Transition from high school to college: how to help your child improve practical life skills.
Photo by Eliott Reyna on Unsplash
Preparing your kids for the transition to college often boils down to helping them earn good grades and get into the right extracurriculars. However, focusing solely on academic goals would be a tragic disservice.
Teens and young adults need much more than book learning to help them succeed in life. Help your kids now to improve practical life skills so they can become successful college students and then adults.
Create a chore chart
The first skills that probably come to your mind are the essential life skills of keeping a home clean. When your teen goes off to college, they’ll live in a dorm and eventually their own apartment or house. They won’t have you do their laundry, wash their dishes, or run the vacuum. These are things they need to know how to do before they leave home.
Create a chore chart for your household where the whole family contributes to daily maintenance. This way, your kids grow accustomed to routine cleaning activities and don’t take a clean home for granted. Ideally, you should set up a chore rotation so everyone takes turns with each type of task. Start by modeling, then release responsibility.
Take a self-defense class together
While keeping a clean home is a great skill to have, it isn’t the end all, be all of the experience you want to send your children off with. You never want to imagine horrible situations happening to your kids, but unfortunately, that’s sometimes the way this world works.
Give your teens their best chance by arming them with the skills and knowledge they’ll need to defend themselves without you – and it wouldn’t hurt to brush up on your own, too. Try enrolling in a self-defense class to teach you basic moves and tips you should know to stay safe.
Have your teen create a budget
Money management is a challenging thing to learn with many complex layers. So many people get into terrible debt because they never learned how to make sound financial decisions. Don’t let this be your child.
Sit down with them to help create a budget. Go over any expenses you don’t cover – perhaps they pay for their own phone, car insurance, or fun with friends. Then assess their income from allowance, special-occasion gifts, or a part-time job. Stress the importance of contributing to savings as well, which they’ll need to start building for the school. Finally, get them set up with a student bank account.
Take them shopping
Take your kids shopping with you and let them into the process from start to finish. Model how to create a list of things you need, check it against the budget and shop smartly. Teach them all your tips and tricks and have them practice.
As your children reach the end of high school, have them take turns creating the grocery list on their own and doing the shopping within a set amount of money.
Rotate cooking responsibilities
Like the chore chart, rotate cooking responsibilities with any member of your family who’s old enough to manage independently or with some assistance. Younger kids can start by making meals you select together and cooking them alongside you – learning the basic skills in the process. Older kids and teens could choose a whole week’s worth of dinners they’re responsible for putting together.
Meal planning and cooking are worthwhile skills your teens will need as they enter the real world. It’s not healthy to expect them to live off Top Ramen and mac ‘n’ cheese their entire lives.
Work through moments of failure
No one makes it through life without failing at something once in a while. It’s important to teach your kids how to deal with failure. As parents, it’s incredibly tempting to swoop in and prevent any discomfort for our kids, but failure is an essential part of the learning process.
Instead, help your children work through these uncomfortable feelings. Discuss having a growth mindset, where mistakes and failure are just part of the journey toward improvement. Every challenge in life is an opportunity to grow.
Encourage part-time employment
Holding a part-time job gives your teen some extra cash and teaches them valuable skills. Some apparent on-the-job skills include improving their responsibility, social skills, and time management.
However, even the act of finding and applying for a position is crucial for future success. Many young adults leave college without the slightest idea of how to land their first real job. Before your child leaves home, teach them how to put together a resume and help them prepare for their first interview. They may not be as appreciative now but just wait.
Promote positive coping strategies
Teens and young adults are no strangers to big feelings. Despite your best wishes for them, your kids will encounter hardships that leave them feeling dejected, angry, stressed, or anxious. When they’re no longer under your influence, they may be tempted to cope in unhealthy ways, like with food, drugs, or alcohol.
Work together to form some positive coping strategies while your kids still live at home. Find healthy ways of busting stress or boosting their mood—practice mindfulness together through journaling, gratitude, yoga, or other forms of self-care.
Start small with phone skills
Phone skills are particularly challenging for teenagers. Our generation is used to talking on the phone because we didn’t have extensive access to free messaging. However, our kids are used to being able to send a quick written message when they want to chat with someone. For them, talking on the phone – especially to strangers – is foreign.
Depending on each child’s level of anxiety, start very small. You may even need to begin with them making a call to you and sustaining the conversation for a certain length of time. After that, work up to talking to a relative over the phone.
Eventually, your teen should be able to call and schedule their own appointments and complete other essential phone calls. They should even be involved in the admissions process – leave it to them to contact the school with their questions instead of doing it for them.
Set up your teen for success
Working on these skills with your children from an early age throughout their adolescence will help them build the confidence they need to succeed on their own. Start gradually releasing control and encouraging independence. Once they leave the nest, you’ll be confident in their ability to be strong adults.