How Do We Prepare Our Teens for Leaving?
- Thursday, March 27, 2003
If we have been “letting go” all along, we will have a much easier adjustment in this new season. If our child has already learned basic life skills, we will be less likely to interfere in the details of her daily life, and we will have prepared her for living in the world. Our role is to equip our kids with life skills. This requires intentional training. If we don’t train them, we unintentionally handicap them in the guise of serving them by doing things for them that they should be doing themselves. Training in life skills begins early. It’s training in responsibility, in independence. This sense of responsibility breeds confidence. Our teens are going to have enough new adjustments in the world without having to learn skills they could have learned at home.
Here are 11 brief life skills to teach your kids. You will want to add to this list yourself, so consider this a starting place. The earlier you begin this training, the better!
1. Teach Them Good Manners
Teach your kids proper table manners. Keep arms and elbows off the table. Sit up straight. Put your napkin in your lap. Leave your fork and knife together when finished. Ask to be excused before leaving the table. Show them how to set a proper table and which utensils to use for what. If you don’t know, check out a book on table settings from your library. This may seem silly in an increasingly casual society and in a family dealing with teens who have more crucial issues, but it’s important. Why? Our job as parents is to equip our kids so that they will know how to behave in whatever place God chooses to put them.
I want my kids to be comfortable dining at the White House or with kings and princesses. And I want them to be comfortable in a simple pauper’s hut. We do not want our kids to be embarrassed because they don’t know how to act. We do not know where God will call them. That’s His job. Our job is to equip them to be able to behave properly in whatever places God puts them, and to know how to honor their host or hostess. Using proper manners is a way of paying respect, of communicating honor to another person. Our kids will not simply pick this up. It has to be specifically taught.
When our kids were young, we occasionally pretended we were dining at the White House. We used good china, linen napkins, lots of utensils, and we practiced good manners. I made it as much of a game as I could. No, my kids don’t have perfect manners. And my husband still tells me to take my elbows off the table! But we are trying.
My friend Peggy, a professional protocol consultant, says that the single biggest irritant transcending all nationalities is the failure to RSVP. Usually the request is simply ignored. We have to realize that this can be costly to a hostess who is being billed per head. It can also mess up seating arrangements. If you RSVP, it is important to show up! We need to teach our children that if there is a last-minute emergency, it is proper to call and offer our regrets.
There are lots of other manners we need to teach. Some of ours include: Stand up when a lady enters the room. Walk your guests to the door when they leave. Greet your family members and guests at the door when they arrive. Offer to help with the dishes. Open doors for others. Walk your dates to the door. And don’t honk when you pick them up! Make your own family list of “good manners.”
2. Teach Them to Write Thank-you Notes
If you read Ann Landers’s column, you will notice that her letters most often fall into two categories: letters from people in pain over affairs and letters from grandparents in pain because they never receive thank-you notes from their grandchildren.
Thank-you notes should be written for any gifts received. Teach your kids to write a thank-you note when someone takes them out to dinner or does anything out of the ordinary for them. Train them to write a thank-you note to the parents of friends they visit out of town or to thank someone for the use of a house or car. When in doubt, instruct them to simply write a note. It is always appreciated. It is a way of honoring and loving someone. It is a positive testimony.
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