My son is now in his last year of school. This time next year, he'll be done with school and he'll be embarking on a new chapter in his life.
Instead of being thrilled, I find myself being afraid and anxious. Afraid of many things - but most of all, afraid that I'm running out of time with him. More than ever all I want to do is stay home with him - even if he doesn't care for my existence at home!
Photo by Tegan Mierle on Unsplash
Thinking of him leaving school has made me realise that after 10 years of being in school, there are basic things that he has not been taught and he should if he was to start his adolescent life with a bit more confidence.
Calculus, how to reduce our carbon footprint, etc is all good and well but going out in the world and trying to fit in and play well with all that life has to offer is not easy especially after many years of getting everything done for you.
We are very much involved in raising our teens - outside of what is being taught in school - even if they don't feel like they need it. We often start them early around the house with chores - taking the trash out, cleaning their own rooms, helping out in the kitchen and so on. But is this enough? Teens need to start living their lives, in part, as adults. They need to wake up on their own, manage time on their own, drive a car, do their own laundry, manage their own money, and pay their own bills. Of course, a few go-to recipes they could whip up on their own wouldn’t be bad either.
Is my son well equipped by this point - I dare not say no because he'll probably turn around, with one eyebrow raised, say what's the fuss all about - 'what's so difficult about doing laundry?', 'how hard is it to cook fried rice' (or 'why should I cook at all, when there's take out?'), 'I can wake up on my own if I wanted to, I just choose not to!'
Come to think of it, we don't really know how prepared they are until they go out there and actually have to fend for themselves. They are smart human beings, if they can find ways to outsmart their teachers, I'm sure they'll find a way to set the alarm and wake themselves up!
Regardless, I'm determined to instill some of the following skills into my son before he graduates high school! I know he can always search stuff up on youtube but I would feel a whole lot better if I do this.
I never really learnt to cook until I had my boy - even that it was magical how instinctively I felt the need to do so and look up recipes and watch videos. My son was a picky eater so meal times were dreadful for the first 8 years of his life but I soldiered on and so did he. With the rise of convenient food delivery services, one could argue on the redundancy of having any cooking skills when food is basically available at your fingertips, BUT on the other side of the coin, you have no idea the kind of ingredients that go into outside food. With home cooking, you know exactly what goes into your dishes and people say it saves money, though I would beg to differ when I see my weekly grocery bill so lets stick to it being healthier. All he needs is a couple of dishes under his belt and he'll be fine.
In this department, I'm pretty proud of my son because he's a clean freak and I don't really care if he messes up his room (which is normally nothing too serious) because I know the time will come when he gets sick of it, he'll pull out the vacuum cleaner and all the cleaning tools and just like magic everything will be sorted. Now I just need to get him to expand his scope from only his room to the whole house!
Money Management and Budgeting
Maths classes are always about finding a formula here and there that you probably most likely won't use in your adult life and yet they fail to teach the one thing that every single person would definitely have to do - to budget and manage your own money. Quite frankly I myself learned how to budget my finances only when I started work and at 47, I'm still trying to manage. People say you’re either a spender or a scrooge but I seriously think, it’s not really in your DNA how you manage your money but it’s something that should be taught from young. As a parent, I tend to spend on my son what he wants as long as it's within my means but for the past few years he’s taken the initiative to save for a certain gadget that he really wants and that he knows would be a bit too much for me - through this he’s bought all his iPhones, AirPods, PC accessories, a monitor and other stuff. I’m pretty proud of him for this. I do give him a certain allowance monthly to allow him to learn how to manage this sum between saving it for a big ticket item and spending it on movies and going out. But at 14 or 15, it’s a bit of challenge trying to get them to save - have money will spend....but at least we’re both trying.
Manners & Kindness
Manners are important in this world and using manners properly will make a good impression with all the people we come in contact with on a daily basis. Along with manners comes also kindness and respect, I always say that if we had enough respect for each other, there would not be wars, or any sort of violence. I do anticipate that my son would be travelling abroad and during these times it is important to learn and respect the customs in any country so as to not cause any offence.
I come across many people in the workplace who are university graduates but are in extreme lack of these skills. They are ill-equipped at handling themselves in a formal or professional setting and aren't good communicators be it on paper or orally which is worrying. It can be as simple as writing a thank you note after an interview to using proper notation in a professional correspondence, it's a very important skill to have, that's why I've started asking my son to respond to correspondence from school just to give him a bit of practice for starters.
We all have the right to self-defense. My son has been in a safe circle for most his life and knowing that he's going out into the world scares me a little. There is a lot of good in the world but as we know it, there is a lot of bad too - racism, prejudice, bullying, robberies, muggings - it's all rampant and we hear it on the news all too often. It is better to know how to defend oneself and never need to, than need to and not know how to.
Learning from Failure
Learning from failure and mistakes is something we've always learnt on our own. Failing at exams or losing a football match is basically lessons you can learn from rather than taking it as a failure. Teens need to understand this - they are all lessons for us to take into account the next time we sit for an exam or go into another match. All too often we penalise our teens, or ourselves for not being good enough and this is just bad for the self-esteem. Taking it positively is not easy but it can be done with constant positive reinforcement from parents and teachers. Kindness is not just towards other people but we need to be kind to ourselves too! Its too often that we don't take risks because we're afraid to fail only to learn later on in life than failure is just part of the process. Its okay to fail. I need my son to realise this - and to be fearless!
Knowing how to use CPR, clean and dress a wound, prevent infection, apply the Heimlich manoeuvre, apply a tourniquet, are just a few of the important things that everybody needs to learn. It is basic and schools SHOULD be teaching this, at least his doesn't (not that I know of)! At any moment you'd never know when you or someone around you will suddenly be in trouble and to be self-sufficient in a life and death situation is knowledge unfortunately most people lack, myself included!
While assignments, tests, papers, exams, and so on are expected by teachers to be studied for and taken in certain time constraints by students, schools don’t really teach students how to manage their time effectively. Time efficiency is not only helpful in school, it is increasingly valuable the older we get, for the older we get the less and less time we have and juggling life in a 24 hour time frame, most of us know, is simply not enough and can be draining.
My son sleeps and studies at odd hours and sometimes it works for him but it makes me feel uncomfortable because it's not the normal human hours he's keeping. On some days, he's on a totally different time zone than I am though we live under the same roof. There should be a balance between work, leisurely activities and sleep. Our body needs it and gives us signals that we often ignore. As a teenager he's wired a little different and I give him space to find the best way to manage everything on his plate on his own. I do step in when too much sleep is happening.
The law and basic rights
Most of us have a general knowledge of what laws there are that have any impact on our day-to-day lives. Students should be taught, at the bare minimum, the laws that might have an effect on their lives whilst they are in school, as they graduate and enter society as adults. For example, is trespassing a misdemeanor or a felony? Can someone be arrested for not paying a debt - such as a credit card or bank loan? What rights does someone have who has just been arrested? Given the real-life consequences of breaking the law, the law should be taught to students, who can then think for themselves and act accordingly. It's really silly that we don't do this in school.
Coping Skills For What Life Throws At You
There are some things that he'll have to learn to handle by himself when the time comes, such as heart break, disappointment, failure which I'm sure he has a bit of experience in. As a parent, as much as I want to protect him from all the pain and hardship forever, I realise that I no longer can. Instead I feel the best would be to advise him on how he can face and react to these moments in life.
Many resort to negative coping strategies offering a quick fix, making them an attractive solution which includes drinking, drug use, self-mutilation, sexual behaviours, thrill-seeking, and unhealthy eating patterns to name a few. They may be quick fixes but they are also dangerous and can just add to the stress.
It’s important for our teens to remember that there are always choices and to choose well.
I'm not sure if this can be taught or if it's in built. It might often be overlooked at times and might be under-rated but having some common sense will go a long long way in any kind of situation. Sometimes, in a situation, all we have is our common sense to help us make the right decisions and choices. This might be one of the more important traits to have amongst all of the others.
We as parents are not perfect and we should never appear to be seen so when we're clearly not. We don't have all the answers either but our children are not alone and we can help them through the experiences that we've had. This is just a small way for me to help my son prepare for the road that lies ahead of him. To better equip him for him to gather his own experiences, make his own choices and learn from them.
I have no doubt he will thrive as a young adult and beyond and I always wish him only the best in life - whatever it may bring him!