Parenting: Preparing Our Children For Independence
by Stephanie Partridge
What should your teen know about being independent? How do we, as parents, know when it is time for our offspring to leave the nest? And at what point should we push them out of the nest? This dilemma has been plaguing parents for ages. But the bigger question is how do we prepare our children for independence? If you have seen the comedy, "Failure to Launch," about an adult man who still lives with him parents, you may have chuckled a few times, but in the back of your mind you were probably thinking, "That could be me!"
The confusing thing about this is that if you ask ten different parents you will get ten different answers. When it comes to raising kids, parents tend to have strong opinions.
The adult child in the movie was equipped for the "real world," but had little motivation to "launch." His parents made his world cushy and he had no motivation to leave the nest. As parents, it is instinctual to try to do things to make our children's lives easier. We want them to be happy and we don't want them to experience discomfort or pain.
Unfortunately, life isn't so kind – and we won't always be around to shield them from the harshness of reality.
This means that it is our duty as parents to prepare them. We have to teach them the value of hard work, just how far a dollar really goes and that not everyone is as nice, forgiving and accommodating as mom and dad. And the pain from that growth is almost as hard on us as it is on our children. But it is very, very necessary.
I had an "easy" life when it came to chores, money and "stuff." I didn't have to do chores, my parents gave me money whenever I wanted it and whatever "stuff" I wanted or needed was supplied to me with little or no effort on my part.
When I moved out of my parent's house at age 19 I was lost. My neighbor's 16 year old son would come over and mop my floors (he eventually taught me). I worked, but things had always come so easy for me that I really had little appreciation for things I had. I floundered for a while, treading water and barely staying afloat. I was overwhelmed to say the least. When I started having children I was really, really lost.
It wasn't until I was 31 and a freshman in college, raising three small children that I began to get my feet under me. Those five years were transforming for me. I became very non-materialistic, more aware of how I was handling my money and I became more disciplined.
And I was determined that my children would not have such difficulties transitioning into the real world.
I taught all three of my kids to cook, starting at an early age. My oldest son is an amazing cook and my daughter is now taking gourmet cooking classes. My youngest knows how to cook, but it isn't his favorite thing to do. They also all three know how to keep up a house, wash clothes, clean, manage money and get around both in a car and using public transportation.
They grew up experiencing my resourcefulness as I managed to raise them with very, very little child support or help. They are all outside-of-the -box thinkers and have on more than one occasion come up with brilliantly unique solutions to difficult problems. They have their assigned chores and each has a night that they must plan, shop for and prepare the family meal. My 17 year old daughter, however, will text me at work, particularly if she sees I am running late, asking if I want her to start dinner. I think they are growing into self sufficient, independent young adults.
Writer Harry H. Harrison, Jr. has written a book that is a must-read for parents who want to prepare their children for the real world. "1001 Things Teens Should Know Before They Leave Home (Or Else They'll Come Back)" deals with this sometimes difficult topic with compassion and humor. According to Harrison, studies indicate that of the teens that leave home to "get out on their own," a full 50% of them will move back home in five or six years – and stay for a while. The book prepares parents for preparing their teens for survival in the adult world. The table of contents alone is a veritable fount of information. The titles of the chapters read like a set of practical guidelines:
They should know how to get a job so they can make their own money and not have to move home.
They should know how to live on a starting salary so they won't go broke and have to move home.
They should know where the money is so they don't get stuck in a loser career and have to move home.
They should know how to live without mom waking them up, doing their laundry, and taking care of them or else they'll move home.
They should know the secrets of home repair and Home Depot so when something breaks, they won't move home.
They should have an adult's vocabulary so they don't sound like a teenager and have to move home.
You can find this invaluable resource (and amusing read) on Amazon, Barnes and Nobel and a host of other book stores.
Here is a sampling of his no nonsense, humorous advice to parents regarding what they should teach their teens:
1. They should know adulthood isn't for sissies.
5. They should know the lifestyle they enjoyed growing up isn't waiting for them upon graduation.
6. They should know a six figure salary, a splashy condo and a Beamer take time. Or an MBA.
7. They should know to seek the advice of a mentor. Not the wisdom of their unemployed club friends.
33. They should know college and graduate school are hard, time-consuming and just warm-ups for life.
40. They should know self discipline is a key to solving life's problems.
46. They should know victims are never happy.
47. They should know life is all about negotiation. A skill they learned when they were six.
48. They should know to not wait until there are helicopters circling overhead to start a prayer life.
54. They should know growing up takes moving out. And moving on.
We take the journey with our children. When we embark on a road trip, we leave armed with a map. Consider this book your map to teaching your teen independence.
Stephanie Partridge is a freelance writer and photographer as well as a FOIA analyst for a federal agency in Washington, D.C. She is a single mom to Jeffery, 19; Micah Elizabeth, 17 and Benjamin, 15. She is also the author of the ebook, “Diet is a Dirty Word.”
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