A little background on why I wanted to write this piece..
Upon my own high school graduation in 2000, I found myself a wee bit perplexed when it came to certain life skills. My parents didn’t necessarily sit down and teach me some of the in’s and out’s when it came to adulting and I certainly didn’t ask the hard questions, but had I asked, they’d gladly have shown me. Some “adult things” I had to learn on my own–trial and error ensued, but I never had any huge epic fails of my own.
Fast forward 15 years later, and after both my Stepmom and Father had passed away, and I was left to care for my two youngest brothers. The older of the two had just turned 21 and the youngest was only 16 upon moving into my house. They stayed with me for just about 24 months, and in that time we forged an unbreakable bond and learned a hell of a lot from one another.
They grew up and I learned how to be a role model.
I want to preface this post with:
Some of the things I am about to write about were definitely inspired by my two year cohabitation with my little brothers and some of it is just “stuff” I think alllllllll young people should know how to do so they don’t crash and burn when life inevitably happens! Because it always happens.
1. UNDERSTAND MONEY & BUDGETS
- Fiscal Responsibility
- Open a bank account in their name
- How to use an ATM card
- Have a bill or two in their name
- how to pay bills [on time]
I know these seem like BASIC life skills, BUT they have to be taught to your youngster in order for them to understand how allllllll this ADULT MONEY STUFF actually operates.
For me personally, this was the one thing that wasn’t really taught to me. I had my first job at 16 but I never had a bank account opened in my name. I took my paycheck every other Friday and went directly to Wells Fargo and cashed it. My Aunt Debbie helped me get a cell phone in my own name when I was 16, and the bill did come to me every month, but because I didn’t have a checking account from which I could pay the bill, I found myself at AT&T once a month paying it in cash. As soon as I turned 18 I took myself back to Wells Fargo and opened my own checking and savings account and figured the rest out from there.
Even with the occasional overdraft and all.
When my brothers moved in with me, I took on a great financial responsibility for them until our Father’s social security benefits started rolling in. And even then, instead of sitting my youngest brother down and teaching him these necessary life skills about budgeting and saving, for the better part of a year, I did everything myself. One day, out of sheer frustration, I handed him the social security debit card, and I said, “You have $1,590 that comes in the first of every month. You need to set aside ‘X’ amount for rent and utilities and then you need to budget the rest for your phone, clothing and food expenses.”
By this time I had already taken him to my credit union where I helped him open a checking/savings account. I made him pay his rent to me every month with a hand written check, but first–of course–I had to show him how to fill one out.
Additionally, I took him to AT&T and had his cell phone bill placed in his name, just as my Aunt did for me, so he could begin to have small responsibilities!
You can’t do EVERYTHING for your teenager, you have to teach them to do things themselves.
2. How to Handle an Emergency
- Basic life support skills like CPR and controlling blood loss
- What to do if they’re ever in a car accident
- Knowing the difference between 311 and 911 and NOT being afraid to make that call
This is a weird topic to talk about because it’s partially inspired by my own Father’s passing which makes it difficult to talk about even three and a half years after his death.
Raise your hand if you know how to do CPR?
I raised mine but I’m assuming the majority of you didn’t.
My Father went into sudden cardiac arrest at the age of 58 AT HOME in front of my two youngest brothers. I was on the phone with my Dad as he started having the heart attack, but my brother was smart enough to hang up with me and call 911 when our father collapsed to the ground. The operator talked my brothers through CPR over the phone while the first responders were in route, however, despite my brother’s absolutely HEROIC efforts, our Father passed away.
My little brothers are AMAZING and I am so incredibly proud of their efforts. I was only on the phone with my father as all this was happening, I can’t imagine having to actually preform CPR on him like my brothers did.
I am a former EMT and Anesthesia Technician in Las Vegas, I have seen quite a bit of death in my day and have performed CPR on more people than I can remember. I carry an emergency bag in my car that’s filled with gloves, gauze, antiseptic and splints and I am not afraid to pull over at car accidents and render my skills.
I have helped in Diabetic emergencies while shopping at Walmart, performed the Heimlich maneuver on a choking man walking past me at work, and even performed mouth to mouth on my own son after he had a seizure in front of me at five days old.
I am drawn to HELP OTHERS IN NEED and because I have been trained to do so, I always will.
Don’t be afraid to sign up and take a CPR class. Every city and town in North America offers them at your local branch of the American Red Cross and if you’re here in Las Vegas, an old Paramedic buddy of mine owns an ambulance company (GEMS), and is always advertising his BLS (Basic Life Support) classes. You’ll learn everything from how to perform CPR on adults and children…to how to use an AED (automated external defibrillator)…to what to do if someone is choking.
ALL OF THESE THINGS ARE NECESSARY LIFE SKILLS because if you’re not helping the stranger on the street, statistics say it’ll be your own family member at home that needs your assistance in a medical emergency one day.
It’s advantageous for you to know how to help!
I further this conversation with teaching your teenager how to handle an emergency situation like a car accident.
Granted, as long as everyone is alright and doesn’t need IMMEDIATE MEDICAL ASSISTANCE like 911, teaching your teenager how to get the PROPER EXCHANGE OF INFORMATION (driver’s license information, insurance information, etc.) from the other party is a must.
Not long after my youngest brother started driving, he accidently rear-ended a woman on the freeway while merging.
He was lucky.
She was kind and patient with him. Maybe he explained his parents had passed away and he lived with his older sister, and maybe he didn’t, but she helped him through the entire situation and if I recall correctly, gave him a hug before they parted ways.
Unlike my first real car accident when I was 18, we now live in a world where everyone’s cellular phone is smarter than us and is equipped with cameras and notepads to jot down information and take photos. Regardless, make sure your youngster knows what information to gather and remind them that as long as there isn’t any life threatening emergencies like PAIN, visual blood, loss of consciousness, and everyone was wearing their seatbelt, it’s perfectly ok to call 311 (non-emergency) and ask for a uniformed police officer come to the scene to help them through the post-accident process.
Make sure your youngster has the particular App for their insurance provider on their phone as well, so that they can contact the insurance company right away.
3. Basic Analog Skills
- How to fill out a check/checkbook
- How to sign their name in cursive
- How to properly fill out an envelope
Again, inspired by my time with my younger brothers, this may seem like an ODD point to make but it’s definitely BASIC life skills your teenager should know…
My brothers were home schooled, and while that’s a topic for another blog, they never learned cursive handwriting. The day I took my youngest brother to get his Learner’s Permit at the DMV, he was asked to sign his name on the digital pad and he looked at me utterly confused.
I responded to his corn-fuzzled look with, “Your SIGNATURE,” and he replied, “I don’t know. I don’t have one.”
Then I was confused.
I was like, “Just sign your name,” and he said, “I don’t have a signature.”
I can’t remember what transpired from there but it dawned on me….”Damn, this kid was never taught something as simple as cursive handwriting!!!”
Seems basic and ordinary, but everyone needs a signature! I don’t care if it’s a squiggly mark or a smiley face, ya gotta make sure your teenager knows how to do this.
The other knee-slapper for me was when my brother approached me one day and said, “I want to send my friend a hand-written letter, but I don’t know how to fill out an envelope.”
I wish I had had better control of my facial expressions at the time because I’m sure I offered him another WTF look, but I did, however, manage to supress any verbal commentary and proceeded to show him how to properly fill out and envelope.
Whether he ever sent another letter after that initial teaching moment, I don’t know, but at least I crossed another one off my list.
4. Have Basic People Skills
- Look people in the eyes when they’re talking to you
- Formal introductions
- Public speaking abilities
This is a difficult topic to broach because in a way, it’s asking that a person be self-confident at all times, and I know better than to think it’s always possible for this to happen when even I struggle to be on point and at my best from time to time.
I’m a HOTMESS most days, I just give the illusion of having my ISH together!
These are things your child will only do because they have been led by example. The simple “please’s and thank you’s” that come so naturally to you, might not come as easily to your child. BUT THEY CAN BE TAUGHT.
I shake hands. I look people in the eyes when they talk to me. I listen.
When someone speaks to me, I do my very best to stop what I’m doing and give my full attention. My son’s father makes fun of me for this but I’ll often mute the T.V., turn down the radio or completely put my phone away. Maybe it’s because this is what allows me to concentrate better, retain more information or quite possibly it’s just my way of being respectful, but I attempt to make others feel like what they have to say is important and meaningful and I genuinely appreciate when others reciprocate in the same manner.
In my opinion, these are traits that if more people tried to implement in their lives, we might actually live in a more cohesive and HAPPY world, but you can’t expect your teenager to be respectful human being if you, yourself, aren’t leading by example.
And that’s my two cents on that topic.
5. Time Management
This is comical to me because it seems like such a straight forward thing that everyone should be doing, BUT we alllllllll have that one friend or family member that DOES LIFE ON THEIR OWN TIME and keeps everyone waiting.
Time management should start when your child is young by implementing schedules for bedtimes and other routines like waking up in the morning and getting ready for school. By not getting your child into the groove of things when they’re young, you’re absolutely setting them up for failure and disaster as they get older. Maybe there’s leniency for tardiness when your child is in elementary school, but by the time they’ve reached secondary school, arriving late is an absolute distraction to other students. Need I mention college Professors that typically never allow you to make up a quiz or test if you haven’t arrived at the designated time—that’s a BIG FAT ZERO.
If you as a parent struggle yourself to be timely in life, if you’re always your own SCREAMING HOTMESS in the morning trying to get yourself and your kids out of the house, it’s never too late to make the change and set a better example.
As a Mom to a one year old, my whole morning routine has changed. Once upon a time, I could be out of the house in 15 minutes looking fairly put together and even have a cup of coffee in hand, but now I have to allot extra time for feeding and dressing another person that couldn’t give two hoots that WE have somewhere important to be.
So when someone says to me, “Hey, can you meet me at 9a.m….?” in my head I’m instantly thinking, “Sure, but I have to get up at 7 so I can get myself ready before I have to wake that baby and feed, dress and pack his baby bag…so I can leave the house by 8:30…so I can meet you ON TIME.”
Life definitely takes more planning now.
My parents were always respectful of schedules like school and meeting people exactly when they said they would, and I recognized it as a young child. They set the tone and I followed suit.
COMMUNICATE with your child. Teach them how to read a clock from an early age and explain to them what it is you expect of them.
If you know you have a 30 minute drive across town and you need to be out of the house at a particular time, teach your child time management. Help them prioritize the tasks they need to accomplish every morning from having breakfast, to getting showered, to walking out the door on time…
These simple skills taught at a young age are things they’ll carry with them for a lifetime.
Frankly, I don’t know a single employer that allows for habitual tardiness or even absenteeism.
And God knows, we alllllllll have that one friend that says they’ll meet you at noon for lunch but ALWAYS shows up 15-20 minutes late every time.
Every. Single. TIME.
Don’t be that friend.
6. How to Grocery Shop & Cook a Meal
This is definitely one of those topics that will set your teenager up for success because it’s one of the most basic and fundamental needs every human must master for survival—PREPARING and EATING food.
If you’re the type of parent that microwaves Hot Pockets or tosses a pizza in the oven, then maybe this will be a difficult box to check off your list, but if you’re the type of parent like I am that cooks ALL THE TIME and you’re not showing your child how to turn the oven on and bake a casserole, you’re genuinely dong them a disservice.
I think my younger brothers biggest slap in the face when it came to feeding themselves happened after I left them for a couple weeks and traveled around Europe. My younger sister came and stayed over to watch my dogs and basically ensure that the little brothers didn’t burn the house down…and it was in those 12 days that I was gone that the three of them took it upon themselves to figure out how to make dinner night after night. Sure it involved Google and YouTube and a phone call to another sister, but they all managed to piece the puzzle together and create something edible. Frankly, I was impressed by their efforts and continued to encourage my youngest brother to be creative in the kitchen even after I returned home.
I showed him one of my absolute favorite apps in my phone, the Food Network, and told him to print recipes that he was interested in trying. Recipes turned into grocery trips…that turned into food prepping…and that turned into some pretty incredible dishes for an 18 year old young man!
About a year after my first trip to Europe, the little brothers moved out on their own and I felt comfortable enough with the situation because I knew at least they wouldn’t starve to death.
7. How to Run a Household / Be a Good Roommate
- Doing the laundry
- Doing chores
- Locking up the house when they leave and before bed every night
- Energy / water conservation
Raise your hand if you’re a Mom or Dad that does EVERYTING for your kids…?
If you did, go put yourself in timeout.
Let me tell you a quick story…
Once upon a time, my dear, sweet Stepmom did everything for my little brothers. She cooked, cleaned, did laundry, chores…SHE DID EVERYTHING.
Then she got sick with cancer and my Dad started doing everything for my little brothers too.
After my Stepmom passed away I remember talking to my Dad on MANY OCCASIONS and saying, “Dad, show the boys how to do their own laundry, let them do the dishes, have them help you.” And our Groundhog’s Day-like conversation always frustrated him and he’d respond with, “It’s just easier for me to do it myself. They don’t pay attention and I don’t have the patience.”
My brothers were 16 and 21—they easily could have been taught HOW TO COOK AND CLEAN UP AFTER THEMSELVES, and sure my Dad might have had to go behind them and adjust the trail chaos, but in the meantime, they’d have learned some new skills.
Fast forward to 18 months after my Stepmom passed away and my Dad suddenly did too.
My brothers moved in with me and my now ex-husband, and because I was guilty of doing EVERYTHING for my ex, I followed suit and did the same for my brothers—just short of their laundry and cleaning their bathroom. Wasn’t that the pot calling the kettle black?!?! Just like I told my Dad NOT to do everything for them, as soon as they moved in with me, I started doing the same.
Six months after they arrived in our home, I made the decision that it was time to go live a new life and separate from my ex (that’s a post for another day). I found a new house, a fairly large one at that, and I packed up two big dogs and two GIANT little brothers and moved us out.
I had just spent the last eight years of my life taking care of a grown-ass man that did NOTHING to help me around the house, I certainly wasn’t going to be the maid for my very able-bodied little brothers as we started our new life in this NEW HOUSE.
They’re NOT the tidiest kids on the block and they occasionally left the front door unlocked when they’d leave the house, BUT I have no doubt that their time spent living under my roof wasn’t in vain.
I had small rules and high expectations. They might have mocked me under their breath, annoyed that their older sister was bossing them around, but I know for a fact that they learned how to be respectful and polite when it comes to cleaning community spaces and being a GOOD roommate!
I thrust my brothers into this new world filled with accountability, learning new skills and brutal honesty, that I’m sure at times was over-the-top harsh, but at the end of the day, they needed that push from me and I don’t regret being that person.
8. Employability Skills
This is such an IMPORTANT aspect of life because it will consume the majority of your living years on this earth, but for whatever reason, it’s a wildly overlooked conversation that most parents never have with their children: HOW TO BE A GOOD EMPLOYEE!?!?
While my parents never had a direct sit-down with me filled with pointers and advice on how to be a good employee, they always led by example, by being hard working, very accomplished individuals in their particular career fields.
By setting a good example in their own lives, my parents taught me the importance of:
- Respecting authority and doing what I’m told without argument
- Arriving ON TIME
- Being prepared for the job, whatever it may be
- And be THE HARDEST WORKER IN THE ROOM!
Sadly, I work with lots of young people right now that feel incredibly entitled in their position and lazily go about their job. And being that we all work in the service industry, if they stepped it up a little more, took more initiative and CARED about their job, they’d make a lot more money. Unfortunately though, they use our job as social hour and still expect to make as much as I do.
That’s never going to happen.
It’s hard to teach a young person that isn’t open-minded, but even worse, it’s hard to teach a young person that doesn’t care.
Lead by example—you’ll be doing your child a favor.