The job of parenting is never finished. Even when your little ones grow into adolescents and adults, there is still work to be done in order to best prepare them for life out in the real world. As many grown folks know, adulting can be rough. Make sure that your loved ones have the skills and an ultimate adulting checklist to be completely successful once they fly the coop.
The Ultimate Adulting Checklist
You did your very best, but somewhere between child and fully functioning adult, your offspring seemed to get stuck. They are so close to getting out into the real world and slaying, if only they could master a few more adulting skills that seasoned grownups sometimes take for granted. No worries, these key suggestions, tips, and checklist, based on the sound and solid advice from author, educator, and senior expert at Understood.org, Amanda Morin, can take just about any lagging young adult and prepare them for whatever the world might throw their way. Directions for Adobe printables are available if you need help.
Why Are Young Adults Struggling?
You did it all right. You read books, helped them with projects, sat through millions of playdates, practically lived in your car during their teen years as they traversed the universe going from sporting event to sporting event, made sure they signed up for the right classes, took their tests on time, and now here you are wondering if they will be living in your basement forever. It's not just you. Grown children struggling with adulting is a very common phenomenon. Some universities are even offering classes on how to literally "adult." You don't want to pay for a class like that, so it is pertinent that you get your grown kid on the track to responsible adult now.
Why are today's young adults struggling to put the pieces together and what can be done?
A Life of Scheduling
Today's kids are living lives of constant schedules. School, sports, chores, and more are laid out for them. Why do parents do this? Amanda Morin, author of Adulting Made Easy: Things Someone Should Have Told You About Getting Your Grown-Up Act Together, suggests that in today's parenting culture, parents fear boredom. Being constantly scheduled means less time for kids to be left to their own devices. Telling them what to do and where to be feels like less work for already over-stretched parents. A constant wheel of overscheduled humans means that when it comes time to take the reins and self-start, young adults can't. They don't have the skills and practice of time management. In the efforts to be wonderful, giving parents, crutches have been created.
Passing the Scheduling Torch
Kids these days don't have to learn the art of scheduling; they are told where to be and when by their parents, their friends over text, and the almighty Google calendar. When they waltz into the real world, mastering schedules will become essential to their success. Get your teens and adult children to take accountability for themselves.
- Focus on priorities - Emphasis what is important in life so teens and young adults continue to place emphasis on top priorities.
- Teach them the importance of keeping medical appointments - Things like doctor, dentist, orthodontist, and dermatologist appointments must be made and kept. Those important contact numbers should also be kept somewhere for easy access.
- Teach time management - They won't learn it by osmosis. Time management skills must be taught and modeled while children are younger so that by the time they are ready to live independently, it is a more natural process.
- Teach teens to write out their schedules - Make sure they know to include key information like times, dates, and places.
- Create routines in your home - Routines will change, but the basic theory behind them will stay with children well into adult years.
- Set limits - Routines and schedules fall to the wayside if young adults are left without any boundaries. While they live under your roof, they should have electronic limits, curfews, and other set limitations.
Dominating Domestic Duties
They don't have to leave the nest cooking like Julia Child, but kids will have to keep themselves alive, which means being about to purchase and prepare basic dishes. You also don't want your son or daughter calling you to hang a picture on their wall every time they run-up to the local Target superstore. It seems that generations prior were so much more in the know when it came to domestic duties. Morin raises a good point as to why this may be. The shift in education has moved from a life-centric approach, offering home economics and financial basics classes, to a college-based, rigorous academic approach. Young adults are learning to ace tests, but lacking in skills like how to sew a button on a shirt or know their way around an oven. Young adults need basic training in domestic duties, arming them with confidence and knowledge to take care of themselves.
- Teach teens the grocery store basics - Educate them on how to pick fresh produce, locate expiration dates, and compare prices of items.
- Focus on a few basic meal recipes - Scrambled eggs, pasta dishes, grilled cheese, and baked potatoes are all things that even the most clueless chef can create in a kitchen.
- Have teens and young adults help with home repairs - Before they leave home, make sure they know their way around a hammer and nails, a screwdriver, and a drill.
- Go over basic home tasks - Teach them things like how to change a lightbulb, how to run a dishwasher and a washer and dryer, and how to work with a circuit breaker.
Adulting Odds, Ends, and Everything in Between
Your child will always be your baby, but when he/she moves away, they are adults to the rest of the world. Along with this upgrade in title comes an upgrade in adult responsibilities and tasks.
- Dealing with a driver's license - You likely helped your teen obtain his/her driver's license, but make sure they know the maintenance of it. Discuss renewal procedures and making changes should your grown child move out of state.
- Voting- Do they know how to register to vote? What about navigating politics?
- Setting up Services- If your child gets their own place, they will be living in the dark ages unless they know how to set up their electricity, water, garbage services, and internet.
Fear of Failing
Today's children are growing up with a genuine fear of failing. Morin points out that the fear of failing is often two-fold. Kids are either being raised in a world of participation ribbons, where everything is a celebrated success and everyone is a winner, or they are growing up in a world where success isn't an option, so why try? As parents, it is your job to teach both sides of failure. Yes, in the world of adulting, failure is most definitely an option. It stings and it is no fun, but it is going to happen. That said, just because you might sink doesn't mean that you don't have to get in the pool.
On the flip side, success is always around the corner. Kids who grow up thinking that true success is unattainable are more likely to shy away from it. Another failure? It's almost too much to bear. There are a few strategies that parents can use to prepare their older children for the workforce.
- Dress for success - Teach your child the importance of looking the part.
- Here vs. Now - It is hard to see the long game. Today's youth sometimes struggle in acknowledging where they are currently will look vastly different compared to where they will ultimately end up.
- Goal setting - Create and adjust goals. Look at short-term goals versus long-term goals.
- Code-switching - How you speak to your family, friends, work colleagues, and superiors are all vastly different. Learn how to speak to different people.
Life Is Expensive
Because of the Great Recession, life has never been more expensive. Getting an education and setting forth on a career path is not cheap. Young adults often struggle to create financial stability entering the real world. Besides being at the mercy of the inflated economy, it is hard to grind it out day after day when one can basically live with mom and dad for free. Parents often think that providing a financial safety net is a gift to their older children, but in many ways, it is a hindrance. Why go for something when it can be handed to you with little effort on your part?
Morin suggests that parents consider sharing with their growing children the financial hurdles and burdens of life rather than hiding them. It is an instinct to want to shelter children from the adult stressors in the world, but discussing budgeting and finances in their presence can be quite helpful to this aspect of their development. Having money conversations with older children present does several helpful things.
- Removes the taboo from talking money
- Allows then to look at financial concerns constructively
- Promotes organic questioning regarding money, budgeting, bills, and saving
Raising Social Strangers
Unfortunately, because of the way the world works today, kids are growing up to be social strangers. So much of life is done online. They grow up knowing how to virtually coexist with others, but face-to-face socialization is going down the tubes, fast. Adulthood comes up abruptly and suddenly those little virtual hermits are back among the living, coexisting with roommates and colleagues and romantic prospects. One of the greatest tools that parents can give their children socially lies within scripting.
Morin views scripting as a powerful tool. Scripting can take place in informal settings and circumstances, for example driving back and forth to soccer practice, and can be simple conversations that allow for ample benefit. Create future scenarios and discuss how to remedy them. Utilize scripting so that teens and young adults have a few lines of conflict resolution in their social arsenal after leaving home.
When to Start Adult Training
There is no set timeframe to start preparing your child for the adult world, but Morin thinks that it should be sooner rather than later. She believes that the earlier parents include children in their family community, the better. When kids feel as if they have an equal stake in the game, they are more likely to buy in and pitch in.
Kids can start learning self-sufficiency from a very young age. The key is to match the skill to the developmental stage. Even young children can help with the family community by going to school, brushing their teeth, matching socks, and performing other seemingly small chores. When they do these things, they learn to be proud of their accomplishments. Over time, kids become intrinsically motivated, something that they will need to have when they are living alone and no one is giving them ten dollars to make dinner and wash dishes.
Who You Gonna Call? Not Mom!
In theory, parents want their children to be able to call on them morning, noon, and night forever. They tell their kids that even if the issue seems minor, they will always be there to help. The intentions are great, but do you really want your adult child calling up at 11 pm to ask you how to bake chicken or change a lightbulb? No, you don't. They should know where to go when the going gets tough and when to rely on themselves versus others.
One thing parents can do is help older children learn the difference between small and big problems. Morin notes that teens and older children sometimes don't discern between the two, everything to them feels like the end of the world. Helping them to decide if something is a "get help now" problem versus a "this can wait," problem is a life skill that they will use forever.
Older children on the cusp of leaving home also have to learn to trust themselves. Morin suggests parents model working through problems with older children. In teaching young adults to better trust their assessment and judgment of problems, they have to be able to think to themselves, "Can I solve this myself?" Always being there to provide answers doesn't instill critical thinking skills needed for life outside of mom and dad's house.
Parents instinctually want to give their kids the answers to make their problems vanish immediately. No one wants to witness their child in discomfort, but this fix-it-now mode isn't always what older kids need. Morin challenges parents to think about what their children are really asking of them. Do your adult children need you to fix something for them, or do they need a sounding board to arrive at their own conclusion? Morin believes that older children are very much capable of creating their own solutions to problems, rather than looking for already made ones. Parents need to allow them space to do this.
Humans Are Adaptable and Capable
Even if you feel like your grown child will never be ready for some serious adulting, there is always hope. Human beings are by nature adaptable and very capable. With the right parental mindset and the correct skillset and tools, even the most unmotivated, unprepared young adult can learn to be successful in the real world.