Adulting 101: Are Your Kids Ready?

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Last year, my collegiate son FaceTimed me and asked, "Why are my clothes always so wrinkled?" We discussed possibilities. "Using a dryer sheet might help, too," I reminded him.

He laughed and said, "I have literally never used one of those!" I was stunned. All three of my boys learned how to sort, wash and dry their own laundry in elementary school. I even laminated step-by-step instructions and thumbtacked them to the laundry room wall. Lesson learned: Teaching kids to "adult" isn't foolproof!

There's so much to teach. When our kids are young, it's fairly easy: Make your bed, brush your teeth, clear your place. Before long, they can tackle actual chores, like emptying the dishwasher.

But beyond that, how do we equip our kids to launch well? The truth is: There's no one-size-fits-all answer. But as you raise kids to become capable young adults, responsible for managing their own relationships, households, money and health, here are some areas to contemplate.

Encourage your kids to estimate the time tasks will take, decide which tasks come first, and schedule accordingly. It's an early lesson in prioritizing.

They'll make mistakes and some things won't get done. But, as author Jessica Lahey explains in her book, The Gift of Failure, allowing kids to be autonomous helps them become more competent owners of their day-to-day lives. Sounds like adulting!

Kids may initially resist chores and learning new skills but giving them tools to feel capable is a gift. My 12-year-old self was incredibly proud when I did my own laundry. I felt absolutely grown up.

In addition to laundry, here are a few things you might consider teaching:

  • Basic house cleaning skills.
  • Using a plunger.
  • Basic sewing (mending a tear, sewing a button).
  • Car care (interior and exterior cleaning, how often to change the oil, and the fact that the driver's manual can answer lots of questions).
  • How to change a tire (Bridgestone's website has a great video. You can learn right along with your kid!).
  • Kitchen skills (simple cooking, like grilled cheese, PB&J and scrambled eggs). The Grand Rapids Downtown Market often offers cooking classes, sometimes especially for kids.

Money can be intimidating but the earlier we learn how to earn, spend, save and invest, the better. To this end, many high schools now offer personal finances classes. One important thing students typically learn is how and why to establish an emergency fund, said Brian Johnson, who teaches such a class at Forest Hills Northern in Grand Rapids.

"If a 17-year-old student can have the discipline to establish a $500-$1,000 emergency fund, then they can carry that same discipline into the future as their income grows," he explained.

From the time they were infants, you've handled your kids' health care. Prep them for being an adult by turning over the reins while they're still at home. Let them handle scheduling, talk to them about how health insurance works, and discuss which OTC medications to buy for which ailment. I missed this last one and have fielded many calls asking which med to buy!

When it comes to mental health, modeling behavior is a huge component. But it's not the only thing you can do (see the sidebar for more).

You may also want to spend some time on any or all of the following:

  • How to read a map without their phone (cellphones die; service is limited).
  • How to set and work toward goals.
  • How to plan a trip, book a flight and use public transportation.
  • How to tell someone they need help—at home, work or in public.
  • The importance of protecting their time by saying "no" to some commitments.
  • How to advocate for themselves at school, work, in the healthcare system, and even with friends and family.

As parents, we may always feel like there's more to teach. There is! But, if you've given them a strong foundation, your kids will understand and navigate learning new skills and lessons no matter how old they are. Just like you do.

More articles to help your kids spread their wings:

Kirsetin Morello is a Michigan-based author, speaker, writer, travel-lover, wife and grateful mom of three boys. Read more about her at www.KirsetinMorello.com.

This article originally appeared in the Aug/Sep '22 issue of West Michigan Woman.


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