You have approximately 18 years to prepare your children for the rest of their lives.

It sounds scary when you look at it that way, doesn’t it? Schools teach them the fundamental knowledge found in reading, writing, math, science and history. Beyond that, there are no guarantees. Even if you are paying for your child to attend a college preparatory school, there are still some things they will need to know when they go off to college that schools often omit from the curriculum. Parents need to step in and teach these skills at home. 

How to make (and stick to) a budget

If you have ever told your child “money doesn’t grow on trees” or “if you want it so badly you can use your own money to buy it”, it is not too soon to teach them about budgeting. College students often joke about being poor and living on Ramen noodles and peanut butter. While such adjustments provide quality life lessons for collegians, learning to budget pre-emptively is even more beneficial. Show them the family budget to give them an idea of how much things like groceries and cell phone bills cost. Have them analyze the family budget and compare it to how the family actually spends money to see if they might make any suggestions or adjustments. Sit down together and discuss what they consistently purchase and what they might want to save up to buy with their allowance money. As they get older, increase their allowance as well as the number of things you expect them to pay for themselves (gas, clothes, entertainment, etc.) Note: As you teach them to budget their money, teach them to budget their time as well. Help them set a schedule each week in order to accomplish all they want/need to accomplish in those seven days. 

Basic car maintenance

It is a rite of passage to get a drivers’ license. Before sending your child out in a car of their own, teach them how to take care of it. Some parents may have the skills to teach their children how to do the maintenance themselves, but even those who do not should educate their kids about what needs to be done and when. Make sure they know the following basics at least:

  • How often to get the oil changed
  • The importance of getting tires rotated and balanced
  • How to check the tire pressure and add air if necessary
  • How to check the oil level
  • How to change a tire
  • What to do if they are ever in an accident

How to do the laundry

My freshman year of college, I observed a young man reading the instructions his mother had written for him about how to do his laundry. The first step was to sort darks and whites. He held up a striped shirt and asked somebody nearby which pile it should go in since it had both colors and white in the fabric. Written instructions may be helpful, but walk your kids through it a few times at home to make sure they understand. And remind them that laundry does not always end when the clothes are dry. Teach your kids how to iron, too, or give them directions to the nearest dry cleaners and tell them to add that expense to their budget. 

How to balance a checkbook

Checks may soon become obsolete, but checking accounts will not. Make sure your child understands that the debit card pulls money directly out of the checking account with each swipe. Teach your kids how to keep track of their account balance using a check register so they do not learn to rely on the online statement to always be accurate. They’ll be convinced the first time they find a bank error that favors the bank. 

The importance of nutrition and physical fitness

Sadly, this is a lesson many adults need to learn as well. Before you child goes off to college and tries to live on fast food or vending machine parcels, at least teach them how to prepare healthier foods. Show them how easy it is to make a smoothie or a salad. Remind them to drink more water than they do soft drinks. And encourage them to join a gym or a team to stay physically active. The freshman 15 is not a myth. Teach your children how to maintain a healthy lifestyle.

Tiffany Marshall is a freelance writer who has worked with teenagers for more than 20 years. In addition to keeping up with the teenage subculture, she writes about commercial cleaning in Austin, cleaning services, Austin hot spots and parenting.

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