by Mark Timm, CEO Ziglar Family
The countdown lasted for 18 years, but just a few weeks ago we reached the first of six “launches” in our household: my oldest son, Markus, graduated from high school.
I’m sure any of you who’ve launched your kiddos into the world know how Ann and I are feeling right now, which can best be described as a mixed bag of emotions.
On the one hand, we’re a bit sad that our nest is going to get a little lighter come August, but on the other hand, we couldn’t be prouder of the fact that our son is an independent young man ready to take on the world! (Quite literally — as I write this he’s on his way to Europe for a couple of weeks!)
Truly it’s every parent’s goal to raise our kids to be well-adjusted young adults who are ready for the responsibilities of adulthood when their time comes. Or, more eloquently put by Hodding Carter:
“There are only two lasting bequests we can give our children: One of these is roots; the other is wings.”
I’d like to think we’ve done a good job of giving our kids roots; it’s something we focus on regularly. It’s a little trickier to know how we’ve done with the wings part, but I’ve found some good advice from Dr. Melissa Deuter on the subject.
Start as early as possible.
The reality is, says Dr. Deuter, we start preparing our children for independence from early on when we help them learn to be apart from us for periods of time (like during the school day) and teach them ways to become self-reliant (like making a PB&J sandwich when they’re hungry).
But as they grown into teens, we tend to stop thinking about specific lessons they need to learn before launching. No matter the age, it’s important to begin thinking about what skills you want your children to have when they go out on their own, and start teaching those lessons now.
Here are 8 skills Dr. Deuter advises every teen should have before leaving the nest:
Emotional/psychological skills: These include the ability to identify emotions, self soothe, exhibit self-control of inner emotional states, wait patiently, solve problems, delay gratification, tolerate uncomfortable feelings, and maintain control of behavior.
Teens with well-developed emotional/psychological skills know how to walk away from a fight and how to exit an out-of-control social situation (such as a gathering of friends using drugs).
Friendship/interpersonal relationship skills:Good social skills and manners go a long way. Teens should know how to carry on a conversation with a person of any age. They should be good judges of character. They should learn to speak up, stand up for a friend, keep a secret (or refuse to keep a secret), ignore bad behavior, and to confront someone who is out of line.
Likewise they need to learn to really listen, admit fault and apologize, talk out a conflict with a friend (or roommate), say I love you, and hug.
Romantic/intimate relationship skills: Teen dating can help kids learn to distinguish between love and infatuation. They can learn to ask someone to dance, to navigate romantic feelings, and eventually to break up with a boyfriend or girlfriend.
They can also learn to cope with rejection, say no, and control the urge to advance physical relationships too quickly.
Financial skills: Before leaving home, teens need practice budgeting, managing money, balancing a checkbook, saving for emergencies, maintaining bank accounts, and paying bills.
Academic/work skills: Learning how to be a productive student or employee begins with learning basic responsibility. When teens know how to be punctual, stay on task, and pay attention to details they are better equipped for school and career. Volunteering or working part time while living with parents can build these skills further.
Domestic/maintenance skills: Basic cooking skills, auto maintenance—like learning when the car should be serviced and how to change a tire—washing and folding laundry, cleaning skills for a dorm room or apartment, and handling small household emergencies like a clogged toilet are all skills necessary to build before teens move out.
Self-care skills: Your teen should be equipped to ask for help, say no, and be assertive. Most teens need to learn to be in a quiet place to regroup, talk or write about difficult problems, and to plug into a faith community for support.
Medical care skills: Every adult needs to have healthcare knowledge, and be capable of giving a medical history, filling a prescription at a pharmacy, or knowing how to self-diagnose simple illnesses, use a thermometer, and take over-the-counter medications.
Since Ann and I have 5 more right behind Markus, we’ll be paying close attention to this list and making sure we’re intentional with our wing-developing efforts! How about you?
Would you add anything to this list? If so, please share in the comments below, so we can all learn from the shared wisdom!