Whether it’s for college, travel or humanitarian service, as parents we can decrease stress and increase a smooth transition for our children by using anticipation and the Basic 7: cook, clean, clothes, cash, car, communication and coping skills.
For most families, an effective tool is to anticipate the transition early on. This can ease fears, list needed skills and make routines meaningful. To keep it simple, you can create a transition timeline (don’t worry, it’s simple).
List the main transition ages in your family, such as ages 5, 8, 12, 16, 18 and 21. Choose the next upcoming transition, plan ahead, discuss what to expect and define new skills needed to make it a success.
Which brings us to the Basic 7, a few skills to successfully prepare our children to enter the real world (and to finally understand, Virginia, that there is no Cleaning Fairy).
1. Cook. Teach them how to cook five simple but real meals (which they won’t use). Then teach a fast five set of meals (the ones they might use). Those could include a rotisserie chicken three different ways — buy it and pull the chicken apart for chicken cheese quesadillas, barbecue chicken sandwiches and easy chicken noodle soup. They may not use any of these skills, but it matters not: you’ve done your job.
2. Clean. Teach them how to deep clean, then fast clean. Once they’ve had to clean the house in two hours, doing a five-minute bathroom will seem like a gift. To do that, show them how to start with cleanest to dirtiest (cloth wise) as they spray and wipe the counter, sink and toilet, done. (Doing the mirror is fabulous, but not even on their radar).
3. Clothes. Teach them how to do each basic laundry stage — wash, fold, put away — and for a year they do all three weekly. If possible, encourage their laundry day to be a set one so that even when they move out, the routine is ingrained (supposedly).
If nothing else, they get the concept of what moms do at home. A few years ago our children bucked the annoying chore-doing. To address it, we held a “Parents for the Day” experience. While my husband and I sat in our master bedroom blissfully watching a movie, we heard the children divvy up the chores and take care of the then-baby. The experience was priceless. To this day, all we have to do is start the sentence, "Maybe we need a Parents …” and their wide eyes and please-no gesturing hands get us back on schedule.
4. Cash. Teach them financial literacy and value. Not just how to spend money, but how to spend it wisely — when to go cheap, when to do quality, and when to say no. For my daughter’s recent birthday party, we were doing a hula hoop contest. But the first store charged about $45 for 10 hula hoops. I checked a few dollar stores and found one with enough hoops for only $10. I shared this example with my children to learn, literally, the value of a dollar.
5. Car. Teach them that transportation is about necessity, not nicety. Discuss what they really need to function — car, bike, bus, walk, etc. At college, I rode a small scooter. For only $5 a week in gas, I could tool around to classes, buy groceries (the one bag rested on the small floor board), and visit friends south of campus. I froze in winter, but there you are. We don’t need to make it too convenient for our kids. Real life is about learning and growing from struggle, especially right out of the gate.
6. Communication. Teach them key phrases and skills to work with others. These could include how to validate, make reasonable requests and follow up. One important skill is to “use your voice.” This helps them know how and when to speak up, ask questions and get answers. From doing a teaching internship in Taiwan to performing in award-winning plays to touring with a symphonic band in Hawaii, using my voice gave my unforgettable opportunities in college.
7. Coping skills. Teach them how to manage emotions and handle stress. Management skills could include a habit such as prayer or meditation, as well as a talent, skill or routine that calms or rejuvenates. My kids have chosen to play guitar, work out or read to release stress (I prefer the tried-and-true method of Ritter with hazelnuts).
Another helpful mechanism is creating baseline routines and zones. For example, when we travel I like to “set up shop” immediately in the room: my Ziploc bag with hair and hygiene items goes in the bathroom; clothes and shoes in the closet; books and journal on the side table. I forget fewer things and feel more at home. As kids figure out their own routines and zones, they can move from apartment to apartment and still quickly function in their daily routine.
The ideas here are certainly not exhaustive but could be a useful springboard to preparing your son or daughter for their upcoming transition.