Ah, self-sufficient teens and millennials. It seems to be a running joke in today’s world for these two groups of people to be anything but self-sufficient or self-sustaining. But upon closer observation, one can actually find and identify this small but strong demographic.
The beauty of the situation is that we have control over how self-sustaining our kids turn out to be. The future is brighter than we sometimes think, and the next generation can achieve tremendous strides – IF we, their parents, teach them how and give them the tools they need to succeed.
Parents do have a tricky and difficult job. They must strike the balance between trying to enjoy and have fun with their teens, and actually getting some things accomplished in life, such as jobs, school work, and every day household chores. All of this while helping their teens attain that sweet spot of self-sufficiency that they all desperately need to develop.
Helping your teens reach adulthood successfully (and hopefully with some fun and adventure along the way) is one of life’s greatest sources of happiness and achievement. Even though I miss my older kids, I can’t tell you how rewarding it is as a parent to see my daughter and her husband working their jobs, paying their own bills, and conducting their lives as successful, responsible adults. Or to see my son getting ready to graduate from college and then get married soon after. It’s truly heartwarming.
But it can also be a little scary and hard to deal with. If our kids are good at being on their own, they won’t need us anymore, right?
Wrong. They need you in a much different capacity than when they were in elementary school. That’s why parenting teens and young adults is so hard. Our roles change and we have to be ready for it.
So how do we do it?
Below are 5 tips for nudging your teens toward self-sufficiency and responsible adulthood.
- Let ‘em do stuff!
I can’t emphasize enough how important it is to expose your kids to a variety of trips, activities, and learning experiences. You just never know what a kid will show interest in until he or she has the opportunity to experience something first hand.
Those interests and passions develop quickly in kids, and their proficiency in their preferred activities will be very likely to grow if they have found something they truly love to do.
An example is Alicyn Newman, our Exceptional Teen from February, 2016. She is a champion violinist, but at first her parents were not too sure about making the investment in the instrument and lessons. But Alicyn persisted, and her parents allowed her to take up the violin. She fell in love with it. Her love for the instrument led to her desire to practice often, and her ability flourished and led to her winning several state fiddle contests and even placing 3rd in a national contest.
- Teach them skills.
Don’t assume your kids know how to do things just because you do. Sometimes what may seem simple or obvious to one person is not that way to another, and this is certainly true with your kids.
When you are doing an activity, invite your teen to work with you and help out, especially if it requires a skill he or she can learn.
My husband has always been good at working on cars, and he has taught our kids some important key points in how to safely maintain their vehicles. Our son, more so than our daughters, took the most interest in working on his vehicle, and he knows how to change the oil in his car. They all know how to inflate and check the air pressure in the tires, and even change a tire in an emergency.
Another example is cooking. My kids are excellent cooks, all three of them, which is handy because, like most of us, they enjoy eating. You’ve seen me write here about Andrea’s vegan diet choices, but even before that she was an outstanding little chef. And yes, I allowed all of them to use sharp knives in the kitchen, with my supervision, of course, and all still have 10 fully functional digits. They used the oven and the stove top, also, and as a result, each one has developed impressive culinary skills through the years.
The short list of other life skills you can teach them is managing a checking and a savings account, smart grocery shopping, laundry, meal planning, organization, career planning, and budgeting and financial management.
- Give them jobs and pay them.
Nothing provides incentive to do a job like the prospect of getting paid, a very worthy life skill for teens and young adults to learn. I have written about the virtues of teens working and getting paid many times, and it bears repeating here.
Refer to my article Should You Pay Your Teen an Allowance, a Commission, or Nothing At All?
- Don’t be afraid they might get hurt.
I know, this one is hard to get over. Being a mom, I constantly worry about what might happen, if…
But we can drive ourselves, or worse our kids, crazy if we let those worries consume us and thus result in our never letting them do anything.
Naturally, taking unnecessary risks is foolish, but certain tasks can be done with our supervision that allow them to learn while still being safe. Cooking, as mentioned above, is a good example.
I remember when Don taught Graham how to use a chainsaw. When he told me (after the fact) I was a little alarmed, but then he explained how he did it. Only straight cuts down on a log that was on the ground. Graham did a great job, with Dad standing close by. He learned a lot that day about how to handle a chainsaw, but also how to have confidence in himself to be able to do the job.
The book Wild at Heart by John Eldredge helped me to relax about things like the chainsaw thing by allowing me to develop a better understanding of why boys and men need such activities in order to be happy and fulfilled. I highly recommend this book to any mom of boys.
- Encourage them, and drastically limit criticism.
Finally, be encouraging and supportive. Once again, I can’t emphasize the importance of not nagging or being critical of your teen. When they want to venture out and try new things, view it as a growing or learning experience that will help them achieve the self-sufficiency we all need in order to survive, and even thrive in our hectic, complicated world.
How do you teach your teens self-sufficiency? Please scroll down and leave a comment in the section below about what other life skills are important for teens to have, and how you are imparting that knowledge to your kids. Thanks, and