It might be that as soon as our child is able to walk and talk we are preparing them to leave. Making sure that they can manage money and wash. That sense of uncertainty might be coming from your desire to keep your teenager around some more. Other times, it might be coming from a genuine concern for their readiness to navigate the larger world outside you as their parent. Don’t make your child scared of being an adult, give them awe and wonder of it!
Leaving home is one of the first steps into “emerging adulthood”, a term coined by JJ Arnett to describe a new life stage between adolescence and adulthood. A study led by Evie Kins, Doctor of Psychology at the University of Ghent, Belgium. She maintains that the transition from adolescence to adulthood is an ongoing process, prolonged in most westernized societies. Early in this transition process, some of the markers of readiness to look out for include the decreased desire to be dependent, the shift from parental regulation to self-regulation, and the abandoning of their idealization of parents. I always maintain that our children are capable of far more than we give them credit for. We just don’t always give them the space and opportunity. One of my favorites is when 5-year-olds were able to make their way across London.
8 Key Skills of an Independent Adult
As they fully transition into adulthood, there’s a wide range of skills every teenager requires to function in their personal life and society at large. Below are the key groups. Your child is likely to be stronger at some, but this gives a starting point for where to focus. Within here are links to articles that look at each in more depth.
- Housekeeping skills. Having proper housekeeping skills ensures that your teenager can keep his or her immediate environment clean. As basic as this may seem, it’s connected to your child’s physical and mental health. Bed-making, window cleaning, mopping, vacuuming, sweeping, bathroom and bedroom cleaning are examples of housekeeping skills. So if ever there was an excuse to give them chores it is for this, just keep them age-appropriate.
- Culinary skills. Your child doesn’t need the culinary skills of an intercontinental chef, and teaching your child to cook is great fun. If he or she knows their way around the kitchen, can prepare a range of decent meals for themself, then they’re good to go. This will be a lifesaver when your teen is unable to go to their favorite takeout restaurant. It is more about having the confidence to ‘give it a go’ that is important.
- Time management skills. Going to college, your teenager will suddenly have a host of engagements. They may struggle if they don’t know how to manage their time. Twenty-four hours might begin to feel like it’s not enough time to do everything. One time management hack is to focus on one task at a time. Multitasking isn’t all it’s cracked up to be. It can be counterproductive. This is because the brain expends undue energy adjusting every time a switch between tasks takes place. So giving your child the ability to take a step back and prioritize their time is essential.
- First aid skills. Having basic first aid skills is essential for your teenager, particularly if they have an existing health condition. They need to know how to manage worst-case scenarios before medical help arrives. Even if your teen is in excellent health, accidents can happen. Examples of first aid skills include handling a friend who is drunk or on drugs, CPR, stopping bleeding, spotting a concussion, supporting a sprain, and setting a splint. These skills might save another person’s life, if not your teenager’s. There are also mental first aid skills. Knowing what to do if they are overly anxious or depressed.
- Money management skills. Money is so central to life that any mismanagement in that department can reach out and affect other areas of your teen’s life. Unfortunately, many of us have had to live with money worries at some time. They can sometimes be avoidable, and reckless spending on a new credit card is. Living within means, prioritization, and budgeting are the first steps in achieving financial peace. Knowing how to budget will help your teenager make purchases without going into debt. And if they do get into debt, they know how to manage a plan to get out of it. Talk to your child about money, and as they get closer to leaving really have them involved in the household budget, including things like insurance.
- Empathizing and respecting others. Empathy is a core part of human interaction. And if your child is to interact with others and make friends in college, they need to know how to empathize and respect others. Empathy lets your teen put themself in another person’s shoes and respond accordingly. While respect is not doing anything that puts other people down.
- Setting boundaries. Most teenagers view older adults as authority figures, so it can be challenging to say no even when it’s the right thing to do. Be it a professor, a significant other, or a roommate, and your teenager needs to know when and how to say no. Here we have a series of articles on drugs, alcohol, and sexual predators.
- Health and self-care. Invincibility is one of the things that come with teenagehood. Your teenager feels mentally and physically strong, and so comes to believe that nothing can touch them. Instead of a trip to the doctor for a persistent headache, they feel they have to soldier on in the belief that it’s just a minor inconvenience that’ll go away with time. Knowing when to visit the doctor, taking medication consistently, and seeking assistance for mental health issues are all forms of health care and self-care.
How to Prepare Your Child for College
An online quantitative survey conducted by Barnes & Noble College Insights found that college students are generally more stressed than they used to be due to financial concerns, political environment, and academic expectations. Parents can play a role in helping their children make the transition and better handle college life rigors. But playing that role well also depends on finding a balance so that parents don’t become drivers instead of coaches. Below are ways to prepare your child for college in a coaching role.
- Encourage them to get to know their high school guidance counselor. The high school guidance counselor is always in the know regarding college requirements, courses, deadlines, scholarships, and other valuable information. A phone call or a visit would do. Also, encourage your teenager to get to know at least one faculty member in their first semester in college. He or she may need faculty members to write recommendation letters for them down the line.
- Help them explore scholarship opportunities. One of the tedious parts of preparing for college is finding scholarships your teenager is eligible for. As a parent, you can help them make it less boring. Your presence by their side, helping them sift through requirements, can act as a motivator. Local and regional scholarships typically have fewer applicants, which means a higher chance of getting one.
- Let your child handle communications. It might seem like a good idea, but you need to resist the urge to get in touch with your teenager’s admission officer or rep. They generally don’t welcome this, and neither are they impressed by it. “Don’t be a communication director with high school counselors and college admissions officers,” says Aviva Hirschfeld Legatt, admissions coach and owner of VivED Consulting. “Relationships are critical currency in helping students stand out in the college process.”
- Teach them how to budget in college. For most teenagers, going off to college is the first time they’re living on their own. You need to sit them down and reiterate the difference between need and want. Reminding your teenager of this difference will help them prioritize their spending. Also, help them prepare a basic budget plan, where discretionary spending comes after the essentials are met.
- Discuss strategies to manage emotions. Loneliness, frustration, sadness, fear, disappointment, and anger are all emotions your teenager might deal with in college for one reason or the other. According to a survey conducted by Harris Poll for the JED Foundation in partnership with The Jordan Porco Foundation, 60 percent of first-year students wished they had more help getting emotionally ready for college. So help your teenager develop some coping mechanisms that can help him or her manage their emotions. Coping mechanisms include journaling, exercising, extracurricular activities, or just having someone to talk to.
- Inspire them to embrace wonder. As a college student, your teenager can quickly reduce life to problems they will or might be faced with. Who’s going to be their roommate, and will they get along? Could they cope with the fast-paced college environment? And what about the future after college? What will happen to relationships and friendships they may have at home? These are all questions your teen might be grappling with. It would help if you inspired them to see and enjoy the wondrous things around them. This helps reduce the gravity of their problems in their eyes. They could read about other people’s experiences, go hiking or see a new place. There will be change, but with a positive mindset, it is likely to be better. Maybe they could start the first week with two or three things to sign up to for the future—a hobby like surfing that they have never been able to try before.
Signs Your Child Isn’t Ready for College
Many high school seniors dream of going off to college. They are ready for freedom but maybe not for the academic side. Strangely the more supportive the school and family were, the less prepared they are. Those pupils who have got their grades with little support have better study skills and are more independent. Data shows that 54 percent of first-year college students are not prepared for college algebra and nearly 70 percent for biology. While 33 percent are not ready for English composition, roughly half are not ready for social science classes. Below are some signs that your child isn’t prepared for college.
- Your child doesn’t study. That your child got As and Bs without studying in high school isn’t always a sign of their genius. It could be that they weren’t challenged enough. College is entirely different territory, and your teenager may struggle because they haven’t developed that aptitude for reading. The shock of going from being a good fish in a small pond to being one of many good fish often overwhelms students. This is why teachers often place a high focus on effort.
- Poor grades. Poor grades in high school will translate to poor grades in college. The factors responsible for their poor grade in high school will follow them to college. And it won’t be easy to adjust in college. If they had to beg their way into college or got there by the skin of their teeth, take a moment. Do they really want to go? How is it going to be different? Is it right for them? It would be naïve to think that things are going to change fundamentally.
- Disinterest in applying. In a similar way to above. If you have to motivate your child to apply for college insistently, maybe they know something you don’t. They may not be interested or simply don’t see it as an important step. This is different from indecision. An indecisive teenager wants to apply, just that he or she can’t decide on certain things.
- A long history of disciplinary problems. It may be a sign of not being ready if your child has a long history of legal and disciplinary issues. Issues may include numerous suspensions, arrests, probations, and even expulsion. This points to poor decision-making, which might persist if they go to college.
Final Thoughts on What Skills Do Your Child Need to Leave Home
When your child finally leaves for college, it can be tough to manage the pain of separation or empty nest syndrome. There is a misconception that empty nest syndrome only affects a stay-at-home parent. That is not the case. Parents who have careers can feel that lack of purpose and control, the sense of loss and grief that comes with empty nest syndrome. This is a part of parenting that is mainly played down, with the general belief being that parents should get a hobby instead of moaning about it. But this can be a deeply distressing time for parents. So take the time to acknowledge what you’re feeling and seek help if need be so that you don’t transfer your grief to your teenager.