Prepare Your Kids for Life on Their Own
Editor's Note: The following is a report on the practical applications
of Connie Neumann's book, Parenting in the Home Stretch: 12 Ways to
Prepare Your Kids for Life on Their Own, (Revell Books, 2007).
As your kids progress through the teenage years and start to think
about life after high school, you may start to panic. Soon they'll be
moving out, away from you. Have you taught them what they need to get
started in life on their own?
Teaching them some key attitudes and skills will help prepare them for
when they fly out of your nest. Here's what to focus on:
Teach them how to deal with authority. Give your kids a combination of
unconditional love for who they are as people and clear limits on
their behavior. Set appropriate consequences for misbehavior, and
follow through consistently on discipline. Motivate your kids to obey
not out of fear or duty, but out of love and respect for you and
others in authority. Train them to face tough situations with courage
rather than running away in anger. Say "yes" to your kids as much as
possible, but be strong enough to say "no" whenever necessary. Think
carefully about your values and decide which ones are critical to you.
Then choose your battles with your kids. Don't budge on issues that
are important in the long run, and let other issues (such as personal
Keep your emotions under control when you discuss hot-button issues
with your kids; be as calm and rational as possible. Let your kids see
you in prayer, asking God for wisdom. Help them understand that, just
as they need to answer to you, you need to answer to God for how you
Teach them how to handle money wisely. Give them a regular allowance
and require that they use it to pay for certain things. Explain that
they should strive to spend just 80 percent of every dollar they
receive, save 10 percent of it, and give away 10 percent. Encourage
them to give their time and possessions to others, as well. Open a
savings account for each of your kids and teach them to set short- and
long-term savings goals.
Talk with your kids about how much goods and services cost in real
life. Take them grocery shopping with you and show them how to compare
prices. Discuss the cost of expenses such as rent, car maintenance and
insurance, and utility bills. Decide on a clothing budget and let them
buy their own clothes (subject to your veto if any items aren't modest
enough). Help them analyze the value of items they're considering
buying. Once your kids have regular after-school jobs, open checking
accounts for them and teach them how to reconcile the account to their
Explain how to use credit wisely and avoid debt that plagues far too
many young adults today. Let them know how much interest they'll pay
if they buy things before having the money to pay in the bank to pay
for them. Stress the importance of always paying off credit cards in
full every month. Teach them to be honest in all their financial
dealings. Show them how to make – and stick to – a budget. Explain the
basics of investing to them. Gradually, as they grow older, stop
paying for all their expenses and shift the financial responsibility
more and more to them.
Teach them personal responsibility and self-discipline. Give your kids
responsibilities around the house. Set deadlines for them to complete
those responsibilities, and set consequences in motion if those
deadlines aren't met. Model responsibility in your own life by letting
your kids see you honoring the commitments you've made to others. Help
your kids make sure that their commitments match their priorities.
Teach them how to say "no" graciously to requests that don't align
with their core values. If your kids are part of a team, encourage
them to be faithful by attending practice regularly and not dropping
out mid-season. Make a family calendar to organize your time.
Require your child to replace something that he or she broke or lost.
Have your kids get themselves out of bed every morning when their
alarm clocks go off. Have them pack their own school lunches. Don't
bail your kids out of crises when they fail to do their homework or
complete projects on time; let them experience the natural
consequences. Spend time regularly with your kids, teaching them to
make good decisions.
Teach them chores and life skills. Require your kids to perform
specific chores at home to teach them the value of hard work (which
will prepare them for professional jobs) and give them a sense of
belonging and accomplishment. Supervise your kids to make sure they do
the work well and on time. Inspect their work and insist that they do
the job over if it isn't done correctly.
Don't divide chores along traditional gender lines. Teach both boys
and girls how to do laundry, cook basic meals, wash dishes, clean
floors and bathrooms, pull weeds, mow grass, sew buttons on clothes,
and perform basic house and car maintenance (such as changing an air
filter or changing a flat tire).
Get a family pet if you don't already have one. Realize that, besides
providing great enjoyment, pets teach kids invaluable lessons about
responsibility. Have your kids learn how to take care of the family
pet (or pets) on their own. Clear clutter out of your house regularly
by giving away or throwing away items you no longer use.
Teach them your core values. Think and pray about what matters most to
you so you can clearly articulate your core values to your kids. Help
your children discern truth from lies. Explain the importance of moral
absolutes, and train them to think critically and respond wisely to
relativism in our culture. Teach them that there is a difference
between who a person is and what a person does. Encourage them to show
love and compassion to others. Model a life of honesty and integrity
for them. Don't lie, cheat, or steal. Treat others the way you want to
be treated. Don't cut corners with your work; give your best effort to
everything you do. Expect the same just behavior of your kids. Require
your children to apologize if they've hurt someone's feelings. Make
your kids stick to commitments they've already made even when better
offers come along. Urge them to respect other people's time by being
Teach them to use their gifts and talents. Help your kids discover
their God-given natural talents and spiritual gifts. Encourage them to
develop those abilities and put them to use through service. Become
involved in what interests your kids most – attend their games and
performances, read their writing, view their artwork, discuss their
ideas. Let your kids freely choose what activities they want to
participate in, rather than forcing your own preferences and agenda on
them. Limit time your kids spend watching TV or playing video games.
Provide plenty of unstructured time for them to be creative. Buy them
supplies they need for creative projects. Know each of your kids'
personality type and primary love language. Urge your kids to follow
their dreams. Regularly talk with your kids about what's on their
minds and help them work through issues that are important to them.
Teach them to grow spiritually. Actively live out your faith in front
of your kids and talk with them about what you believe and why it's
important to you. Participate in church regularly as a family. Read
and study the Bible together. Pray together. Urge your kids to think
and pray through issues of faith for themselves so they can be clear
about what they believe and why. Inspire them to connect with God
regularly through private devotional times. Encourage them to put
their talents and gifts to use through ministry.
Teach them about guys, girls, and hormones. Explain your family's
standards of appropriate dress, and model those standards by being
modest yourself. If you're married, let them see what a successful
marriage looks like in the way you talk to and treat your spouse.
Figure out what rules you want to set about dating, and be able to
clearly explain those rules – and the reasons behind them – to your
kids when they ask. Explain the vital importance of sexual purity
before marriage. Take a firm stand against pornography. Regularly
express affection for your kids so they feel secure and won't be
tempted to seek affection in unhealthy ways. Get to know their friends
well. Teach your kids how to treat people of the opposite sex with
respect. Give them strategies for dealing with peer pressure about sex
and getting themselves out of bad situations. Pray for their future
Teach them to take good care of their physical health. Prepare
nutritious meals for your family. Drink plenty of water and limit soda
and other unhealthy beverages at home. Have healthy snacks – not junk
food – available at home. Exercise regularly and urge your kids to do
the same. Set some times to exercise together. Make sure your kids
stick to a regular bedtime and get enough sleep. Have them take a
multivitamin daily. Urge them to avoid alcohol, cigarettes, and other
drugs. Encourage them to have a healthy body image (not necessarily
what's portrayed in the media). Teach your kids to read food labels.
Help them effectively manage stress in their lives. Explain how they
can tell if they need a doctor's care, and how to take medicine
Teach them what a loving home is like. Eat meals as a family together
regularly. Celebrate your kids' birthdays well. Establish and enjoy
family holiday traditions. Tell them stories of when they were
younger. Help them learn about their heritage by telling them stories
from your own childhood and what their grandparents' and other family
members' lives were like. Preserve memories of both small and large
events in your kids' lives through photos and video. Save some of your
kids' school papers, artwork, and other documents. Invite their
friends to join some special family events and activities in your
home. Talk with your kids about how trust and privileges work
together. If you're a single parent or in a blended family, seek God's
healing for your emotions and His wisdom for solutions to your
problems. Carve out plenty of time and effort to help your kids heal
Teach them good manners. Encourage your kids to treat other people in
ways they would like to be treated themselves. Train them to address
their elders respectfully. Urge them to speak up politely at school
when necessary. Explain how to properly speak to people in person, on
the phone, and by mail and e-mail. Enforce consequences for
mistreating other people. Don't gossip yourself, and reprimand your
kids if you overhear them gossiping.
Prepare yourself for when your kids leave. Make sure that you don't
depend too heavily on your kids for your own personal fulfillment.
Invest time and energy in your marriage to build (or maintain) a
healthy relationship once your kids have left home. Pursue a career
and and/or volunteer work about which you feel passionate. Remember
that your kids ultimately belong to God, who created them. Pray for
them daily, and trust God to continue to watch over them throughout
their entire lives.
Adapted from Parenting in the Home Stretch: 12 Ways to Prepare Your
Kids for Life on Their Own, copyright 2005 by Connie Neumann.
Published by Fleming H. Revell, a division of Baker Publishing Group,
Grand Rapids, Mich., www.revellbooks.com.
Connie Neumann writes a parenting column for a regional publication
called Family Times and has written dozens of articles in parenting
magazines. She has also worked as an editor, staff writer, copyeditor,
consultant, and proofreader. The mother of two teenagers, Connie lives
with her family in Summerfield, Fl.