8 Life Skills Your Kids Need Before College

8 Life Skills Your Kids Need Before College

Somehow, your kid is heading off to college or will be within a year or two. How did that happen?! Aside from all the work of getting into school, the stress of paying for it, and anxiety over roommates, it is critical that you send your teen to campus with more than bedding and books. This is a transitional phase into adulthood, and you won’t be there to pick up all the pieces if something goes wrong. Before you launch (or toss) your kids into this next phase, it is worth reviewing a few life skills your kid needs to know to be a successful emerging adult.

1. Money management

Your college-bound child needs to know just how far a dollar goes (and how to stop there).  Is he regularly asking for extra money?  Does she take for granted that you are going to cover her expenses?  Does he overdraft his checking account? If you are still paying for things, consider establishng a monthly allowance and require your child to make the payments on luxuries like cell phones, gasoline and online video game memberships (and put some of it in savings).

2. Communal-living skills

Your kid is about to share a living space with people other than family.  (Finally, all those years of assigning them chores will pay off.  Yeah, right!)  Does she finish chores without being nagged?  Does he keep his living space relatively sanitary (if not necessarily neat)?  If not, it’s time to discuss being considerate of others (i.e., you are not a child any more), personal accountability (i.e., people shouldn’t have to remind you over and over), and personal responsibility (i.e., I am not your maid) with your kid.  It’s also time for him to do his own laundry.

3. Keeping his/her own schedule

Soon, your kid will need to completely manage her own appointment calendar.  Does he get up on time for school?  Does she keep appointments?  Does she remember school assignments and exams?  Have him use that damnable cell phone to remember his own appointments and fulfill obligations.  If something falls through the cracks, sit down with her to review how it happened.  Have her modify the plan and try it again and again and again until it works.

4. Life skills

Your kid will need to speak for himself, stand up for himself, and play well with others without your help.  Does she know how to greet people?  Can he express his frustration in appropriate ways?  Can she work with people she doesn’t particularly like?  Does he resist social pressure?  Does he encourage others?  If not, back up and review.  Require him to practice on you.

5. Independence (aka, the opportunity to screw up)

By senior year, your kid needs to practice establishing some of her own boundaries.  Younger teens are told what to do (“Be home by 12 so that you can get your sleep.”).  Older teenagers should increasingly decide for themselves (“What time are you going to be home tonight?”).  BUT!  While they identify their own limits, you will make them think it through.  It has to be reasonable and you will hold them to the limit they set.  “You said you would be home by 2 and its 2:30.  You’re grounded”.  If it’s risky, they have to make the case they can handle it responsibly.   If they go too far freedom is curtailed.  Then have them try again.

6. Self-discipline

The most important predictor of success in adulthood is the ability to put off immediate desires for long-term goals.  Does your kid pass on fun things to complete assignments?  Is she following through on commitments no matter what?  Does he recognize when he is letting things slide?  Moreover, talk directly with her about the importance of self-discipline.  Require her to keep commitments, especially when they interfere with something fun.

7. Decision-making

Moreover, pay close attention to how your kid makes good decisions.  Does he weigh the long-term consequences?  However, does she accurately assess potential risks? Is he ok with seeking out and taking advice?  Help your child think all the way through the potential outcomes of different options, both the desirable and the undesirable.   When his decision turns out to be bad one,  review how he might have anticipated it (and how he might do it differently the next time).

8. Living with integrity

Are your kid’s actions guided by a set of strongly held morals or values?  Does she hold herself to a high standard?  Does he take responsibility for his actions? Is he respects the rights of others?  Is she honest?  Keep pounding away at the importance of living a moral life.

Teens leaving high school and heading to college need the opportunity for freedom, responsibility, personal accountability and learning from mistakes if they are going to be ready for young adulthood.  Communication is especially crucial during this phase to help them think for themselves.  This means talking things through rather than telling them what to do.  If they are demonstrating these skills already, be proud and leave things alone.  If they haven’t quite mastered them, times a wastin’! 

Take this time to help prepare them for their first run at independence when you can still offer some guidance (and protection).

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