For the media

10 skills kids leaving the nest should know

By Jen Spengler | August 6, 2020
College student doing laundry at laundromat

By Jennifer Spengler, a health and wellness writer for Sharp Health News and a marketing specialist with Sharp HealthCare.

Like many parents of a 2020 high school graduate, I have been consumed with finding information about whether my daughter’s college will hold classes in person or online and how the potential spread of COVID-19 will be managed on campus. However, I have to remind myself that along with making sure she knows what precautions to take to avoid getting sick or spreading the new coronavirus, there are several other basic skills young adults need to have before leaving home.
So, while teaching your kids about hand-washing, social distancing, effective face coverings and how to disinfect all those frequently touched surfaces, don’t forget to also teach them the top 10 basic life skills they should know — and where to look if they need some additional information from the experts.

10 life skills every young adult should know

  1. How to talk to an adult
    Sure, most teens interact with teachers, coaches and bosses on a regular basis. But do they know how to politely — and effectively — talk to an adult to ask for help, advocate for themselves, apologize for a mistake, interview for a job or simply start a conversation to get to know someone? While it may seem awkward at first, try some role-playing with your teen — or enlist the help of a beloved aunt, uncle, friend or neighbor — to show them how it can be done, what might be said and how they can respond. For advice on how to build an academic relationship and best use office hours, NPR and Teen Vogue got tips directly from professors that you can review with your young adult.

  2. How to manage money
    Your teen really shouldn’t leave your home before knowing how to make a budget and stick to it; make simple banking transactions, such as using an ATM, making a deposit, or writing and endorsing a check; apply for a credit card and how credit works; pay bills and manage savings. Your local bank or credit union is a good place to start for basic money management guidance and offers information for parents and kids of all ages.

  3. How to cook the basics
    Even if you’re no Julia Child, you can still pass along a few tried-and-true cooking techniques to ensure your child doesn’t subsist on packaged ramen noodles alone. Every adult should know how to read a recipe, boil water, make pasta, cook an egg three ways, use the microwave (hint: no metal objects allowed), cook meat to the proper temperature, and make a mean salad, sandwich, appetizer, single-dish dinner and dessert. Need some help? Turn to the bookstore or library for some all-time favorites, such as The Joy of Cooking or How to Cook Everything, or find new takes on Betty Crocker’s recipes your own mom used to make.

  4. How to make an appointment
    Chances are, your grown kid is going to need to get their hair cut, teeth cleaned or a sore throat checked sometime during the year. Learning how to make (and keep) an appointment is pretty darn important. Yelp and other online review sites can help point them in the direction of the best providers where they now live, and sometimes a friendly neighbor, landlord, co-worker or neighborhood social media group offer the best referrals.

  5. How to care for a car or use public transportation
    If you live in the suburbs, your kid may not know how to ride the subway. If you live in the city, they might not know how to change a tire. Either way, they should learn how to do it all. You never know when a road trip in a friend’s car may take an unfortunate turn due to a flat tire. Or when study abroad, internships or a first job might take you to a city center where a subway is the way to go. AAA offers lots of car-care tips, and a few trips on the public transportation in the city closest to your hometown — or use of a system while traveling together — may be all the prep your big kid needs to safely get around.

  6. How to stay safe
    If your child has lived a fairly sheltered life, they may not have developed an internal alert system that allows them to properly sense danger and know how to react. Talk to your child about what to do when walking alone, how to gauge the safety of any given situation, and who to turn to when in need. Consider taking a self-defense class together before they leave. Check your local martial arts studios, college safety department or community center for classes near you. It’s also a good time to discuss the risks of drinking at college or when out with other young adults. The National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism offers a good guide for parents on how to start the discussion and where to look for additional resources.

  7. How to take care of an illness
    While most grown kids — and many adults — will simply call their parents when they don’t feel well, it’s important for them to know how to treat minor illnesses or get care for something more serious. Make sure your child has their health insurance card and knows what kind of coverage they have; knows how to make an appointment by phone or online; understands how to read medication labels and take over-the-counter medicine appropriately; knows what to eat and drink when experiencing stomach troubles; and knows when to ask for help from a resident adviser, student health center, friend or other trustworthy person. Also, encourage them to avoid seeking medical advice online, unless they get it from a trusted source, such as the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC).

  8. How to do laundry
    Even if you live close enough for your grown child to visit you often with dirty clothing in tow, you should make sure they know how — and equally important, how often — to do their own laundry. Teach them how to read clothing labels, sort items by color, spot treat, determine how much detergent to use, choose wash settings, machine- or air-dry, and the best way to fold and store everything. And remind them that bedding and towels don’t wash themselves. When in doubt, they can log on to most brand-name laundry detergent websites for step-by-step instructions, or turn to Snoop Dogg’s friend and lifestyle guru Martha Stewart for advice.

  9. How to properly clean a room, apartment or house
    Whether you’re worried about recouping a hefty security deposit paid for a first apartment or just concerned about general hygiene, it’s important that young adults know what products they should have on hand and which to use on everything from kitchen and bathroom surfaces to appliances, walls, windows and carpets. Good Housekeeping has been an excellent resource for information on cleaning products, tips and tricks since 1885, and is still a good source for adults both young and old.

  10. How to save a life
    While there may not be many opportunities to save another student’s or co-worker’s life, knowing how to help someone who is choking or how to perform CPR are invaluable tools that can come in handy throughout their life — at home, at school, in a workplace or even when enjoying recreational or social activities. The American Red Cross and American Heart Association offer information and courses (online and in person) in most U.S. communities.

Finally, while this isn’t a basic “adulting” skill, it is important to ensuring your adult child’s voice is heard and their representation matches their interests, goals and values: Encourage them to register to vote and exercise this right every chance they get. They can visit Rock the Vote or the official website of the U.S. government to register and learn more.

Jen Spengler is a health and wellness writer with Sharp HealthCare.

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