Preparing Teens for Independence  

November 19, 2020
Written by:
Guest Author

We love our children. Yet, the goal for our teens is to become self-sustaining adults, who move out  of our house, and exude confidence and success without us. Right? With the academic curriculum  demands of the day, it is hard to prioritize additional skills and knowledge that ensure they have been  introduced to what matters the most—LIFE SKILLS.  

The fact is, many basic “adulting” concepts can be missing in our youth and we don’t always know  what our children don’t know. The easiest way to incorporate some life skills into daily activities is to have a  QOD (Question of the Day). Questioning allows review of life skill topics, in small doses, to ensure there  are no gaps. Then teaching or re-teaching, as needed, can occur. (Plus, you never know what other path of  knowledge these questions will take you on.) 

Turn the following 9 life skill topics into questions and get started on helping teens avoid frustration  for not knowing … 

  • Making Introductions 

Most teens know that introducing oneself to someone involves a greeting, stating their name, and  ending with a pleasantry (e.g., Hi! My name is Beth Carey. So, nice to finally meet you). However, your teen  may not know the rule for introducing others is to always say the most important or higher-ranking  individual’s name first. (e.g., Dad, I would like you to meet my friend Emily).  

In the United States, good eye contact and a handshake would follow (or elbow bump currently)  and then “small talk” (polite conversation about unimportant matters). Small talk is not something that  comes naturally for any generation so don’t hesitate to practice this task. 

  • Reading an Analog Clock, a Ruler, and Telling Military Time 

 You may chuckle here, but have you checked these skills with your teenager lately? Our digital  world has created a generation (or two) that cannot read a face clock, yet alone tell military time (like the  rest of the world). And ruler reading is good to the 1/4, 1/2, 3/4 markings, but if you review 7/8ths or  3/32nds you could be surprised. Tackle each task on separate days. 

  • Ability to do Tasks related to General Home Life  
    • change a furnace filter  
    • change bed sheets & make a bed  
    • clean a bathroom, the kitchen, & a window (w/out smears) 
    • do laundry (include emptying lint filter) 
    • handle an overflowing toilet & use a plunger 
    • load and run dishwasher
    • locate & turn off main water valve, locate main power breaker box & reset breakers
    • plan & make a meal  
    • set a table properly 
    • sew on a button 
  • Dining Protocols 

Most teens love eating, but they need etiquette knowledge beyond eating out of the drive-thru bag  to avoid embarrassment when eating with others (especially on special nights like proms and weddings).  Things like napkin placement, when to start eating, passing food guidelines, how to indicate when you are  finished with a meal, how to tip properly, and so on. 

  • Job Hunting  

 Adolescents often want to work but get intimidated by the process. Making a list of job lead sources  (signs, company websites, employment agencies, school placement offices, etc.) and identifying interests and  skills a person has to offer an employer is a great way to start. Review rules for filling out an application, appropriate interviewing attire (hint: one step above company dress code), practice/plan for common  interview questions, and create a resume. Include skills for writing a thank you note after an interview. 

  • Writing Thank You Notes  

 Notes for gifts, dinner engagements, condolence gestures, or any kindness shown to a person needs  to happen and ASAP, as you know. But does your adolescent know to include what they are thankful for  and a related piece of info to the note? Do they realize that electronic words of gratitude are better than  nothing, but handwritten notes are better? (Check their ability to address an envelope properly too.)  

  • Managing Money  

 Start your kids on fiscal independence by helping them take control of their own money. Discuss budgeting, banking, saving,  using Venmo/Paypal/Zelle, writing & cashing checks, balancing an account, and building good credit. After all, “You must gain control over your money or the lack of it will forever control you”—Dave Ramsey.  

  • Rules of Social Decorum when Online and Texting  

 There are several guidelines to know under this topic, but the #1 rule for cell phone use is to step  away from others as no one wants to hear your conversation or watch you text.  

When it comes to online decorum, avoid personal, serious, and emotional topics … save those for  in person dialogue. 

  • Ability to do Tasks related to Car Maintenance  
    • fill car with gas & pay 
    • check tire pressure & change a tire 
    • add wiper fluid & change blades 
    • jump a dead car battery with cables  
    • check fluids 

For more life skill CURRICULUM IDEAS and FREE PRINTABLE MATERIAL to help teens continue  on the path to successful “adulting” and independence visit my website and subscribe to the L.I.F.E. (Learning Information For Everyday) email. You will be sent several teaching aids  to use with your teens related to this content and a DISCOUNT CODE for book ordering.  

More About the Author

Beth Carey is a retired high school teacher with a passion for aiding teenagers as they prepare  for life. Her mission is to help teens with their journey into the real world as happy, responsible,  independent adults. Beth received a master’s degree from Georgia State University, was  awarded Georgia Marketing Teacher of the Year and Teacher of the Year at her home high school. She invites other adults to Challenge Teen’s Basic Knowledge, Social Skills, and Independence  Readiness by utilizing her L.I.F.E. (Learning Information For Everyday) book series. She attributes the use  of humor, setting high expectations, and the power of talking to teens about adult life expectations as a key  strategy to reducing unwanted embarrassment and awkwardness for adolescents. You can too!