Our adolescents need practical coping skills. These survival skills enable them to function in the real world away from Mom and Dad. To nurture these attributes, we first identify the areas of growth desired and then create a plan to help the adolescent master that skill, even if it means stepping back and allowing the child to fail. I had a difficult time with some of these seeds, because I used to think that a good mother takes care of her kids by washing their clothes and making hair or doctor's appointments for them. I now realize that a good parent knows when to pass such responsibilities on to her adolescents. The guideline is: Don't do for them (regularly) what they're capable of doing for themselves. These are some areas we focused on:
Laundry and clothing care.
Have your children learn about sorting clothes, spot cleaning, selecting detergents, choosing the right water temperature, using bleaches and fabric softeners, and drying clothes so they don't shrink. Other basic clothes maintenance skills include knowing how to sew buttons and mend seams, how to iron, and what to send to the dry cleaner.
Our teenagers got an allowance and their own checking account in high school so they could learn about budgeting, writing checks, and balancing a checkbook. Together we drew up a realistic budget and set the allowance amount by deciding which necessities they would purchase. By the end of high school, our two older ones were responsible for all their clothing purchases, toiletries, and school supplies. They learned to economize, look for sales, and recognize the difference between want and need.
Car maintenance is a coping skill for life. It includes knowing how to change a tire, when and where to add oil and water, and when to schedule regular checkups. Cars need annual emissions stickers and an oil change every three months. Before any long trips, brakes, tires, and lights should be checked. Adolescents also need information about license plate registration and insurance rates. In case of an accident, teenagers need to know to get the names, phone numbers, and addresses of all persons in the other car and all witnesses, in addition to license plate number and state of registration of the other vehicle; and whenever possible, notify state patrol or police officer.
Basic nutrition and meal preparation.
Teenagers should be able to plan and prepare at least a couple of meals (from shopping list to the table) and know the basics of nutrition, such as the importance of fruit and fiber and plenty of liquids in a diet. They should know how to read recipes, which comes from watching and doing. When one of ours made brownies for the first time and the directions said "mix by hand", that's exactly what the kid did- squishing a hand through the sticky batter in the bowl.
Organizational skills make life more manageable. Some children are born with a greater sense of organization than others, but all can benefit from learning how to use such basic tools as desktop calendars, Day-Timers, Rolodexes, and address books. Unfortunately, few schools teach study skills, which are an excellent source of such organizational skills. For instance, how to keep track of homework assignments and deadlines; how to break large assignments into bite-sized pieces; and how to identify priorities and use time effectively.
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