When your kids graduate from high school and get ready to leave the nest, it brings up a whole mess of emotions. On one hand, it’s a time of celebration. This is what you worked for all these years! On the other hand, as a parent, it’s the beginning of the end. It’s normal to feel sad, and maybe even a little panicky about what life will be like when your graduate leaves the nest. I have lots of resources on Empty Nest Blessed to help you get through that transition, adjust, and move forward, but for now, it’s important to remember that your job isn’t quite finished yet. You’ll feel better when they go if you know you’ve finished strong as a parent, and equipped them with the life skills they need to succeed in college. Today I’m sharing ten critical life skills they need to know before they go.
1. Find Their Way Around
If you’ve lived in the same place for awhile, your kids may not know how to use a navigation system. Make sure they can use both the driving and walking directions on the navigation system on their phone, or download Waze or Google Maps. They also need to learn how to read an old-fashioned paper map in order to get an overview of an area. When Bob and I were in NYC recently, we realized we had been using our phones to find our way around, but we were a little fuzzy on the actual layout of the city as a whole. (Where is the Meat-Packing District anyway?) We snagged a city map at a souvenir shop and got the big picture.
Your kids also need to know how to navigate their way around an airport as well as how to use public transportation. Tell them the key is to look around and read signs. It seems obvious, but in an unfamiliar place some kids may panic and forget this simple tip.
2. Be a Good Roommate
They need to learn how to pull their own weight in a household. This includes not only things like unloading the dishwasher, taking out the trash, and doing laundry, but especially noticing when it needs to be done and taking the initiative to do it.
3. Manage Medical Issues
Have your child take over making their medical appointments, filling and refilling prescriptions, and being their own advocate when it comes to managing their health. Before I sent my kids off, I realized they didn’t know that pharmacists can often be a great resource and that many of their medical questions could be handled by calling their doctor’s nurse or medical assistant. Knowledge like this really empowered them when they were ill at school and had to navigate the campus medical center and local pharmacy.
4. Talk to Strangers
You may have been handling this one for your kids without even realizing it! They need to be able to ask for everything from directions to advice and guidance from all kinds of people. From their teachers and librarians to waiters and store clerks, stating their case or asking good questions is an important life skill. Encourage them to see others as valuable resources to help them learn, grow, and achieve their objectives. Let them practice by returning an item to Target or getting their car inspected.
5. Interpersonal Skills
Do your kids know how to get along with and respect those who don’t share their value systems, political persuasions, or even fashion sense? Do they know how to disagree respectfully? Make sure they understand how to be a good listener, a good friend, and how to handle difficult people. Also be sure they know when to reach out for help in dealing with a challenging person. One of my friends had a son who was assigned a severely depressed roommate. Her son needed to know that it was okay to talk with his Resident Assistant and bring his roommate’s issues to the attention of people who were equipped to help.
6. Manage Money
Talk with your student about the type of expenses you expect them to take care of, and what expenses you’ll handle. Encourage your child to get a job on campus, to babysit, referee, or dog sit to earn extra cash. Agreeing in advance about who pays for what will prevent potential conflicts down the road. We told our kids that we would always pay for their meals — even if they were out with friends — because we wanted to make sure they were well-nourished(!).
7. Try New Things
College is full of new experiences, from meeting new people to studying abroad. Encourage them to try new things. (This might be something as simple as trying a new food or taking a unique class.) We were amazed when our middle son, who would never even sing the hymns in church, joined the Men’s Chorus at his university! Make sure they know that college is the time to stretch themselves and take some risks. If not now, when?
8. Cope with Fluctuating Emotions
Whether it’s the moodiness that comes with hormones, or just the ups and downs of adjusting to college life, help your student recognize that the ebb and flow of moods and emotions are normal when it comes to life transitions. We told our kids they could call us day or night when they needed to vent, cry, celebrate, ask for advice, or just talk. (Warning! When they do reach out, how well you respond may well determine if they’ll continue to do so. For articles on parenting your adult kids well, click here.)
9. Manage Assignments & Deadlines
Stop acting as your teen’s alarm clock and reminding them what to do when. Help them understand that life is full of choices, and those choices have consequences. They need to suffer the consequences of poor choices or poor planning in order to learn and grow. (This can be difficult to watch as a parent, but it’s a necessary life skill for your teen.)
10. Stay Safe
Make sure they know how to call an Uber, dial 911, and share their location on their phone. Talk with them about staying safe in various situations and make sure they have an exit plan if they don’t feel comfortable. We told our kids they could call us any time they felt compromised or vulnerable, and we would stay on the phone with them as long as they needed. Encourage them to develop a support system of friends or roommates who will be there for them if they ever feel unsafe.
Have your kids already left the nest? What life skills did you make sure they knew before they went? I’d love to know. Please share in the comments below!
ABOUT MY LOOK
I love this denim shirt with the 3D white flower embellishments. I get compliments on it everywhere I go! I already had a couple pairs of white jeans, but this pair was too special to pass up with the lacy, scalloped hem! The wedges I’m wearing are the must-haves I talked about in my SO in the KNOW post last week. They’re easy to walk in because of the platform on the front and they come in several colors. Click any of the images below for more information! xoxo
Photo by Megan Weaver.