This blog post is part of a trio of posts centered around the lessons I want my children to know by the time they launch into the world. The intro to all three of the posts is the same.
Launching can look very different for different families, but in our family, when our children graduate from high school and leave to attend college, this marks a significant milestone in their life. Granted, they still are tied in some ways to us and depend on my husband and I for certain things, but they are out of the house, living on their own, which feels like a preliminary launch into full-blown adulthood.
I have divided the topic of Lessons Before They Launch into three posts, each covering a different category of lessons. In addition to this one, there is a post focused on Personal Behavior and one focused on Emotional Well Being.
I also have recorded a podcast episode in which I speak in more detail about ten of these lessons. For reference, if the topic is covered in the podcast, I will mention it below along with a time stamp of where you can find that particular topic in the episode. These posts and the podcast episode are meant to supplement each other, working in tandem to provide as much information as possible.
I also want to say that many of these lessons are things we continue to learn over the course of our life. The idea is not that your child will have fully mastered these lessons when they leave the nest, but rather, the topics of each lesson will be familiar territory to them. As a parent, what I want to avoid is for my child to encounter these issues for the first time after they have left home. I feel that would be a disservice to them. Instead, I want to equip them with as many tools as possible to navigate what lies ahead.
Think of these lessons as each having a spectrum of skill, knowledge, and mastery. What we are looking for when our children leave the house is for all of the lessons to at least register as a known quantity on their spectrum of knowledge. As they continue to grow and mature, so too will their scope of knowledge and experience with each of these lessons.
Let’s dive into the Tactical Life Skill Lessons!
BASIC CAR CARE
If you child has a car, it is important that they know a few basics such as how to pump gas, how to maintain basic fuel levels (oil, coolant, etc.), and how to change a tire. I am not sure I have ever had to change my own tire, but I know how to do it (and how not to do it), and that is a great comfort to me.
WHAT TO DO WHEN THINGS GO WRONG ON THE ROAD
We all want to believe our children will be safe on the road, but the truth is, they are likely to get pulled over for speeding, experience mechanical issues while on the road, and perhaps be involved in a wreck or fender-bender. Knowing what to do in an accident, how to behave when pulled over, how to find and read an insurance card, and what to do when the car breaks down are vital skills for your child to know.
HOW TO MAINTAIN THEIR LIVING SPACE
This includes how to make a bed (even if they choose not to), how to clean a bathroom (even if they never do), how to clean out a closet (even if they just keep stuffing more things into it), and how to reset a space to make it look presentable (even if they have their friends over without cleaning up). No part of me thinks my children are living according to the same standards we have here at home, but I do know they know how to do these things.
HOW TO PACK
It may sound basic or silly, but there are grown adults who have never packed their own bag. Let’s end that cycle by training our children how to pack for a trip and think through what they need.
HOW TO BANK AND HOW TO MANAGE A CREDIT CARD
Banking is not what it was when I was growing up. Everything is online, real cash is a rarity, and most employers use direct deposit. But, what if someone writes your child a check? What if they need to walk into a bank and make a deposit? What if there is an emergency and they need cash? What if their debit card is stolen? Do they know and understand how to bank?
In that same vein, it is vital for them to understand how credit works aside from simply swiping a card. Credit history is a thing to be protected staunchly, and credit card interest becomes very costly very quickly.
WHAT THINGS COST AND THE VALUE OF A DOLLAR
(I talk about this topic in more detail in Podcast Episode 39 starting at the 8:05 mark.)
The only way for a child to learn how much things cost is to pay for things with their own money. And the only way for them to understand the value of a dollar is for them to earn their own money in a real life job. I am not talking about birthday money or allowances or the generosity of friends and family. I am talking about working a low-wage job and then purchasing something they want. It will not take long for them to develop not only an empathy for those who work full time in low-wage jobs while raising a family, but also to understand how long they have to work to afford expensive items. Or how quickly fast food and Starbucks will gobble up a tiny paycheck. Or how much time it takes to save towards a more expensive item. This is a lesson that can only be learned by doing.
HOW TO DO LAUNDRY
Does your child know how to do their own laundry from start to finish? Do they know how to fold towels and t-shirts? Everyone needs to know how to do laundry. Your child is no exception.
HOW TO RENEW A GOVERNMENT DOCUMENT
Specifically, I am thinking of Driver’s Licenses, but this would apply to other documents too. Vehicle registration, passports, insurance, etc. This skill is less about knowing the exact steps involved for each renewal and more about learning how to navigate government websites to find what you need.
HOW TO OBTAIN MEDICAL CARE
(I talk about this topic in more detail in Podcast Episode 39 starting at the 11:25 mark.)
When your child turns eighteen, you no longer have access to their medical records without their consent. It is important that they know how to independently contact a clinic or physician’s office, make an appointment, describe their symptoms to a healthcare provider, and fill a prescription. Refilling a prescriptions, transferring a prescription, and the importance of finishing a round of antibiotics also comes to mind as important lessons.
HOW TO TIP
Raise generous tippers. Make sure your children understand that tipping is not optional, and for most people in the service industry, it makes up a bulk of their income. Knowing how to do the math, how to estimate the full cost of a meal (not just the cost of the food), how to prepare for situations where cash tips are required (valet, bell hops, etc.), and who to tip is an important life skill.