Remember that day you met your sweet little one? Regardless of how you became a mom, you got the task of raising a tiny human and making sure they’re a productive member of society. In the blink of an eye, they’re all grown up and starting to think about heading off to college or moving out to start their own lives. Now instead of worrying about sleep training or learning to read, you’ve got to worry about the things your teen needs to learn before leaving home. From the day my kids were born, they’ve all known they never, ever have to leave my house. And if they do, we can all buy houses right next to each other so they’ll always have their mommy. While they’re on board with these ideas right now, I know there’s going to be a day when they actually do grow up and want to move out (and not live right next door to me…). As I sat and talked about high school courses and college plans with my oldest son, I realized there’s so much he needs to know before he leaves my nest. That got me thinking about preparing your kids for leaving home and what they need to know living on their own for the first time.
Share with your kids what life looked like when you were just starting out. Your kids likely came into the picture once things had settled for you a bit and they might only remember the home you created, cars, going out, or having fun birthday parties. They don’t know the struggles you had to provide those things for them or how you had to eat ramen noodles and work three jobs for four years to put yourself through college. Remind them about the hard work you’ve had to accomplish to get to where you are today. That life shouldn’t be expected when they move out. It takes work. A lot of work.
Here are a few things they should know before leaving the nest:
How to Apply for a Job
Sure it’s second nature for you as an adult at this point. You know to fill out the application, take your resume, and write a cover letter. But who taught you that? Spend some time with your teen sitting down to talk about what needs to go on their resume, especially if it’s their first job.
And what happens when they get an interview? Make sure they know how to dress, how to answer common questions, and how to follow up after an interview.
How to Make (At Least) 3 Meals
They don’t need to be anything fancy. Grilled cheese, macaroni and cheese, and spaghetti all count. From start to finish, make sure they know how to do it. What utensils and ingredients they’ll need, what temperature to cook things at, how to know they’re done. It’s all second nature to you at this point but it’s all brand new to your teen if they haven’t cooked before.
Maybe they don’t need to know how to completely spring clean their house right away, but they should know how to wash the dishes, clean the bathroom, and other basic tasks. These are probably things you just do as part of your cleaning routine, but it’s good to get kids involved so they can learn what’s involved with the upkeep of their living space. Their roommates and future spouses will thank you for showing them it’s not ok to be a slob.
Clean clothes are super important and most teens I know don’t have the unlimited budget to just go out and buy more clothes when they run out. Save them from unfortunate accidents like using too much detergent, washing a red shirt with your whites, and having to rewash their load because they forgot about it (confession: I still do this sometimes…).
How to Balance a Checkbook (or their bank account)
Checkbooks might be a thing of the past, but it’s still so important to know how much money you’ve got in your account. Using your debit or credit card until it doesn’t work any more isn’t the best plan. Coming up with a system that works for you to keep track of your balance is time well spent. Which leads to…
How to Make (and Stick To) a Budget
Life is expensive. Having a good understanding of how much money you’ve got compared to how much money you’re spending can save you so many headaches. Maybe you’ll need to get a second job or figure out how to make some additional income to cover your expenses. Or maybe you’ll see it’s beneficial to stay at home another year and save some money (if that’s an option for your teen) before moving out on their own. Growing up my parents never talked about money. I haven’t talked about it enough with my kids either. If you’re not comfortable sharing your actual budget with your children, make up some (realistic) numbers to start the conversation. Give them an idea of what they can expect to make at a local job while working during high school or college in your area. Explain to them what basic expenses they’ll have when they move out (or what they should be prepared to contribute to if they continue to live with you after high school if you want to do that). Things like electricity, water, internet, insurance (car, health, home), car payments (or public transportation), groceries, cell phone, and incidentals are good things to include. Most kids are surprised with how much it costs to actually adult and it’s better that they learn sooner rather than later. And one more thing…
Regardless of how much money you’re (not) making, you’ve got to start saving. Even if it’s just $20 from every paycheck, it’s a start. When a situation comes up down the road, having that little nest egg can make a huge difference. Need some ideas on how to save? Check out this post about saving for Christmas shopping. It works for whatever you’re saving for.
The Importance of Always Having Some Cash on You
Sometimes there’s a glitch and computer systems go down so the only option to check out at the grocery store or gas station is to pay with cash. If you don’t have a $20 tucked away in your wallet, your teen’s going to be out of luck. And don’t forget to replenish your stash. If you’ve got to use your emergency money, make sure to replace it so it’s there next time you need it.
What It Takes to Start a Household
Moving out seems so exciting when you’re young and wanting your freedom. Once you start looking for that apartment and realize just how much it costs to move out, your teen might start rethinking their decisions. Go over all the “hidden” costs with them like having to pay a deposit for their electricity, water, sewer, internet, and other utilities since it’s their first time having an account in their name. Look at renters insurance to cover their belongings in case of an accident.
It’s Ok to Come Back Home
No matter what, make sure your teen knows how proud of them you are and how much you want to see them succeed. They also need to know that if things don’t work out, that it’s ok for them to come back home. It’s not a failure to move back home. In fact, it can be incredibly responsible to know (and be able to admit) when it’s time to take a step back and regroup.