Kids don’t “come of age” like they used to. In these days of AI voice assistance, self-driving cars and apps to take care of everything from getting dinner to getting a date, the life skills needed to transition from childhood into adolescence are fast being boiled down to using your thumbs to operate a smartphone.
But that doesn’t mean your children shouldn’t know how to live life like the sort-of adult they’ll be by the time they enter high school. The fundamentals still apply. In fact, you could make a pretty good argument that kids who know how to do the things their parents’ generation had to do when they were growing up are better off today — it sets them apart.
In any case, be they winner or whiner, your kid should definitely know how to do these things by the time they head for high school.
Not everyone likes mornings, and that’s fine, but if your kid is going to score perfect attendance, they’re going to have to learn to drag themselves out of bed at the sound of an alarm, get dressed and fed, and make it to class on time.
Load, unload and start the dishwasher
Placing dirty plates and bowls and utensils into the dishwasher should be second nature by the time your kid is ready for high school. If he can manage to perfectly align his timetable to have the same classes as his friends, he can manage to put the dishware in its place.
Use a knife
It’s okay not to know how to fillet a fish or whatever, but they should feel comfortable cutting a tomato or onion without slicing their finger. That’s a call you don’t want to get from their friend’s parents.
Put on a load of laundry
There’s plenty of opportunity for them to practice. Get them washing and drying their own hamper that’s overflowing with soiled socks, shirts and undies. And always start ’em folding young.
Clean the bathroom
Before they go smearing their raging hormones all over the place, make sure they know how to clean up after themselves, including in the bathroom. Scrubbing the tub and the toilet and washing a mirror so it doesn’t smudge should be on the list.
Cook basic meals
No one is asking them to grill a steak to The Keg’s standard, but a 13-year-old should understand how to boil water and safely make pasta. Okay, mac and cheese.
It’s important at any age, but once they enter the viper pit that is high school with all the cool, older vipers who want them to do stuff they probably shouldn’t, it becomes even more vital. Hopefully they don’t practice on you, though.
Read a map, or at least use Google Maps
Directions become all the more important when there aren’t parents to play chauffeur. Make sure your kid knows North from South, and has a basic understanding of how to read a map in order to get themselves to places they frequent like school, the library or wherever the cool kids are hanging these days.
Use public transit
If they know how to use a map, they should probably know how to take public transit too, especially if you live in a city. “It’s called a bus token, and you’re using it to get home after band practice, because Mommy’s had a (large) glass of wine already.”
We don’t expect them to be putting away for their college days, but your teenager should have some idea of how to make her allowance last past the weekend. And we’re not talking about the piggy bank here.
Yes, most communication is done digitally these days, but nobody wants to be in their twenties and confused about where to write the postal code on an envelope. Practice with letters to grandma, which she’ll surely enjoy receiving. Win, win.
Order a meal at a restaurant
Kids and pre-teens can be shy and awkward. You remember that feeling, don’t you? But letting your spawn sink away into the shadows when it’s their turn to order a cheeseburger won’t stoke their confidence.
Talk to adults
Manners are good, but just as impressive is a kid who can ask an astute question or talk about more than Pokemon. Teach your kids that conversation with anyone of any age can be rewarding.
Boy, girl, it doesn’t matter. At this age, they’ll start to have adults in their lives that aren’t family, and when they meet new ones, they should be prepared with a firm grip and sustained eye contact. Hold it! Hold it!