Teaching our Teens to Adult
I really enjoy being the mom to two teenagers and a tween. They’re silly, witty, intelligent, and just generally a blast to hang out with. But every day, I’m reminded that within the next few years, there’s a good chance they’ll be making their way out into the wide world as my Facebook feed updates me on the journeys of my social circle’s mostly now-grown offspring.
Adult children are staying at home longer for a number of reasons, including less of a cultural emphasis on marrying young, Gen-X and Millennial parents’ destigmatization of multi-generational households, and increasing financial pressures due to low wages and a skyrocketing cost of living. But whether it’s related or not, they’re also struggling more with basic life skills, something that can create friction among generational households and sabotage their ability to run a household when they embark on their own journeys. As the parent of a neurologically atypical teenager, this worry is amplified knowing that things that come easily for neurotypicals can often be challenging for him.
I also can’t help but notice that most conversations on social media about Zoomers’ and on-the-cusp Millennials’ adulting struggles is that they tend to focus on deriding the younger generation for their lack of real-world skills. Folks, I hate to tell you this, but if younger generations can’t adult, it is because no one has taught them how to. When I was a kid, we learned some basic cooking and household management skills in classes like home ec, drivers’ ed, and bookkeeping, but with cuts to education and a focus on passing basic skills exams, the only place kids are going to learn these skills is at home.
Okay, so it’s the parents’ fault, you ask? Not so fast. These days, even adults in two-parent families are forced to work long hours to keep their households afloat, which leaves little time and awareness for what’s getting missed in between making sure everyone is clothed, fed, and passing their classes. In short, we just don’t live in an economic culture that’s conducive to healthy generational knowledge-sharing.
The good news is that the younger generation is great at getting information. You don’t know what you don’t know, but when someone understands their knowledge soft spots, they have the ability to reach out online and learn more, and they’re pretty great about sharing this information with their peers. In other words, if you teach a kid to fish, metaphorically speaking, it turns into a whole loaves and fishes scenario.
As my sons crest their 15th solar revolution, I am all too aware of how much we still need to teach them in terms of independence. Their current knowledge of a kitchen pretty much ends with heating up ramen noodles on the stove or using the toaster oven to reheat a frozen burrito. And although I swore up and down I would never be this way, I often catch myself doing things that the kids should be doing for themselves by now because it’s “easier,” shrugging off the gnawing feeling that I’m creating bigger problems down the road in doing so every time I serve as their personal alarm clock, wash their laundry, or clean their bedroom in frustration because I just can’t take it anymore. Worse, I know all too well the consequences of not teaching a kid independence from my own struggles acclimating to the adult world with a parent who actively discouraged self-sufficiency.
23 Life Skills to Know
Because clearly I need a kick in the pants on this, I am committing myself to making 2023 the year that my kids start to learn serious life skills. With a little help from the Internet, I’ve put together this list of skills we either have taught our kids or need to work on in the coming year:
- Vehicle care and maintenance
- Street navigation
- Lawn maintenance beyond just mowing
- Grocery shopping
- Situational awareness
- Fire safety
- Unclogging a drain or toilet
- Repairing their clothing
- Make simple household repairs
- Managing their own schedules
- Taking personal ownership
- Responsible and safe social media interactions
- Reduce, reuse, recycle
- Accessing services like 211
- Making a professional phone call
- Sending a letter (yes, seriously)
- Paying bills
- Meal planning
- Cooking and food prep
- Safe food storage
- Screen time management
- Writing a resume
Do you worry about your kids’ preparedness for the adult world? Let me know if there’s anything I missed, and have a beautiful week in your little nebula!