8 Basic Life Skills to Teach Teens Before They Move Out
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Are your chicks flying the coop ready to take on the world? Despite academic success and a strong extra curricular schedule, your teen may not be as prepared as you think. A 2011 study from the Global Conference on Innovations in Management discovered “a strong academic record does not always translate into professional success.” Their surprising findings are raising a lot of questions in our modern school system, namely: after nearly two decades years of school, tutoring, support and advice why do some kids struggle in the real world?
Two words: life skills. Many schools no longer teach skill-based classes, but they’re exactly what kids need to transfer academic prowess into real world success—instead of a minimum wage mall job. Read on to discover some simple tools that can help your child succeed when it’s time to stretch his wings and find a career that’s sustainable and makes him happy.
- How to manage credit. According to Time magazine, fewer than 10 percent of teens pay their full credit card balance every month. To keep teens from burying themselves in debt before they enter the workforce, senior VP at First National Bank John Ramage recommends a frank conversation, saying something like: “Your credit is like your GPA, It only takes one bad grade or one bad credit decision and you have to dig out.” Once your teen understands interest rates, late fees and the consequences of bad credit, he should he get his first “learner’s card”—but not before.
- How to get help. Mental health is a growing concern on college campuses. In 2010, The National Survey of Counseling Center Directors found that reports of student issues from loneliness to bipolar disorder increased 175 percent since 2000. Students who don’t know how to deal with these new symptoms may continue to struggle academically, personally and professionally. Talk to your teen about mental health issues and let them know that there’s no shame in going to their campus counselor—even if it’s just to talk.
- How to network. The great recession is ebbing, but the employment rate for fresh college grads is still grim. Give your teen a leg up by teaching him how to network. Let him schedule dental appointments and push for one that works around soccer practice or challenge him to find an internship even if the company he loves doesn’t publicly offer one. By showing him how to look for the inside track now, he’ll have no trouble pushing his way to the head of the applicant pile for an internship after he graduates.
- How to save. Those first penny-pinching, post-grad years can affect his future if he’s not prepared. Teach him how to save now with three dedicated piggy banks, labeled Spending Money, Growing Money and Savings. When he’s desperate for a new skateboard or video game, point him in the direction of his collected allowance. He’ll master budgeting his bank account, and eventually use those same skills to buy his first house.
- How to react. Accidents happen, and you won’t be there when they do. Before your teen moves out, make sure he has a first aid kit and a basic understanding of first aid. Taking time to cover what to do in case of a fender bender, fire, break-in, burst pipe or hopelessly clogged toilet will help keep him calm and safe when it really counts—and impress his peers by taking action in stressful situations.
- How to succeed. It’s simpler than it sounds when you start young. Sit down with your child to set short-term goals (an “A” on the next test), mid-term goals (an “A” for the year) and long-term goals (get into your top choice college). Each week, map out concrete steps toward each goal and make revisions. This road map will help turn his dreams into destinations.
- How to spend. Knowing how to budget money is the best cure for bad fiscal decisions. Each month, sit him down with the family to plan finances. Give him the month’s income represented with a stack of paper money. Let him place bills in the grocery’s pile, electric bill pile, etc. He’ll pick up the habit and better manage money when it’s coming from his own paycheck.
- How to run a household. Kids never realize how much their parents do until they leave the nest—but you can also overlook the importance of sharing your day-to-day responsibilities. Make a list of all of the household duties you’ve handled for him, and then spend a summer teaching him how to do the laundry, wash the car, change a tire, hammer a nail and all of the other life skills that the rest of the adult world takes for granted. He’ll remember you every time he saves a roommate from bleeding colors onto whites.
As a parent, it’s your job to give your child the best possible chance of success. A good education is a great start, but it’s not the end of the road. Kids have to learn to apply a few practical rules of living to support what they learned in school. Teach them to him now and he’ll use those wings to fly from the nest poised for success—not a boomerang return to your living room couch.