Monday, 6 October 2014

10 Practical Life Skills children should learn before they leave home

Our role as parents is to bring our children up to be able to fend for themselves, to be independent, be responsible and, hopefully, make good choices.

In theory, by the time they leave home they should be equipped with the skills to be able to do those things without relying on mum or dad to help them, and it's something I've been thinking about a lot recently.

I wrote recently about children travelling on their own, and said that my daughters hadn't really used public transport a lot as I drove them everywhere. A week or so later, when The Teenager made plans to visit her boyfriend in Leeds (he has just started university there) it came home to roost. She didn't know how to buy the tickets, read a train timetable or how to find the right platform.  I had to guide her through it all in a last minute try-not-to-panic masterclass on train travel. In the end I had to wait with her to make sure she got on the right train, but she's since made the journey on her own and was fine.  It made me realise that she should have already had those skills in place instead of giving last-minute instructions, but she didn't and her sister (who hasn't even travelled on a bus alone) had even less idea.

Both girls are pretty good at home skills - washing, ironing, basic cooking - but it's when they're out in the world on their own that they're much less confident.

So I decided it was time to put a list of Life Skills together. Skills that both of my girls should have learned by the time they leave home, and there's some impetus here as The Teenager is planning to go to university next September.

I asked a few friends on twitter for their thoughts on the types of skills children should learn and it developed into a very interesting discussion.  There were dozens of ideas, and here's just a selection:

Anyway, you get the idea. Here's my list of essential skills I want my girls to have:

1. To plan and shop for a week's supply of food and household goods, using a realistic budget.
2. To have a list of at least 5 nutritious meals they can make from scratch. I'm not including beans on toast and very simple meals like that, I'm thinking more of things like spaghetti bolognese, lasagne, a roast dinner, and so on.
3. To be able to plan a trip on public transport on their own, including buying tickets, reading timetables, and finding their own way there and back safely.
4. To be able to read a map. An actual paper map, as opposed to looking at an app. Relying on technology is all well and good but when there's no network available a paper map still works.
5. To master simple home repairs: change a plug, a lightbulb and a fuse; unblock a toilet; turn off the water at the stop-cock; all skills that can prevent a bigger problem in the long run.
5. To be able to use household goods: washing machine, dryer, iron, dishwasher, etc. on the right settings and how to keep them clean and in working order.
6. How to make a doctor's/dental/hospital appointment; how to make a telephone call to an official person; to fill in forms; how to order something online.
7. To be able to clean a house properly, using inexpensive products and the right equipment. I'm no domestic goddess, but I know how to clean windows with a newspaper.
8. Basic first aid and what to do if they, or a friend, become ill. Who to call, what not to do, and so on.
9. Being a bit street-wise. Knowing when to say no; understanding the dangers of drinking to excess; keeping safe when out and about; knowing which risks are worth taking and which are too dangerous.
10.  Knowing who/when to ask for help, and knowing that no matter what has happened or how embarrassed they are or much trouble they think they might be in, they can still always ask me for help.

As suggested by a few of the people who responded to my question, I'm hosting a linky jointly with MerryilyMe, as we compared notes on the subject as she was already planning a similar post.

What would you include on your list of essential skills, and have you already started teaching them to your children?  If you have a blog post already written, or would like to write one, please link up below. I'd love to know what's on your list of essentials.