Wednesday, May 15, 2013

What kids need to be able to do to leave the nest...

photo source: Shutterstock
It's graduation season, which has me thinking of all the ways our kids grow over the years. They're born, then just a few years later they are in kindergarten. In just a blink of the eye they get a locker in middle school. Then high school is over. The world awaits...

Where does the time go?

I have one who will be starting high school next year, and have spent a lot of time reflecting about at all he's learned and what he needs to learn to be successful, independent, healthy and happy.

I have never really thought that school is about learning the actual subjects. It is more about learning how to learn. How to organize. How to be responsible. I have always told my kids I don't care what grade they get as long as they learn what they need to and do their best.

Home life is also a process of learning. We learn how to live healthily and respectfully with others. We learn to take care of ourselves. We learn to be responsible with money. Ideally we learn to argue a point without losing control of our emotions or being hurtful.

In all of this reflection, I came up with a list that I have shared with my kids, and I invite you to share it with yours.

Things you should be able to do independently before leaving home:

Good hygiene habits

  • Brush teeth twice daily. Floss once a day. 
  • Shower or bathe daily. Wash hair as needed for oil control. 
  • Wash hands often. 
  • Shave as needed. 
  • Flush.
  • Brush hair at least daily and get a hair cut regularly. 
  • Clip and groom nails regularly, fingers and toes. 
  • Use personal hygiene products correctly, including: deodorant, facial acne cleansers, etc. 
  • Wear clean clothes and change underclothing daily. 
Healthy habits
  • Get adequate sleep to wake fresh and ready for the day. Set an alarm and get up on your own. 
  • Eat healthy foods and limit junk food and sodas. Be able to prepare simple healthy meals. 
  • Take vitamins daily. 
  • Understand common over the counter medicine indications and how much to take.
  • Understand why you are taking medications (if you are), how to take them, and what is needed to get more -- is it over the counter or a prescription medicine?
  • Know your medical history, including any allergies and chronic health care problems.
  • Know how to take care of common injuries until they are healed. 
  • Exercise regularly, at least 3 times a week. 
  • Develop healthy strategies to handle stress. 
  • Journal 
  • Prayer or meditation 
  • Sketch or other artwork
  • Talk to someone openly—don’t hold bad feelings in! 
  • Take a long bath 
  • Think before speaking 
  • Deep breathing 
  • Laugh 
  • Exercise 
  • Schedule down time 
  • Think about the problem from different points of view 
  • Break big projects into small parts to be able to complete in parts 
  • List the good things going on and be positive 
  • Avoid overscheduling
  • Learn to say "no"
  • Enjoy social interactions as well as alone time. 
  • Exercise the brain by doing puzzles or reading.
Things to learn

  • How to cook a healthy, balanced meal. 
  • How to grocery shop on a budget to incorporate nutritional balance.
  • How to properly clean dishes and tidy up the kitchen after eating.
  • How to balance a check book, make a budget, and pay bills on time.
  • How to do easy repairs around the house.
  • Understand health insurance plans - how to get them, what they cover, what is excluded.
  • Basics of money investment, retirement planning, savings.
  • What to do in case of a road side emergency.
  • Important numbers (doctor, dentist, insurance, etc).
  • How to do laundry.
  • How to clean a bathroom, use a vacuum, and dust.
  • How to sew basic clothing repairs (buttons, hems, etc).
  • How to get help when needed.
  • How to apply for a job and build a resume.
  • Choose words carefully: they can build someone up or crush someone down. 
  • Drugs and alcohol should be treated with respect and used only with good judgment. This judgment should take into consideration laws and safety. Our brain does not fully develop until the early/mid 20s and early use of drugs or alcohol increases the risk of addiction.
Be a good friend and responsible family member

  • Be clear with plans: Look at the family calendar when making plans. Get permission from all parents involved; let family know where you will be and when you will be home. 
  • Keep a phone available to be able to call when needed. Answer calls/texts from parents! 
  • Treat everyone with respect: family, teachers, friends, and strangers. 
  • Require that others treat you with respect. 
  • Do random acts of kindness occasionally. 
  • Volunteer regularly.
  • If you feel unsafe, leave the situation. Tell a trusted adult as soon as possible. 
  • Do only things you and your parents will be proud of. 


Things to do to show you are getting ready to leave the nest...
  • Complete assigned homework and chores without reminders or nagging. 
  • Keep your room picked up and clothes off the floor. 
  • Hang your towel to allow it to dry between uses. 
  • Clear dishes from the table. 
  • Clean up after projects or play. Return all things to their proper place after using them. 
  • Throw all trash in the trashcan. Recycle things that are recyclable. 
  • Responsible use of cell phone, computer, and other electronics. Turn off before bedtime to allow uninterrupted sleep. 
  • Spend and save money responsibly. Never spend more than you can afford. Use credit cards wisely.
  • Take pride in your work: schoolwork, chores, job, and helping others. Do it to the best of your ability and ask nicely for help as needed. Recognize that work is not always fun, but necessary. Doing tasks with a good attitude will help. 
  • Time organization skills: Do not procrastinate until the last minute. Plan ahead and do big projects in small steps. Be prepared with all materials you will need for a project and ask in advance if you need help acquiring items. Use tools (apps, calendar, check lists). 
  • Take care of your things. Keep them in proper working order, clean, and put away. 
  • Drive responsibly. 
  • Accept consequences with grace. 
  • Earn trust. 
  • Know when to trust and follow others and when to take your own path. Make independent decisions based on your own morals. Have the courage to say "no" if something goes against your beliefs.