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10 Things All Children Should Know to be a Successful Adult and Live on Their Own

It all goes so quickly. One day you are changing dozens of diapers and the next chasing a giggling toddler through the park. You blink and then there’s driver’s training, followed by Prom and then your baby’s first heartbreak. We worry about all the day-to-day tasks shuffling from breakfast to dinner, soccer practice, and school plays. Let’s just be honest between taking care of our kids, other family and working, our babies reach adulthood. I hear people say it all the time, “Only 5 more years until they are on their own.” or  “Once they graduate, I can go back to doing my hobbies.” Unfortunately, while 18 has become the legal age of adulthood many children lack the skills and knowledge to be an adult until much later in life after a lot of trial and error. The following skills are what every child should know by the time they become an adult to put them on the path to success

Let’s get started with 10 Things All Children Should Know to be a Successful Adult and Live on Their Own

1. Open a bank account

No matter where life takes you, whether you become financially well off or live paycheck to paycheck you will need a bank account. There are many reasons for this and a lot of children when they first move out have no real idea what to do with a bank account. Ideally, help them open 3 accounts. One checking, one saving, and one emergency funds account. Help them understand what each bank account can do and its limitations such as writing checks, using atm cards, overdraft, etc. While checks are almost outdated at this point, you may still need them occasionally so it’s important to explain to them how to fill out both a check and money order. The younger you start this the better. You may have to cosign on an account when they are young but start by having them deposit their chore money or holiday cash into their account. This allows them to learn how to fill out the deposit and withdrawal slips, learn to use a debit card, and balance a checkbook or register. 

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2. Cleaning

No matter who you are or your gender, everyone should know how to clean. Seems like common sense to most of us as adults because we do it every day but we forget that to properly cleaning is actually a trained skill. You can start helping your child clean at a very young age. Start out by having them pick up the toys each night or help organize their room so that it looks the way they like it! Children love giving their input and having it listened to. As they get older you can start showing them how to take out the trash, do laundry, and help clean up after any family pets. Finally, once they are age-appropriate educate them on different cleaners and what they are used for. This is an important step to learn as mixing certain chemicals can be dangerous and the wrong cleaners can damage some surfaces. I know asking your children to clean up and take care of things can be a headache because SURPRISE, cleaning is not fun. Do what you can to motivate them. It can be chore money, a special treat for a job well done or like in our house, put on your best music and do a little dance-off as you clean!

3. Cooking 

You don’t need to be a master chef unless that is your passion. The last few years while hanging out with friends, family, and acquaintances I was surprised to find that about half of them did not know how to cook. They had been living off of takeout, pizza rolls, and kraft dinner the majority of the time. ( Don’t get me wrong I do occasionally eat all of these things as well) After discussing it with them, these habits are not a product of laziness but instead a lack of knowledge. The benefits of knowing how to cook will help you both physically and financially in life. Check out our quick recipes.

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Eating out is expensive and really should be limited to being a Friday night treat. I have fond memories of growing up and on Friday nights ordering a pizza and watching a movie as a family. Most nights my mom cooked dinner and while she doesn’t love to cook she knew that it was healthier and could stretch our budget further. My daughter is only 9 and while she isn’t allowed to use a knife or operate an oven by herself yet, she is allowed to cook while supervised. Start by getting a cookbook, something easy to start with (unless your Gordan Ramsey), and let your family each pick a recipe they would like to try. Remember, it’s ok to make mistakes, cooking is all about trial and error. Kids of all ages can learn to cook. Guide them on how to read a recipe, cut veggies safely, and most importantly once they are comfortable let them add their own little flair to the recipe. Check out our simple recipes here on our site for quick and easy dinner ideas.

4. Credit 

This is a topic that I think should be taught in every school and I wish I had not learned about it the hard way. Having good or bad credit will vastly change your life. It will make the difference between whether or not you will rent or buy a house, the cost of a car you purchase, and the overall interest rate of any loan. In some careers, it may even impact whether you get the job. Teach your kids how important it is to pay their bills on time, to go ahead and get that credit card but only use it for emergencies. The main reason for less than stellar credit is the inability to pay bills and at one time or another, we have all had a period of time where we struggled. Teach them that it’s ok to struggle sometimes. As my grandmother would say, “this too shall pass.” The important thing to know when you’re struggling is don’t get depressed and give up, in turn damaging your credit score and payment history. Teach them where to locate resources to get help when needed and many companies will help you set up payment plans that will keep you from falling further behind. I recommend starting with a secured credit card once they turn 18 and using it sparingly so that they can slowly build positive credit. 

5. Read and Write Cursive

Many schools have actually phased out the teaching of writing in cursive. Why is this important when everything is now on the internet and you can just type it out? Well, that’s a great question. Many historical documents are written in cursive and you need to know how to read them to educate yourself. In addition, many experts believe that writing in cursive helps with fine motor skills and additionally actually helps your child with spelling. Writing in print while learning spelling actually makes it harder for your child to focus on the actual spelling vs writing in cursive provides an easier flow allowing them to focus on the word as a whole. In addition, your signature should always be in cursive. Print is easier to forge than your unique signature. If it’s no longer on your child’s curriculum, encourage them to keep a journal and do freewriting in cursive until they perfect their style. An example the picture below is so right and so wrong in so many ways.

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6. Learn to Say NO!

While normally we teach our children that no is not an option when it comes to listening to us as parents, there are times in life when no is the right answer. As children, we need to teach them if they are ever in an uncomfortable situation it is always okay to say no. Just make sure they know there is a difference between saying no to uncomfortable situations or peer pressure and saying no to doing your chores! Teach your kids when it is okay to say no and the importance of using it. As an adult, this skill is a must so that you do not become burnt out. Often as parents, we want to say yes to everything our family and friends want. When trying to handle every request you may become overwhelmed hurting your mental health. If your plate is full, it is ok to say no or try to delegate what tasks you can to others for your peace of mind. 

7. Learn to Budget

Growing up we were taught that it was rude to ask about the household finances and that it was not something we needed to be concerned with. While I agree that children should not have to be worried about how the bills are being paid and track every dollar being spent it is important for them to understand budgets and how to make it work responsibility. Teach them to make a spreadsheet of all their current expenses and compare it to their monthly income so they know what they can reasonably afford for housing. A common mistake when people first learn to make a budget is they forget to add in groceries, makeup/toiletries, and car maintenance costs. Usually, our children have no idea how much it really costs to run a household and think they will be able to afford to eat out and socialize with friends. The cold reality may mean a lot of pasta dinners and sandwiches to get by. (See tips above about the importance of cooking at home) In addition, remember in tip number 1 opening a bank account, having a savings account set up with emergency funds is crucial. The rule of thumb is to have six months’ worth of expenses in your savings account. As adults, this can be really hard to do so encourage them to start saving while living at home while they can so that they have a safety net when they are on their own. 

8. Basic Car Maintenance

I can’t tell you how many times I have seen someone broken down on the road that didn’t know how to change a tire. I’ve seen several people not know how to check or change their oil. Cars are a complex and necessary piece of machinery. While you shouldn’t be expected to be a mechanic (unless you want to be) there are some basic things that you need to know for both safeties and to keep your car operating efficiently. Teach your children how to change a tire and make sure they have a spare and a jack available. This is important as you never know when you may get a flat tire and you wouldn’t want your child stranded somewhere without help.

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It is also important to make sure you have a set of jumper cables in case your battery dies. Make sure they know how to use them safely but I personally recommend a portable battery-powered jumper. This ensures that if no one else is around they can still get their car started. Some other basics needed are regular oil changes, brakes, and various lights on your car. Without proper oil changes, a car can not function correctly. If they suspect that a leak has occurred and they are not near a service station they need to know how to check the oil and add some if it is low. Brakes need to be monitored regularly. Not only is it dangerous to have poorly maintained brakes, but it will also cost you three times the price because now you need rotors as well. One of the most frequent things to go wrong with your car that can get you a ticket or worse in an accident is your lights. This includes headlights, tail lights, blinkers, and emergency lights. Most are super easy to change so make sure you review your car manual and learn to do so. Not to mention car safty such as the tip below.

9. Do Your Taxes

When kids think of doing their taxes they likely think of mounds of paperwork and accountants. It sounds so difficult. As they get jobs and have to eventually file their taxes for the first time they likely will go the route of most inexperienced people and pay someone to do them. While this is definitely an option and frankly a good one once you make a sizable income, own properties, businesses, etc, 90% of youth do not need to go this route. Most have 1-2 W2’s that need to be filed and possibly student loan payments. This can all be done on free software online. It will literally take 10 minutes and it’s free! The only thing better is that they can also e-file and get that refund into the bank account that they opened. My advice is as soon as they have a job that makes enough income that taxes being filed are a must, walk them through how to do it online so they can see how easy it is. 

10.  Learn to Love Yourself

This is the hardest skill to master but also the most important in life. As we become adults and stress sets in managing households, focusing on school, careers, and possibly children for some we start to forget about our core needs and taking care of ourselves. Know that life will have some curveballs, prepare the best you can and roll with it. Your struggles don’t diminish your worth, they make you stronger. Make sure to take time for yourself no matter how crazy life gets. Use your vacation time and savor every minute of doing something you love. Remember that your mental health is just as important as your physical health. Do not feel guilty if you need a day to reset yourself even if all you do is lay in bed watching movies. It’s important to teach our children to work hard but it is more important to teach them to care for themselves and know when they may need help. Every flaw is unique and if you look at it from a different angle you may see that your “flaw” is actually something others admire about you.

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Success- You Can Do It!

There are many ways to define success and it will be different for everyone. Success can be defined financially, reaching a goal in school or a career, or simply obtaining a personal goal. There are thousands of things that your child will need in life and many will be learned along the way but these basic tips will help make the process easier. The best tip for helping your children will always be to lead by example and don’t be afraid to let them see your mistakes, they are simply life lessons.