As much as you’d love for your kids to stay young, there comes a time when they must grow up and do things on their own. For many, this transition occurs during the teenage years. During this time, it’s wise to equip your teen with vital life skills and grant them the freedom to use them.
Here are a few of the most important things you should teach them before they turn another year older.
Does your teen wait until the last minute to start large projects and write research papers? While they might think it’s fine to procrastinate now, this bad habit can cause problems in college and beyond. Help them take control of their future and minimize stress by teaching them time management skills. Encourage routines, avoid nagging and advise your teen to write down their schedule. Then, help them set goals and prioritize certain activities so they gain a sense of accomplishment from the very start.
Many teens don’t worry about nutrition because their parents pick everything out for them. However, it’s in their best interest to let them choose, prepare and enjoy their own food. Of course, they might need some guidance at first. Help them make a grocery list, teach them to read labels and learn about food groups and serving sizes together. Then, make a few basic recipes together so your teen gains some skills in the kitchen.
Some parents think that teens should know how to change their oil and replace their tires. While these skills can come in handy, you might want to focus on the basics, first. Teach them how to pump gas, check the oil, top off fluids and maintain good tire pressure. They should also schedule regular maintenance appointments and learn to watch for problems so they can take their car into the shop at the first sign of trouble.
Unless your teen takes a home ec class, they probably won’t learn how to budget or save at school. In this case, you’ll have to teach them to track their spending, create goals and prioritize financial freedom. Discuss everything from loans to mortgages and field any questions they might have. Then, work together to create an allowance system if they don’t yet have a job. Otherwise, you can jump right into budgeting basics and how to spend and save wisely.
If your teen has a job but hasn’t yet filed their taxes, now’s as good a time as ever to show them how. First, figure out whether they’re a 1099 contractor or a W-2 employee. Then, consider the implications of each employee classification and determine whether they have to pay federal, state or city taxes — or a combination of the three. Got questions? Contact a local tax pro or use an online tool to file together when tax season finally rolls around.
Imagine your child graduates college without ever having cleaned a bathroom or repaired a leaky faucet. How will they ever be able to manage a household without these vital skills? Luckily, preparing them for life on their own is easy if you teach them early. Assign weekly or daily chores and create a rewards system to motivate and incentivize less appealing jobs like scrubbing the toilet or scooping dog poop. Tackle small repair jobs and improvements together, too.
Everyone, regardless of age, should know basic first aid skills so they can act quickly in emergency situations. After all, you never know when disaster will strike, so it’s wise to always be prepared. Teach them how to clean a wound, use bandages, administer epinephrine and other drugs and fashion splints out of sticks or wood. If you’re unfamiliar with these skills, consider working with a survivalist or health professional to practice them and maybe even earn a certification.
As abductions, assaults, shootings and other horrific tragedies continue to make headlines, many parents are growing even more concerned for their children’s safety. However, teaching self-defense skills can increase their chances of staying safe if anything were to happen. These skills are especially important for women as 81% report experiencing some form of sexual harassment, assault or both in their lifetime. Work with a local instructor to learn a few moves so your family knows how to protect themselves.
The teenage years are fraught with challenges, adventure and lots of big emotions — think bouts of depression and absolute elation all within the same week. While hormones and physical changes may fuel these mood swings, it’s important that your teen learns how to regulate and cope with their emotions. Teach self-management skills like box breathing, emotion labeling, journaling and mind-body exercises to help them deal with their feelings in a healthy, productive way.
As a parent, it’s hard not to be overprotective. However, doing everything for your children will ultimately do more harm than good, especially as your kids become teens. Learn to give them more autonomy and become a proactive parent by teaching them important skills before they have to use them. This way you’re both ready to thrive independently when the time comes for them to move out and put their skills to the test.