Raising Capable Adults

Most parents suddenly realize in high school that their kids should be learning the skills they’ll need as adults, whether they’re heading off to college or moving out to live on their own. Often it comes as a surprise how little time there is left, and how much your kids still need to know. If you haven’t already introduced them to these skills by the time they become teenagers, it’s a good time to start! Take a good look at these lists and make a plan now to be sure to be giving your kids all the opportunities you can to be ready to live on their own!

Ages 10-15

Starting as young as 10, but definitely by the time they are 15, kids can be doing their own laundry and cleaning the bathroom they use as well as their own room. They should understand that sheets and towels need to be washed regularly, and that their trash can should be emptied weekly.

It’s also important that they help with the tasks that are shared across the household. If they eat, they can help cook and clean up after meals. They can also help clean shared spaces in the house.

Learning all of these skills, and practicing them, will serve them incredibly well when they head out on their own. Otherwise you might get texts like these from your adult child!

left all my clothes in the washing machine since tuesday
they smell disgusting
should i still dry them

im out of clean underwear
and socks
and laundry detergent
dishwasher and laundry pods are pretty much the same right
please say yes

Ages 16-18

By the time your kids are 16, there are even more things beyond self care and basic cleanliness they should be able to do. Within the next few years your kids will need to be able to plan, shop, and prepare enough healthy meals that they can feed themselves. They’ll need to be able to buy and clean their own clothes, do basic house cleaning and car maintenance, as well as make appointments for haircuts, the dentist, and the doctor.

In fact, there’s even more things that kids will ideally know before they head out on their own. From the files of texts you don’t want to get from your kids:

is it ok if i didn’t finish all my antibiotics
like basically half
gave some to my roommate cause he was coughing
now cant find the rest

If you’re starting to think about (or worry about) making sure your kids know everything they need to know to live on their own, here is an even more complete list you might want to consider introducing to them before they head out on their own:

Ages 16 – 99

You may notice that I made the title of the list at the top of this post say Age 16-99. There are actually 2 reasons you’ll want to be thinking about all of these skills and how to prepare your kids to become adults.

The first reason is the obvious one. They won’t always live under your roof, and all of these skills will help them be healthy, functional, and productive members of society. As a parent our goal is to launch our kids so that they move out and take care of themselves!

The second reason your kids should learn to do all of these things is so that they don’t ever expect someone else to do these things for them.

As moms, we often take on the bulk of these tasks for our kids, and sometimes for our husbands. We often model for our kids that moms own these tasks, and that anyone else in the household who pitches in his helping mom do her work.

To every mom out there who wants to break this cycle: we need to teach our kids that every person in the household who eats, uses a bathroom, or wears clothes has a responsibility to participate (in an age appropriate way) in providing that food or cleaning the things they use. We should raise sons who understand that they are capable of and responsible for doing this work for themselves. We should raise daughters who understand that they will be expected to do this work for themselves, but not for others who are able to do it for themselves. We shouldn’t model for our sons or our daughters that women take care of these things for others who are capable. We shouldn’t model for our daughters that becoming a mom means all of this work is now hers. This isn’t woman’s work, or mom’s work. It’s everyone’s work.

If you’re a mom, a dad, or a teen who eats, you can also cook 1-2 times/week as well as do meal planning, grocery shopping, and dishes. If you’re a mom, a dad, or a teen who wears clothes, you can shop for and clean those clothes. Having a job outside the home is not a reason to be excused from this work. Moms who work outside the home are rarely excused from this work. Even moms who work at home are primarily spending their 9-5 hours doing childcare. Sometimes they can also fit in some of the shared tasks of cooking dinner, doing laundry, and cleaning the house while they’re doing that childcare. But that should be a bonus for the household as opposed to an expectation that doing the cooking, cleaning, and laundry for everyone else in the house falls to her because she is home doing childcare.

Raise kids who understand that by default, as kids and as adults, they are responsible for doing their share of this work in any household they’re a part of. Their future roommates and spouses will thank you.

More Resources

For parents of younger kids who are planning ahead, there’s a lot you can do to front load this learning. Check out these blog posts I wrote for introducing these skills to kids at younger ages:

Playing the Cleaning Game

Playing the Laundry Game

Learning Life Skills Through Pretend Play

Family Contributions: Ages 6-9

Here are ideas of what age kids can start to try all sorts of different chores. You can use these ideas to create your own chore charts using The Trip Clip.

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