Before our children graduated from high school, we wanted to be sure that they had skills beyond their core knowledge of math, science, history and language arts that would help them as they navigated the world into adulthood. We included home economics, basic auto mechanics, wood working and some other of the typical electives in their studies, but we also focused on other things that we felt would help them when they were on their own.
- Financial responsibility – From the time that our kids were old enough to understand the value of money we began teaching them the importance of planning your spending so that they would learn to live within their means. This included how to create and stick to a budget, the pros and cons of credit, how to read a financial contract, buying big-ticket items like a car and more. Once they were working, we taught them how to do their own taxes. One exercise we did that proved an eye opener to them was we had them pretend that they were moving out on their own. They had to gather all the information they needed for renting an apartment, getting the utilities turn on, furnish their place and feed themselves.
- Insurance basics – After the kids each earned their driver's licenses, we took time to explain how to get an auto insurance policy, what to look for in the policy and how to weigh the costs and deductibles in making policy decisions. We also spent some time reviewing our health, dental and vision insurance plans together so that they were aware of what was covered and how much was going to come out of their pockets if services were needed.
- How to write a resume, apply for a job and be prepared for a job interview – In addition to having them write their own resume and practice filling out job applications, we had mock job interviews to help them understand what types of questions they might be asked as well as what questions they should ask during the interview. We also explained the value of having a good work ethic and how to determine if a company is a good fit for their skills.
- Time management – With full schedules of school, sports, scouts, church, jobs, family gatherings, hanging out with friends and household responsibilities, we felt it was also necessary that our kids understood how to prioritize their time. They learned to use their own schedulers to keep track of all their events.
- Manners and etiquette – This may be a given and I must boast that my kids are very polite, but we also wanted to instill in them the importance of showing gratitude by writing thank-you notes, to show respect to our flag and country, and to treat everyone as they would want to be treated. We also prepared them for the not so everyday occurrences such as weddings, visiting hospitals and attending funerals.
- Relationships and Communication – These were definitely "work-in-progress" skills that we visited quite often. Not only did we provide guidance on friendships, dating and family dynamics but we also counselled them on work environment relationships.
- Be themselves – Even today, every chance we can, we reinforce the huge importance that our kids be who they are and to always believe that they have great worth no matter how crummy they feel. They do not have to fit into someone else's idea of who they should be, and their uniqueness is what makes them the extra special people that they are.
Even though most of these skills were taught over the years as our children grew, we have seen how taking the extra time to focus on them during their teen years has helped them become successful adults and prepared them for some of the things life throws their way.