Being a teenager is tough. But being a teen’s parent is tougher. Trying to find the balance between guidance and freedom is hard, especially when so many of our teenagers feel entitled to their freedom. I am a true believer that a lot of teenage angst is mere rite of passage and that our teens are some of our nation’s most valuable resources.
However, many parents are wasting this valuable resource by enabling their children during their high school years in an effort to make life easier for them. The problem is that by the time they turn 18, their coping skills are weak many don’t know how to be responsible. After high school graduation, the stakes are high, and many teens just can’t figure out how to function. This leads to failing out of college, being fired from jobs, debt, poor choices and substance abuse (to name a few).
Most parents want their teens to show responsibility but they have a hard time teaching them how to be prepared for the real world. By the time your child is a freshman in high school, there are several skills they should be actively learning.
For example, all teenagers should:
1. Earn their own money. Maybe you give them money for projects around the house (but not chores – see #8). Maybe they have a job. Maybe they just work in the summer and save so they have cash during the school year. However they earn money, teens should understand the value of a dollar, how to make it, and what it is worth to them in terms of time. Earning their own money is crucial in the development of independence. By not being totally reliant upon you they begin to rely upon themselves.
2. Have a checking and a savings account. Once they earn the money, they need a place to keep it. Learning how to save and also how to operate a checking account is crucial to their fiscal development and their future contributions to our economy.
3. Feed themselves. Teens should be responsible for preparing their own breakfast and lunch. Some may not want to bag up a PB&J, then they eat at school. I’m not saying make them pay for their own groceries (even if they eat at school), but by the time they are 14, teens should make their own lunch and be able to make choices about what they are eating. If they choose to eat junk for lunch, then talk to them about it but also give them the space to make bad choices and change for themselves. Sooner rather than later, they are the ones that are going to be making those decisions permanently.