When teenagers envision being independent, many simply see it as no home rules and restrictions to abide by. Nobody to ‘nag’ them to help with the laundry, load the dishwasher, or clean up their room. What some teenagers don’t give a second thought to is the practical aspects that come with independent living. The reality only sets in once they settle into their dorm on campus. Overnight, they have to do their own laundry, cook their own food, and even wake up on their own.
Is your kid ready to handle all of these independent living chores? If you haven’t done it yet, it’s time to prepare them for this less-exciting part of being a college student.
These are 5 of the most basic life skills students need to learn before they head off to college.
1. How to Be Financially Responsible
Money management is one of the most valuable lessons a kid can learn before they head off to college. As newly independent individuals, college students are more likely to make mistakes that could haunt them for many years. Over-spending on a credit card or missing a credit card payment may seem like small mistakes. But these can have serious consequences including making future student loans more expensive.
Don’t let your kid learn this lesson the hard way. Teaching them how to be financially responsible will save them a lot of money and heartache too. This is even more important if your child is using student loans to fund their college tuition.
Money discussions at home should cover things like how to create a budget and monitor expenses. It should also cover loan comparisons, how to calculate interest, and credit card debt.
Exploring ways to earn money should also be part of any pre-college money conversation. Discuss scholarships, part-time jobs and freelancing using their skills. Help them understand that any money they earn towards tuition will help them lower their overall student loan debt. The thought of becoming debt-free faster after graduation can be hugely motivating.
2. How to Do Laundry Correctly
Does your kid think doing laundry involves throwing their clothes into the dirty clothes basket? And that a pile of clean, folded clothes magically appears on their bed the next day? Or do they think you just throw the clothes in, press a button and that’s it? If they do, they’re in for a rude awakening in college.
Sure, left to their own devices, kids will eventually learn how to do their laundry correctly. By that time though they’ll be stuck with a whole lot of unicorn-colored clothing, stretched woolens, and shrunken sweaters.
Laundry lessons should go over how to use a washing machine and what the various buttons do. They should also cover sorting clothes based on color, temperature settings for different fabrics, and minimum/maximum wash loads.
3. Meal Planning, Grocery Shopping & Cooking
Of course, your student would be happy living off pizza, Ramen noodles, and other fast foods. While these are okay as occasional treats, they should not be standard fare. Learning how to shop for ingredients and cook homemade meals is more nutritious and will also help them save thousands of dollars.
Start with the essentials and keep it simple. Teach them how to make a basic shopping list that’s budget-friendly while also including healthy, wholesome foods. Show them how to comparison shop and get good produce for less. Let them be in charge of the family meals at least once a week. Help them understand how to follow different recipes and how to cook meals in a microwave.
It won’t hurt for them to also learn how to load and unload a dishwasher. They’ll need to know how when they move out of the dorm into their own apartment.
4. Basics of Home-Cleaning
Floors don’t vacuum themselves, dust doesn’t dust itself off the furniture and the kitchen doesn’t clean itself automatically. There’s no press-button magic to get all of these chores done and no mom to do it either in college. Imagine what your kid’s dorm or apartment will look like if they don’t know how to do these basic household chores. Teach them the basics of home-cleaning and hope they will practice at least some of what you’ve taught them.
5. Time Management
At home, your kid knows you’ll wake them up in time to catch the school bus. And that you’ll drop them off if they still don’t make it. They know you’ll look over their shoulder to make sure they complete their homework assignment. And that you’ll always pitch in when they need to buy something last minute for a school project. All of this will change in college. Your kid won’t have access to this type of unconditional help at a moment’s notice.
In college, your student will have to learn how to manage their time more effectively. Time management skills, from waking up in time to completing their work on time, is crucial for them to succeed. It’s time to stop bailing your child out and teach them crucial time-management skills. It may take some trial and error to figure out what system works best but don’t let give up on them. Mastering time management skills is crucial for college students.
Life Skills Students Must Learn
Living away from home for the first time comes with a unique set of challenges. Teaching your kid a few basic life lessons can help them navigate at least some of these challenges more smoothly.
- Check out our list of valuable Life Skills Books for College-Bound Students!