requirements
“Don’t come running to me when you break your leg!” But also, don’t come running when you’ve left home and have a cold. Knowing how to look after themselves when they are ill is a necessity. They should be able to take their own temperature, put on a plaster, do basic first aid, know the basics of which over-the-counter medications to take, as well as understand the importance of hygiene, rest and hydration. Most importantly they need to understand when and how to seek medical help – or when to call mum to find out if they need help!
Fill out a form
This is a BIG one. So many people, even grown adults, are bamboozled when it comes to filling in a form with the correct information. Get your kids into the habit of doing this for themselves as early as you can. Signing them up for sports or applying for an after school job? Get your child to fill in the form as much as they can on their own. This applies to online forms as well (with supervision when required). Work on those reading comprehension skills so they know what is being asked as well as how to answer.
Your child should also be able to write a professional email (drop that text speak!) and know the basics of staying safe online.
Be financially savvy
Money definitely makes the world go round, so your newly independent child needs to know how to control their finances. As well as having a good understanding of what things cost (a couple of dollars will not fix a broken down car), they should know how to:
- Plan and stick to a budget
- Pay bills on time
- Use an ATM and online banking
- Keep records
They will also need to have at least basic understanding of credit, savings, insurance, and income tax obligations.
Basic home care and maintenance
Whether they’re flatting, room-sharing, or out on their own, knowing these basic skills will go a long way to helping their independence:
- Keeping a clean and hygienic home, ie vacuuming, mopping, surface cleaning
- How to clean a toilet
- How to change a lightbulb
- Turn off water or gas
- Reset a fuse/circuit breaker box (when safe)
- Wash dishes by hand
- Sort recycling
- Operate a washing machine (as well as hanging out laundry, or knowing how to use a laundromat)
- Weed a garden
- Plant and care for a few veggies
- Mow a lawn
- Use basic tools, ie hammer, drill
- Sew on a button
Social and emotional skills
These skills will help your child in so many situations, whether it be engaging with professors, employers, housemates, or new acquaintances. Many of them are things that we begin teaching our children from their very early years and continue to build on as they grow older.
- Use good manners (please, thank you)
- Show consideration for others (give up your seat for another, hold open a door, etc)
- Be punctual
- Listen and engage in conversation
- Show empathy
- Build healthy relationships
- Ask for help when needed and offer assistance when they see a need
- Understand peer pressure
- Know when to remove themselves from an uncomfortable or unsafe situation
- Be able to admit when you’re wrong and make amends
- Develop routines and organise their time
- Set goals and prioritise
- Problem solve (use pros and cons for decision making)
- Build resilience
- Cope with emotions and anxiety or know when to seek help
Written by Julie Scanlon
Julie is Editor for Kidspot NZ and our MVP. Her hobbies include laughing uncontrollably at her own jokes, annoying her family by asking questions about movie plots, and never taking anything too seriously. She speaks a little Spanish and a lot of Yorkshire.
Favourite motto to live by: “It ain’t nothing but a thing”