Written by Melissa Camara Wilkins
I am trying to remember what life skills I had when I entered adulthood. I feel like it was a short list: how to boil pasta, how to run a washing machine, how to navigate the college parking lot for students who didn’t live on campus? That may have been about it.
I picked up other things along the way (budgeting, morning and evening routines, real grocery shopping—not the kind where you shop while you’re hungry and buy one premade meal and three boxes of cookies).
And now my own kids need a whole bunch of skills that didn’t even exist when I was a young adult—things like healthy tech boundaries, social media skills, and email etiquette.
Here’s some of what we’ve been learning together lately.
(Though I just asked one of my teenagers what life skills she’s been surprised to need, and she said learning to write essays with MLA formatting, which I did not even have on my longlist of life skills. So it’s not like we’ve got this thing locked down.)
1. How to Rideshare
Years ago, a parent whose kids were already grown told me to be sure to teach mine to use public transportation. Knowing how to plan a route, having some idea of how to buy tickets, and understanding how to board and exit the bus or train or subway: all wise!
And when we took our oldest daughter to college orientation, we learned that advice has been updated.
We were encouraged to be sure our kids knew not only how to catch the bus, but also how to summon a rideshare (Uber, Lyft, whatever your preference)—and how to use the services more safely.
When their ride arrives, we want our kids to be sure the ride matches the car the app sent.
Is the make and model the same? Does the license plate match? Is the driver the same person pictured in the app photo? Do they answer to the name the app gave you? Whenever possible, ridesharing with a friend is also a great idea—and bonus, then everyone can split the cost.
2. Use Reminders
As far as I am concerned, this is why iPhones were invented: for the Reminders app. As our older kids get their own phones and begin to explore how to use them, we’ve helped them set daily and weekly Reminders to make their lives easier. This way, the kids can take responsibility for things we adults might otherwise need to remind them to do.
They have reminders to do their chores, reminders to change the rubber bands on their braces, and reminders to check in with parents. Our college-aged daughter tells us she sets reminders to get her to each of her classes on time.
Yes, this means we are all bummed if we misplace our phones. But ideally the reminder is just that: a reminder, not our only line of defense against chaos.
3. Moving Boxes Are For Moving!
This last year, our daughter moved into a dorm and then (eventually) back out again.
On both moving days, there were students carrying piles of clothing, armfuls of toiletries, and carefully balanced stacks of books and papers and curling irons and bath towels to and from their cars, because how else are you going to get your stuff from one place to another?
The answer to that one is actually moving boxes. There is a tool for that job.
Which reminded me to start pointing out to my teens: being scrappy and resourceful is always good, but also—sometimes having the right tool makes a job infinitely easier.
Also, knowing how to bake brownies to share is never a bad idea.
And my daughter tells me she could have used lessons in how to get milkshake out of carpet. So, you know. There’s always more to learn.
What life skills have your kids have needed that you didn’t see coming?
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Great mention of those important tasks Melissa. I would add how to mail something out at the post office. My college aged son recently needed to mail out something and ended up spending more because he was unaware of flat rate vs box size etc. How to manage and direct money is always at the top of my list.