Today’s kids are growing up without many skills that past generations took for granted. Without home ec courses, kids today are leaving high school without knowing how to sew a button, write a check or make a simple meal. As parents, it’s up to us to step up and teach our kids these life skills.
As parenting coach Sarah Hamaker covered in a story in The Washington Post, kids today are heading to college without even the most basic life skills. They can’t do a load of laundry, iron a shirt, tie a tie or even boil water!
Here are 11 things every child should know how to do before they leave the nest.
1. How to clean up after themselves.
Beginning in toddlerhood, children can be taught to clean up their toys and put their dirty clothes in the laundry hamper. Not only is it important to teach these skills, but to explain the reasoning behind it. “We put our toys away so they don’t get lost or broken,” or, “If you put your dirty clothes in the hamper, Daddy can wash them and make sure they are clean to wear tomorrow.”
2. How to help in the kitchen.
Once a child reaches 4-5 years old, they can begin to help with duties around the kitchen. They can help wash potatoes, shuck corn or peel carrots. You can get them play knives so they can help “chop” alongside you. Talk to them about why it is important to learn how to cook, and why making your own food is healthier and more affordable. “When we make dinner at home, we have more money to do fun things like go to the zoo,” you might say.
3. How to pack their own lunch and make their bed.
When a child is around 6-7 years old, they can start helping to pack their own lunch for school (or, right now, simply make their own lunch at home). This will not only help teach autonomy, but it will also make them more likely to eat what they pack! A child of this age will also be more than capable of making their own bed and even helping to load the dishwasher.
4. How to cook a few things.
At 8-9 years old, you can start having your son or daughter cook right alongside you. Get a child-friendly cookbook to inspire them, and then give them free rein (under your watchful eye, of course). Yes, they will probably make a mess or even burn their cookies. But, that’s how you grow: By making mistakes and learning from them.
5. How to clean the house.
By the time your child is 10 years old, they can help with nearly every house cleaning task. They should know how to clean a bathtub and make a kitchen floor shine, as well as how to get grease off pots and pans and how to wash their own clothes.
6. How to run basic errands.
When a child is around 12 years old, it is a good time to start encouraging independence. Start to leave them at home by themselves for short periods of time. Have them walk the dog or (after quarantine is over!) run to the market up the street for a carton of milk. They might be hesitant at first, but they need to learn how to navigate in the world without you.
7. How to take care of a car.
At around 14 years old, it is time to start teaching your child about car maintenance. They need to know how to fill up a tank of gas, change a tire, and change the oil (or at least know where/when to take the oil to get changed by a mechanic).
8. How to manage money.
Money management is also key around these years. Your child is beginning to understand that money is a must for the things they desire in life, but concepts such as saving and budgeting do not come naturally to risk-prone teens. Have your child assist you in paying bills or depositing cash in the bank, and give them a small allowance that they must learn to manage throughout the month.
9. How to do basic home repairs.
Along with money management, it is also time to start teaching your child basic home repair skills. Everyone should know how to plunge a toilet, cut the grass, hang a picture, paint a wall, weed a garden, etc.
10. How to safely drive a car.
When your child is around 16-17 years old, it’s time to start teaching independence on the road. They need to know how to maintain their own gas tank and practice road safety, even if you aren’t there to lecture them. It’s also important to cover safety when it comes to accidents or vehicle issues, such as where they should pull over or who to call for help.
11. How to have safe and consensual sex.
We know this can be an awkward topic of conversation between parents and teens. But, before your child leaves for college, it’s important to make sure that you cover issues of sexual consent. They need to understand that the absence of a no is not a yes, and that only enthusiastic consent is permission to move forward with sexual activity. Also talk about the fact that a drunk or high person cannot consent to sex.