Being an adult is hard. At least that’s the word on the street. A decade ago, adulting wasn’t even a thing. Now the lack of it is paralyzing a generation. Teens these days are always on the go. There’s just never enough time to prepare for the real world.
Well, here comes the good news. Never, truly ever, has there been a better time to work on adulting. Most colleges, high schools, sports, music lessons, dance teams and vacations are on hold. After a little time to bemoan what would have been for the next few weeks it’s time to get down to business.
Teens need certain solid skills before they head off to college or to wherever their next adventure awaits. Spending an hour every day learning a new skill is not going to be high on your teen’s agenda at this time. They will vehemently resist this adulting with every bone in their bodies because they know that if they protest miserably or become obnoxious enough, parents often give up.
Not this time. Don’t let the whining, complaining and door slamming put you off. These are vital life skills. Make learning them nonnegotiable.
As a family therapist I’m often let behind the privacy curtain of parenting. Here’s what I know that you may not. Many teens will not be able to hack it in the real world without your help. They will rely on you for constant reassurance and advice but learn nothing to sustain them for the future. Without boosting their skills and confidence to handle matters, they could become anxious and unsure of their abilities.
Nine important adulting skills
Here are the most important adulting activities to check off the list in the next few weeks of free time.
Do Laundry, fold and iron.
Kids make so much laundry. Do you know why? Because they don’t have to do the wash. Bring your child to the washer and drier and make an introduction. Take a pad and pen with you. Go through the steps and then have your teen do a load. Repeat with the drier. It may seem obvious what to do but you will be surprised. Try not to laugh at the questions. Once the laundry is done, let the folding begin. Maybe watch an episode of Maria Kondo’s Tidying Up to get in the mood. Break out the iron, too, if there are any wrinkled essentials.
Learn to cook at least one breakfast, one lunch and one dinner meal.
Teens will need to feed themselves on something besides Chick-fil-A. Teach your children to prepare meals for themselves. A meal consists of a main and a side dish or two. You can supervise or leave them to figure it out with a recipe. Either way, just make sure they don’t cut off a finger or burn the house down.
Make a doctor’s appointment.
You would be shocked at the fear and ineptitude of young people to call a doctor and schedule a visit. Many teenagers have absolutely no idea what to say on the phone or how to fill out a health questionnaire. Have them make an actual appointment or if that’s not possible, do a simulation. Find a form online to fill out. Teens should know their health history and be able to answer simple questions.
Fill, operate and empty the dishwasher.
No one, and I mean no one, enjoys doing the dishes. And yet, they need to be done. Show your teen how the dishwasher works, how to fill it and turn it on. Then don’t let them off the hook for emptying it. That’s the only way to learn what grossness awaits if the loading isn’t done properly.
Write a thank you of get-well card.
This may be an old-fashioned life skill, but there will be a time it most certainly will be appropriate to send a card. Have your child write an actual letter, by hand, and mail it. Make sure they know where the address and stamp go (yup, it’s not obvious).
Learn to pay a bill.
Bill, bills, bills. I like to pile mine up and pay them all at once. Sometimes I miss a deadline and have to pay the fees. My grandmother likes to pay her bills as soon as they arrive. She doesn’t even take her coat off. However, you pay yours, let your child in on it. Not only should teens learn how to read and pay a bill, they should start to get an idea how much it costs to lease a car or mortgage a house or for the water they let run 20 minutes prior to a shower.
Open an account.
It doesn’t matter where. Go online and sign up for a supermarket card, AAA, discounts at Michaels, a brochure for Yosemite, or coupons from Bed Bath & Beyond. Have your child fill out the information and then wait for the exciting mail to come.
Make a budget for college.
Making a budget is tricky, especially for a young person who has no idea how much life costs. If your child is in college use the actual figures. If not, pick a random college and have your child look up tuition. Then discuss what your contribution would be and decide figures for loans and scholarships. Now fill in money for food, housing, books, transportation, cell phone, entertainment, personal hygiene products and medications, clothing and miscellaneous items. If you want to get really creative, have your child also shop online at the local supermarket for a week’s worth of food. This would also require menu planning.
Get a job.
For some teens, finding work has too many steps to follow in successive order. They can get lost in the process. Have your child apply for an actual job online. Larger chains like Starbucks and Target have applications on their websites. But don’t stop at the job application. Then complete the simulation. Require your child to make a mock call to follow up on the application and complete an interview. It’s a good time to create a resume, if your child hasn’t already.
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Catherine Pearlman, PhD, LCSW is the author of Ignore It!: How Selectively Looking the Other Way Can Decrease Behavioral Problems and Increase Parenting Satisfactionwhich is available now from TarcherPerigee. She’s also the founder of The Family Coach and an assistant professor at Brandman University. Follow Catherine on Facebook and Twitter.