I remember the paralyzing anxiety I felt as a child worrying that I wouldn’t know how to live on my own when I was older.
Middle-of-the-night panic attacks had me terrified of growing up and not knowing how to do practically everything that adults do in their daily lives.
Paying bills. Paying taxes. Having friends over for dinner when you don’t know how to cook. Never having clean, laundered clothes. Not knowing how to defend myself if someone tried to mug me or broke into my house (this seems a bit dramatic now, I admit.) The idea of caring for others, when I didn’t know if I could manage adulting myself, was scary.
I was nervous about the prospect of being an adult because my parents never taught me the life skills I actually needed to know to survive on my own.
I went to college out-of-state as a terrified 17 year-old without ever having a bank account or written a check. Money basics were a foreign language and thankfully I never had a flat tire pre-husband, because I would have had to beg and plead for some random kind soul to help me fix it.
I messed up my laundry nearly every wash, as was evidence when my sweaters were shrunk to the size of something that would fit a toddler.
I didn’t live a sheltered life up to the point of moving into a dorm room. I was a college bound student-athlete who had good grades, filled out the necessary college applications and student loan paperwork to pursue my dreams without a parent’s help, and could handle the basics in the kitchen.
I simply didn’t have the life skills I needed before I moved away, and it was a scary ride trying to figure it all out on my own. Along the way, I felt dumb, I felt unprepared and I was angry that no one taught me these things.
What I wish I knew I’m starting early and teaching my own children. These valuable life skills will help them be successful as young adults and in life.
Whether you live near water – the ocean, lake, streams, ponds, pools, etc. – swimming is an absolutely valuable life skill to have, especially starting at a young age.
Do your children know how to float, swim, and tread water? In swimsuits and clothing? You never know one day, if it’ll be your child or someone else who will benefit from water safety.
FIRST AID SKILLS
Teaching your children how to react when they or someone else is hurt or an emergency is essential. Being able to tell the difference between something that requires a bandaid, medical attention and dialing 911 for help takes roll playing and continuous discussions.
Explain to your kids that roles of various service people – firefighters, paramedics, doctors, police – have and how they help in different capacities.
In addition to basic first aid skills, CPR is a valued skill to have when they are older.
MEAL PLANNING & COOKING SKILLS
No one will grocery shop and prepare meals for your children when they are out of your house, and you certainly don’t want them going through the drive through of Taco Bell every night.
Learning how to grocery shop, meal plan and prepare food can start at an early age when kids area eager to help in the kitchen. As they get older, show them how to use kitchen appliances and the oven and microwave to prepare food.
When the time is right expand to cutting vegetables, reading nutrition labels, being a part of meal planning, making a grocery shopping list and going to the grocery store with you, or on their own.
MONEY MANAGEMENT LIFE SKILLS
The value of money should not be dismissed just because kids are kids and don’t have a part of paying the bills.
Instill money skills by teaching the value of money, how to create a budget (even planning for and saving for a special purchase), creates healthy saving and spending habits that are essential to when your children are out on their own.
Get your kids involved with making a budget, opening a bank account and saving for a big purchase. When they’re older, show them how to track their spending, earn money, write checks and use a debit card, and of course, steer them away from the perils of having credit cards!
When people think of self-defense, they think of the need to teach children how to defend themselves against unsafe people. This is certainly an area of self-defense and signing up your kids for a self-defense class, or activity such as karate can be a life-saving skill to have.
But another area of self-defense is teaching children how to defend themselves against others harming him like a bully or a sudden attack.
Empower your children with the knowledge that they can defend themselves and others with words, with the help of an adult or person in charge, but also with self-defense skills that will boost their confidence and self-esteem having the skills to prevent themselves from harm.
HOW TO DO LAUNDRY
When your kids go off to college, it will be important for them to know how to do their own laundry and take care of their clothes – the delicates, whites, bedding and towels, and specialty fabrics.
Kids can help sort colored and white laundry, load the washer, fold clothes and put their own clothes away. For young kids, put stickers on the dresser drawers to help them put clothes away in the right spot. You can also put out piles – short sleeve shirts, long sleeve shirts, pants, pajamas – so that kids can identify the type of clothes and locate the correct drawers for putting them away.
From sorting whites, colors and what to hand wash versus run through a cycle in the washing machine, proper laundering will makes clothes last when done right.
WILDERNESS SURVIVAL SKILLS
While you may not be the outdoorsy type or have never even gone camping, you never know when your kids might be in the wilderness without you and could use wilderness survival skills.
Basic skills include how to build and find shelter, start a fire, cook using a campfire, collect water safely, traverse different types of terrain, use a compass and seek help are necessary life saving skills every child and adult should know.
At some point, your children will grow in adults who drive their own cars. It’s important for them to learn how to properly take care of and maintain their vehicle to ensure the car is safe to drive and lasts long without expensive maintenance along the way.
Car knowledge to pass along to kids includes scheduling basic auto maintenance, pumping gas and checking the oil and washer fluid levels, how to check the tire pressure and get tired inflated when they’re low.
Knowing how to safety jump a car, change tires and store and produce insurance and car records if stopped by a police are life skills everyone who drives a car needs to know.
The more we can prepare our children for what life will be like when they aren’t living in our house, the more successful they’ll be. Knowing from experience what it’s like NOT to have these life skills and how difficult the learning curve is to gain them on your own, you will give your kids a leg up in the world when they know how to do all these things.
What else are you teaching your kids to help them when they’re out on their own?
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