Flying the Nest: 8 Self-Sufficiency Skills Every Parent Should Consider Teaching

teenby Melissa Deuter, M.D.

What do you need to do to prepare your child for adulthood?

To develop new skills, children need to learn through experience. Give your child room to take on responsibilities and make mistakes while he still lives at home. Provide abundant opportunities for supervised practice. Your family is the best judge of when your teenager is ready to leave the nest. Base your support and expectations on your child’s abilities, level of emotional security, and personal history.

Skills every parent can teach:

1. Academic/Work Skills:

Most parents have been focused on academic and work skills throughout childhood. Learning how to be a productive student or employee begins with learning basic responsibility. When children 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.

2. Domestic/Maintenance skills:

The necessary household skills teens need to build before moving out include:

  • Basic cooking
  • Auto maintenance—like learning when the car should be serviced and how to change a tire
  • Laundry
  • Cleaning skills for a dorm room or apartment,
  • Handling small household emergencies like a clogged toilet

3. Financial skills:

Before leaving home, kids and teens need practice budgeting, managing money, balancing a checkbook, saving for emergencies, maintaining bank accounts, and paying bills.

4. Self-care skills:

Your child should be equipped to ask for help, say no, and be assertive. During the teenage years, your child needs to learn to be in a quiet place to re-group, talk or write about difficult problems, and/or plug into a faith community for support.

5. Medical care skills:

Every adult needs to have healthcare knowledge to 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.

6. Emotional/Psychological Skills:

Every child needs to develop 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.

Pre-teens and teens with well-developed emotional and psychological skills know how to walk away from a fight and how to exit an out-of-control social situation (such as friends using drugs).

7. 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 (and when to 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.

8. Romantic/Intimate Relationship Skills:

Teen dating can help kids learn to distinguish between love and infatuation. They can learn to ask someone to dance, 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.

Dr. Melissa Deuter is a psychiatrist in San Antonio, Texas, who specializes in the care of emerging adults. Visit www.MelissaDeuter.com or follow her on Twitter @MStenDeut.

Image: Vancouver Public Library

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