Life Skills
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When your kids are born, you’re inundated with advice on what you should teach them, from their ABCs to potty training. But as the parent of a teen, I’ve been surprised to discover just how many life skills high school- and college-bound kids don’t know. Sure, your sullen or know-it-all-teen thinks she’s beyond learning from you, but before she heads off into the real world, there are some life skills she really should have. She’ll thank you later…maybe.

MAIL A LETTER

Email hasn’t completely replaced snail mail just yet, but show him where the stamp goes (yes, this is something he might not have Googled yet), where to put the address, how it should be written and where to find a mailbox. Those little blue boxes around town actually have a purpose.

PUMP GAS

If your kid spent his whole life in NJ and is now heading off to school or on a road trip out of state, this one’s key. On your next trip across the border to PA or NY, make sure you show him how to fill up.

DO LAUNDRY

I’m not talking about separating the colors and whites. I mean how to put laundry detergent into the machine, which settings to use for which garments (so he doesn’t shrink his sweaters or turn them hot pink), when (or when not) to use bleach and the importance of dryer sheets.

WASH DISHES

My friend shared a horror story about her college roommate who only washed the tops of dishes because he thought cleaning the backside was pointless (even if they’d been stacked on other dishes). Don’t let that be your kid. Instead, show them the miracles of dish soap and hot water, plus how to load the dishwasher if you have one.

WRITE A CHECK

In the day and age of Venmo, writing a check may seem unnecessary. But there’ll be a time that she’ll need to fill one out. A lot of landlords still use them, so better she has a clue when faced with her first blank check. While you’re at it, make sure you teach her budget basics (there are apps for that!) and warn her about the temptation of signing up for credit cards that promise “free money.”

MAKE SOME STAPLE MEALS

Think basics. She can’t dine out all the time, so show her how to use a can opener, boil water and make easy meals like scrambled eggs or grilled cheese. It might not be the healthiest diet, but it’s enough to keep her from blowing her allowance on Uber Eats.

TAKE PUBLIC TRANSPORTATION

He’s eventually going to board a train or plane on his own, and navigating NJ Transit or the gates at Newark Airport can be confusing. Teach him how to read a schedule, figure out gates ahead of time and most importantly, stay alert so he doesn’t miss his stop.

SCHEDULE APPOINTMENTS

There’ll come a time when her doctor, dentist and hairdresser will frown upon you calling to set up a visit for her. Trust me, I’m in my 40s and if it was cool to get my mom to book my doctor visits, I would. So, teach her how to call an office (make sure she understands to call during business hours). Give your text-addicted teen some confidence on the phone, start small by having her call to order pizza for a change. They’ll still call you to ask how to sew a button or use an iron, but these life skills will get them started on adulting.

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