On a normal Monday morning, I sat across from a 17-year-old young man for coffee. He was a senior in high school, about to go off to college, and wanted to discuss a few things with me. It became clear that he wasn’t prepared for adulthood. He was concerned about missing class because his mom wouldn’t be there to wake him up. He shared that he got a part-time job on campus but didn’t know how to put his paycheck into his bank account. We are not raising kids; they are already kids. We are supposed to be raising adults.
What does it mean to be prepared for adulthood? Who is to blame for his unpreparedness? As I asked about his parents, he shrugged his shoulders. He said, “They have been checked out for a long time now.” As my heart hurt for my young friend, I thought about my own children. How can I best prepare them for adulthood? Here are 3 things you need to think about as your kids are getting older.
1. What will we celebrate?What gets celebrated gets repeated and what is repeated sticks.
This must be a consistent conversation in your home. What gets celebrated gets repeated and what is repeated sticks. Think about the core values of your family. Gratitude, selflessness, hard work, and grace are a few that we hold onto in our family. When our kids put extra effort into a school project, they are showing that they know that hard work matters. We celebrate this by letting them know that we see them and we are proud of their effort. Write down your family’s core values and look for ways you can celebrate when your kids live out these values.
2. What relationships will they have?
If you wait until they start dating, it’s too late to talk about dating. As your kids get older, you must have consistent conversations about what dating will look like, when they will be allowed to date and how to protect themselves. Also, what kind of relationships do you want your kids to have with other family members? For some, you may need to set boundaries to protect your kids from specific relationships. If your aunt struggles with drug abuse, boundaries in that relationship help you guard your kids against bad influences. For others, you need to make sure your kids are connected to grandparents, aunts, uncles. Lastly, you must ask, “What kind of friend will they become?” Talking about what a good friend looks like and acts like not only helps them to be good friends but protects them from toxic relationships.
3. What will the future look like?
This is a broader conversation than simply helping your kids find a career. What if your kids don’t want to go to college? How long will you support them as adults? What are your (and their) greatest dreams? Who will they marry? So much goes into thinking about their future. As they are getting older, I think we are always thinking about this. But few actually discuss these things with our kids. We must teach them that the decisions they make today will affect their tomorrow. You can’t intend to be healthy tomorrow but not eat healthy today. We can guide them to success but we can’t wait until they are moving out. We must think about and discuss these things as they grow.
Sound off: What conversations do you need to have with your kids to prepare them for adulthood?