By Michelle Ruschman
In this ongoing series, What Teens Want Us to Know, we asked the question, “What “adulting” skills do you want to be taught before you leave home? (Consider what you might want to know in the areas of physical and emotional health, relationship building, professional success, lifestyle, creativity, practical skills, and education.)” At school, there’s a focus on social, academic, and extracurricular activities, but what about what they want to know…need to know… as they prepare to launch into life beyond graduation? In the busyness of working jobs, getting kids from one activity to another, church life, etc it’s hard to know what our kids don’t know. One mom mentioned, “My college-age son called me the other day and asked me how to make a grilled cheese sandwich! I didn’t know he didn’t know how to do that until that moment!” It’s easy for a modern family to miss the things that we, as parents and grandparents, took for granted growing up. Back then, there was time to learn how to cook together, we assisted our dads in the workshop or garage, and families lived closer together so elders could pass on what they knew to the younger ones. Kids still need this training and mentorship but there don’t seem to be the same opportunities.
When our teens answered, there were clear themes they wanted to learn most:
Financial Literacy – How to pay for different expenses, how to do taxes, and how to create a budget. They also want to know what kind of insurance is needed, how to pick the best one, and how to use it.
Lifestyle Skills – Basic car care, how to do a job interview, how to schedule an appointment with a dentist or doctor, how to clean and maintain a bathroom.
Mental Health – How to stay motivated, how to put themselves first but in a healthy way, and learn how to be patient and reasonable.
Relationship-building skills were probably the one area in which the participants reflected their hearts the most. It would be so easy to see a teen on their phone and believe they didn’t want to be social. The truth is, there is still a longing to stay connected. It’s just now, there are electronic devices our kids are growing up with that make it harder for them to practice. Regardless, they still want relationship advice, to know how to maintain healthy boundaries, to know how to make the right friends, and how to talk to people confidently.
One teen wrote they want to know “how to behave in a likable manner in a social situation.” Another participant thought it was important to be able to offer better support. “I’d like to be able to tell when people are having a rough day.”
Kids are also longing for clarity in the confusion of our current culture. “Adults could teach us better how to understand the world we live in.”
“I just want to be aware of what’s out there. My whole childhood was sheltered from what was happening in the world and now I wish I’d gotten to know more so I didn’t have to be so confused.”
As a parent who works multiple jobs, it feels a little overwhelming to think I’m not teaching my child enough to confidently go into the next chapter after graduation. Anyone else? I think of the single parents, grandparents who are raising grandchildren, foster families, and families who deal with travel and deployment. There’s a real opportunity here for communities to come together, parents to band together, and churches to serve their youth, all for the sake of our kids leaving confidently.
Imagine a program called Launching Well where retirees, parents, and leaders in our community come together to teach their skills, passions, and expertise to our future leaders, consumers, and decision-makers. We’d have an opportunity for generations to reach for one another, for our kids to feel seen and loved, and for these teens to go back to their families with greater knowledge, confidence, and independence. Yes, I’ve been thinking about this a lot.
Our kids know some of what they will need to be contributing citizens in this world and we’ve lived it out for decades. Hopefully, with some deliberate action and collaboration, we can pass on what we know so it all becomes a little less daunting.
If you’d like your 13 to 18-year-old to be included in future articles, please have them fill out this anonymous Google form, shorturl.at/npr79.