The goal of parenting teenagers is to raise fully functioning adults by 18 years old. The age is predetermined by the legal system that declares a person an adult at that age. Therefore, regardless of the emotional maturity of person, they need to be equipped to accept adult responsibility at 18.
The problem is that most parents forget this detail unless a teen is already engaged in defiant behavior. Then parents tend to use the approaching 18 year old as a feared deadline. Other parents want to delay “adulting” by treating their teen as a larger ten year old. But the transition from childhood to adulthood should be an exciting time.
Becoming an adult is a process and should be a time of pride for both the parent and the child. It is a time for the new adult to “leave the nest” and learn to fly, trusting that the things they have been taught will be sufficient to lead a productive successful life. Here are the areas that should be addressed.
- Finances. Most banks allow a thirteen year old to have their own account tied to a parent. This is about the age that a child needs to begin learning about finances. Even if the parents are depositing the money in some sort of allowance system, the teen is then able to see their balance and use their debit card when needed. This process teaches basic banking skills.
- Cooking. Teenagers should learn how to cook all of their basic meals. The closer they get to 18 years old, the more they should be managing their meal preparation and completion. Most teenagers know how to order food, but there is quite of a bit of skill needed in cooking. This skill helps a teen to feel autonomous.
- Budgeting. In additional to banking skills, a teen needs to learn to the value of money. Even simple jobs, with realistic pay, can help teach them the amount of work that is required to earn money. The money they earn should be deposited in the bank and then used for personal wants. This teaches the value of a dollar.
- Relationships. One area most parents fail to address is how to successfully manage the emotional drama of their peers. Many parents simply tell their teen to ignore their friends and move on. However, there are other skills other than ignoring a behavior that can be learned such as negotiation. This environment is perfect for testing a teen’s ability to mediate friendships. Successful completion of this skill could lead to job opportunities in the future.
- Clothing. The care and management of clothing and other personal items should be taught early in the teen years. Even tweens can purchase their clothes (within a budget), do their laundry, iron their clothes, and sort through items that need to be discarded. By the time they are in their late teen years, parents should not be doing any of this. This further encourages autonomy.
- Time. Even adults struggle with time management skills. Parents, in an effort to assist, sometimes go too far by taking over the teen’s schedule. This is not productive in the long run because a teen needs to acquire these skills for themselves. Trying and failing is part of learning and far better done now than as an adult. Time management is a skill that is developed only with practice.
- Career. The early tween years are too early to begin the discussion of career options. But by the middle high school, some vocational opportunities should be discussed. Not every teen should go to college. There are excellent vocational or military options better suited for some personalities. Review these possibilities without judgement. This allows the teen to explore their interests and talents.
- Marriage. Far too often parents fail to discuss long-term relationships with their teens. The purpose of dating is to learn what type of mate will be a good match later. A teen might think a certain personality is desirable until they begin to date and realize that it is not a good match. Sometimes this discussion is put off for later, but when does that time come? The teen years ae the ideal time to explain the positive qualities of a good partner.
- Politics. While many people consider politics to a taboo subject, teens must be educated in the politics process. At 18 years old, they have the opportunity to express their views and opinion via voting. Even if the parent and teen do not agree, conversations about the subject are needed to form firm opinions. This teaches a teen that their opinion does matter and can even influence a nation.
- Critical thinking. Starting a twelve, critical thinking skills begin to form. Throughout the teen years, this is either encouraged and reinforced or shut down. A parent that insists they know best all the time limits a teen’s ability to grow in their own logical skill set. Even if a teen makes an error in judgement, this is an excellent learning experience and teaches natural consequences.
“Adulting” is hard for some twenty year olds but when parents are intentional about teaching the ten skills listed above, it can be a bit easier. So many valuable lessons can be learned from experience. But it is best for that training to begin in teen years rather than later as an adult.