What To Teach Your Child To Enable Independence
We all want to do the best for our children, but life skills may not be at the forefront of our minds. We love them, we care for them, and we try to make their lives the brightest that we can within our abilities. But with that, we sometimes do a little too much.
Our children need certain life skills to get along in the world and it is our job to make sure that we are teaching them. They won’t be home forever – and it is our job to make sure that they aren’t.
Trying to figure out what life skills to teach your kids can get overwhelming. It can be so much easier if you just do it yourself. But that doesn’t do justice to their future. The old saying, “Give a man a fish and you feed him for a day; teach a man to fish and you feed him for a lifetime” has stuck around for a reason. We need to teach our children to do for themselves.
Teach Money Management
All kids need to learn to have an appreciation of money. This starts from knowing money basics such as counting money all the way to knowing how to balance a checkbook (old school, but necessary!) and how to establish a good savings plan.
Money is going to be a huge part of your child’s life from the moment that they get their first job or get accepted for their first school loan. Therefore, it is incredibly important for them to have some background in how to manage. You can read more in this age-by-age guide to teaching children about money, but understanding the value of a dollar is one of the best ways to make sure that your child can ultimately pay their rent, buy their food, pay their bills, and manage their income.
How To Cook
A child isn’t going to get anywhere in their adult life if they never learn how to cook. If they feel that the only way they can feed themselves is by ordering food all of the time, that would negate all of the hard work you put into teaching them about money management!
No one is expecting every child to be a chef, but they should know some life skills basics. Teach them how to use the microwave properly (which includes what materials are microwavable and which will explode your kitchen) and work up to using the stove.
Consider teaching some very easy foods that they can make – sandwiches, boxed macaroni and cheese, hard-boiled eggs, chicken breasts and rice – and learn what their talent level is in the kitchen. As long as they can feed themselves, they can explore more extravagant meals later or on their own. And if they are off to college, they can get some more ideas for some easy college meals that are also cheap.
How to Talk to Strangers
We typically think of teaching our children about stranger danger and how to keep away from strangers, but you also need to teach them how to interact with strangers. From job interviews to basic interactions with people that they first meet, it’s important the kids learn how to talk to people they don’t know.
This is not a life skill that you want to teach them when they are three or four (other than maybe encouraging a “hello” towards someone you are comfortable with), but it is one that they’ll need to learn by the time they enter their tween years.
How you do act when you first meet someone? How do you properly shake hands? What are appropriate subjects to discuss or not discuss? What are the boundaries for consent? How do you respond to questions in a respectful manner?
This is the kind of skill that you will want to continue to teach for many years, reemphasizing the important things. You can practice role-playing at home to develop many of the necessary life skills of communicating with strangers from a young age until teenage years.
Pretend you are the boss and your child is having an interview. Pretend you are someone that your child met when they were five, but doesn’t really remember. Pretend that you are a coworker who is trying to get your child to lend money they don’t have. Do your best to allow your child to practice these scenarios so that the first time they encounter them, you are there to help guide them through.
How to Manage a Day
From the time our children are little, we wake them up, get them ready for the day, make them breakfast, care for their needs, and help to entertain them. But by the time they are ready to move out, they need to know how to do all of these things themselves.
Make sure that your child has an alarm clock or knows how to use the alarm on their phone. Give them the responsibility of getting themselves up, showered, and ready for the day without you intervening.
Help them learn about what they may need to eat to start the day right (each person is different and you likely know your child’s fuel better than they do), how much sleep they should be getting (and if they don’t, they still need to go to work/school), how to find the time for laundry, grocery shopping, bill paying, and more. There are countless things that someone needs to learn about managing their day, but teaching them the basics will start them off on the right foot.
How to Be Confident
There is a difference between being cocky and being confident, but you also don’t want to be a pushover. Being able to stand up for yourself is an important life skill that can go a long way. From interactions with peers or strangers, during job interviews or while making important decisions, finding your confidence is incredibly important and it is a skill that your child needs.
Let your child know what talents and strengths you see in them. Tell them that they are smart, funny, compassionate, beautiful, strong, and/or any other traits you see. Help them build a foundation of confidence so that when they get out in the world, they have something to fall back on.
Teach your child how to stand up for themselves without being rude. It can be a fine line that you may want to help them practice, not giving up their spot in line or walking away when a situation feels uncomfortable or toxic. They will need to pick their battles in life, so while being strong is necessary, it’s not always necessary to win every battle.
There are a lot of bumps that your child will encounter while on the road to life, but if you can start preparing them early, they won’t be as painful.
It is never too early to start teaching independence, so encourage your small school-age child to pour their own cereal for breakfast or brush their teeth without your asking. When they are older, have them set their alarms for the morning and shake hands with people on the regular. Your job is to help prepare your children to be adults, so taking these steps will help mold your children into independent, well-rounded people by the time they leave your home.