10 Life Skills for Children to Develop before Heading Off to the Big World

March 2018

by eva winslow, guest contributor

What’s the biggest role of a parent? You have to become your child’s favorite teacher. From the moment your kid graduates from high school, they will be faced with the great wide world, ready or not.

Whether they - or we - are ready or not, it’s just the natural order of things – kids grow up and they head off to independence. But what can you do to make this transition smooth and natural for them? You may influence their development in a way that will encourage the development of the right skills.

Here are 10 life skills your kid needs to develop before leaving home.                                                  

1. Use Public Transport

“Oh my goodness; I can’t let my daughter in the metro alone!” Yes. You can. Your daughter or son can and should be strong and independent. Needless to say, you won’t let them be alone in the metro of a huge city when they are too young. However, you should teach them how to stay safe and well-oriented in public transport before they leave home.

At first, you should go with them and teach them to pay attention to all the right things. When you’re sure they can handle the challenge, you can let the kid have their first adventure alone.

2. Manage Time

When your child becomes independent, they will have a lot on their schedule. First of all, they will have to handle all activities related to college or work. Plus, they will have to think about food, laundry, and cleaning. Somewhere along the way, they will have to fit socializing in, too. 24 hours may not be enough for all that!

You can help them develop time-management skills during elementary and high school. First of all, they should learn how to get up and go to bed on time. Time-management skills depend on that aspect!

3. Shop for Groceries

When your kids go to college, odds are, they will rarely eat at restaurants. They won’t have access to home-cooked meals, either. The supermarket will become part of their daily routine, so you have to teach them how to shop for groceries the right way.

This is an easy skill to teach; just take your son or daughter along when you go grocery shopping. Teach them that you’re never buying unnecessary stuff. You go there with a list and a planned budget.

4. Communicate with Strangers

This will be contradictory to everything you’ve been telling your kids about strangers. However, it’s important for them to learn how to communicate with people they first meet. When they head off to college, they will be literally surrounded by strangers. Of course they will need to make connections!

First and foremost, teach them to trust their instincts. If someone makes them feel uncomfortable or uneasy, trust that feeling and disengage from that person/situation. The vast majority of people are pretty normal and safe to talk to. You may train their social skills by allowing them to talk to people in public transportation or in the supermarket, while observing from a safe distance. Throughout their school years, encourage them to discuss concerns or questions with their teachers, so they're ready for those conversations with their college professors. 

5. Write

Did you know that many parents were helping elementary and high school students to write their homework? If you’re one of those parents, you’re not doing your kid any favors. By getting an essay ready for them, you’re not encouraging them to develop their own skills. When they head off to college, they will have to write a lot.

Vanessa Richards, a writer for CareersBooster, shares her experience: “I got my job as a writer as soon as I graduated, just because I could write. I have my father to thank for that. He was always reading to me, and he encouraged me to explore literature. He also gave me free-writing assignments and he always made the topics fun. He made me fall in love with writing, and that helped me a lot during college.”

6. Pack

Packing is an important skill for your child to have when they start their journey towards independence.

It’s time to stop packing your kids’ backpacks and suitcases. Teach them how to do it in a way that saves space, and they will be grateful for life.

7. Stand Up for Themselves

You want your kid to be kind and helpful to everyone? Sure! But you also want them to be strong. When they have to defend themselves, and they have the right to do that, they should know how to expose their arguments in a convincing way.

Maybe they will come into a conflict with a roommate. Maybe they will disagree with a grade they received. You have to teach your child how to have a conversation with strong arguments and facts. Of course, they also have to listen to the other side and consider their point of view.

8. Drive

You don’t just pay for driving lessons and hope for everything to turn out well. You have to make them confident behind the wheel! You can help them deal with the initial fear if you’re simply there with them. Believe in your kid and don’t over-instruct them!

When you’re sure they can handle traffic, let them drive and stop filling their tank. It’s time for them to start considering gas as a real expense, so they will be more mindful with the way they spend money.

9. Do the Laundry

You won’t be there to do their laundry, and that might concern you. A lot! Is your kid clean all the time? It depends. Did you teach them to be clean without relying on the help of others?

Don’t make your kid feel bad if they still don’t know how to do the laundry. It’s an easy skill to teach, so start right away!

10. Setting Boundaries

You were always teaching your kid to be kind and help others. That’s good! However, such an approach might make it hard for them to say no. If, for example, your kid writes great essays, their friends will start asking them for help. Suddenly, they will end up suffocated with other people’s work and they won’t have time for their own essay. It’s a simple example that shows how brutal life can be when you’re unable to set boundaries.

Teach your kid to say no in the right situations. First, they have to take care of their responsibilities, then they can think of others.

Are you inspired for some life lessons? It’s time to take full responsibility for your child’s future. Teach them how to develop the right skills that make independence easy!    

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