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Prepare Your Kids for Life on Their Own

Prepare Your Kids for Life on Their Own

As your kids progress through the teenage years and start to think about life after high school, you may start to panic. Soon they’ll be moving out, away from you. Have you taught them what they need to get started in life on their own?

Teaching them some key attitudes and skills will help prepare them for when they fly out of your nest. Here’s what to focus on:

Teach them how to deal with authority. Give your kids a combination of unconditional love for who they are as people and clear limits on their behavior. Set appropriate consequences for misbehavior, and follow through consistently on discipline. Motivate your kids to obey not out of fear or duty, but out of love and respect for you and others in authority. Train them to face tough situations with courage rather than running away in anger. Say "yes" to your kids as much as possible, but be strong enough to say "no" whenever necessary. Think carefully about your values and decide which ones are critical to you. Then choose your battles with your kids. Don’t budge on issues that are important in the long run, and let other issues (such as personal preferences) go.

Keep your emotions under control when you discuss hot-button issues with your kids; be as calm and rational as possible. Let your kids see you in prayer, asking God for wisdom. Help them understand that, just as they need to answer to you, you need to answer to God for how you raise them.

Teach them how to handle money wisely. Give them a regular allowance and require that they use it to pay for certain things. Explain that they should strive to spend just 80 percent of every dollar they receive, save 10 percent of it, and give away 10 percent. Encourage them to give their time and possessions to others, as well. Open a savings account for each of your kids and teach them to set short- and long-term savings goals.

Talk with your kids about how much goods and services cost in real life. Take them grocery shopping with you and show them how to compare prices. Discuss the cost of expenses such as rent, car maintenance and insurance, and utility bills. Decide on a clothing budget and let them buy their own clothes (subject to your veto if any items aren’t modest enough). Help them analyze the value of items they’re considering buying. Once your kids have regular after-school jobs, open checking accounts for them and teach them how to reconcile the account to their monthly statements.

Explain how to use credit wisely and avoid debt that plagues far too many young adults today. Let them know how much interest they’ll pay if they buy things before having the money to pay in the bank to pay for them. Stress the importance of always paying off credit cards in full every month. Teach them to be honest in all their financial dealings. Show them how to make – and stick to – a budget. Explain the basics of investing to them. Gradually, as they grow older, stop paying for all their expenses and shift the financial responsibility more and more to them.

Teach them personal responsibility and self-discipline. Give your kids responsibilities around the house. Set deadlines for them to complete those responsibilities, and set consequences in motion if those deadlines aren’t met. Model responsibility in your own life by letting your kids see you honoring the commitments you’ve made to others. Help your kids make sure that their commitments match their priorities. Teach them how to say "no" graciously to requests that don’t align with their core values. If your kids are part of a team, encourage them to be faithful by attending practice regularly and not dropping out mid-season. Make a family calendar to organize your time.

Require your child to replace something that he or she broke or lost. Have your kids get themselves out of bed every morning when their alarm clocks go off. Have them pack their own school lunches. Don’t bail your kids out of crises when they fail to do their homework or complete projects on time; let them experience the natural consequences. Spend time regularly with your kids, teaching them to make good decisions.

Teach them chores and life skills. Require your kids to perform specific chores at home to teach them the value of hard work (which will prepare them for professional jobs) and give them a sense of belonging and accomplishment. Supervise your kids to make sure they do the work well and on time. Inspect their work and insist that they do the job over if it isn’t done correctly.

Don’t divide chores along traditional gender lines. Teach both boys and girls how to do laundry, cook basic meals, wash dishes, clean floors and bathrooms, pull weeds, mow grass, sew buttons on clothes, and perform basic house and car maintenance (such as changing an air filter or changing a flat tire).

Get a family pet if you don’t already have one. Realize that, besides providing great enjoyment, pets teach kids invaluable lessons about responsibility. Have your kids learn how to take care of the family pet (or pets) on their own. Clear clutter out of your house regularly by giving away or throwing away items you no longer use.

Teach them your core values. Think and pray about what matters most to you so you can clearly articulate your core values to your kids. Help your children discern truth from lies. Explain the importance of moral absolutes, and train them to think critically and respond wisely to relativism in our culture. Teach them that there is a difference between who a person is and what a person does. Encourage them to show love and compassion to others. Model a life of honesty and integrity for them. Don’t lie, cheat, or steal. Treat others the way you want to be treated. Don’t cut corners with your work; give your best effort to everything you do. Expect the same just behavior of your kids. Require your children to apologize if they’ve hurt someone’s feelings. Make your kids stick to commitments they’ve already made even when better offers come along. Urge them to respect other people’s time by being punctual.

Teach them to use their gifts and talents. Help your kids discover their God-given natural talents and spiritual gifts. Encourage them to develop those abilities and put them to use through service. Become involved in what interests your kids most – attend their games and performances, read their writing, view their artwork, discuss their ideas. Let your kids freely choose what activities they want to participate in, rather than forcing your own preferences and agenda on them. Limit time your kids spend watching TV or playing video games. Provide plenty of unstructured time for them to be creative. Buy them supplies they need for creative projects. Know each of your kids’ personality type and primary love language. Urge your kids to follow their dreams. Regularly talk with your kids about what’s on their minds and help them work through issues that are important to them.

Teach them to grow spiritually. Actively live out your faith in front of your kids and talk with them about what you believe and why it’s important to you. Participate in church regularly as a family. Read and study the Bible together. Pray together. Urge your kids to think and pray through issues of faith for themselves so they can be clear about what they believe and why. Inspire them to connect with God regularly through private devotional times. Encourage them to put their talents and gifts to use through ministry.

Teach them about guys, girls, and hormones. Explain your family’s standards of appropriate dress, and model those standards by being modest yourself. If you’re married, let them see what a successful marriage looks like in the way you talk to and treat your spouse. Figure out what rules you want to set about dating, and be able to clearly explain those rules – and the reasons behind them – to your kids when they ask. Explain the vital importance of sexual purity before marriage. Take a firm stand against pornography. Regularly express affection for your kids so they feel secure and won’t be tempted to seek affection in unhealthy ways. Get to know their friends well. Teach your kids how to treat people of the opposite sex with respect. Give them strategies for dealing with peer pressure about sex and getting themselves out of bad situations. Pray for their future spouses.

Teach them to take good care of their physical health. Prepare nutritious meals for your family. Drink plenty of water and limit soda and other unhealthy beverages at home. Have healthy snacks – not junk food – available at home. Exercise regularly and urge your kids to do the same. Set some times to exercise together. Make sure your kids stick to a regular bedtime and get enough sleep. Have them take a multivitamin daily. Urge them to avoid alcohol, cigarettes, and other drugs. Encourage them to have a healthy body image (not necessarily what’s portrayed in the media). Teach your kids to read food labels. Help them effectively manage stress in their lives. Explain how they can tell if they need a doctor’s care, and how to take medicine wisely.

Teach them what a loving home is like. Eat meals as a family together regularly. Celebrate your kids’ birthdays well. Establish and enjoy family holiday traditions. Tell them stories of when they were younger. Help them learn about their heritage by telling them stories from your own childhood and what their grandparents’ and other family members’ lives were like. Preserve memories of both small and large events in your kids’ lives through photos and video. Save some of your kids’ school papers, artwork, and other documents. Invite their friends to join some special family events and activities in your home. Talk with your kids about how trust and privileges work together. If you’re a single parent or in a blended family, seek God’s healing for your emotions and His wisdom for solutions to your problems. Carve out plenty of time and effort to help your kids heal as well.

Teach them good manners. Encourage your kids to treat other people in ways they would like to be treated themselves. Train them to address their elders respectfully. Urge them to speak up politely at school when necessary. Explain how to properly speak to people in person, on the phone, and by mail and e-mail. Enforce consequences for mistreating other people. Don’t gossip yourself, and reprimand your kids if you overhear them gossiping.

Prepare yourself for when your kids leave. Make sure that you don’t depend too heavily on your kids for your own personal fulfillment. Invest time and energy in your marriage to build (or maintain) a healthy relationship once your kids have left home. Pursue a career and and/or volunteer work about which you feel passionate. Remember that your kids ultimately belong to God, who created them. Pray for them daily, and trust God to continue to watch over them throughout their entire lives.

Adapted from Parenting in the Home Stretch: 12 Ways to Prepare Your Kids for Life on Their Own, copyright 2005 by Connie Neumann. Published by Fleming H. Revell, a division of Baker Publishing Group, Grand Rapids, Mich.,

Connie Neumann writes a parenting column for a regional publication called Family Times and has written dozens of articles in parenting magazines. She has also worked as an editor, staff writer, copyeditor, consultant, and proofreader. The mother of two teenagers, Connie lives with her family in Summerfield, Fl.