Simple Life Skills You Must Teach Your Teens

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I’m not sure who’s to blame. Parents, the school system, or technology, but it turns out that many college-aged young adults these days don’t even know how to send mail through the U.S. Postal Service.

This isn’t a joke. Please read on.

Just about all of them can easily navigate a smartphone, a tablet, and a laptop most all at once, throw down some basic coding, bang out 90 words per minute using only their thumbs. But to organize the week ahead, fill out tax forms or even how to schedule an appointment over the phone. Forget about it—most don’t even know where to buy postage stamps.

 If your child is preparing to head out until the real world, get a head start by making sure that you teach them these three seemingly simple life skills before they leave home.

Stamps…yes, stamps.

How to Use Stamps

In the past few election cycles, the US government expected post-Millennials to take a big part in the future of the country by voting. However, Fairfax County, Virginia noticed a surprising trend in the last election: Generation Z failed to mail in their absentee ballots. Why?

Because they simply don’t know where to get stamps.

Although it does seem like a ridiculously easy thing to do when I asked a few teens they did answer me correctly, a couple of them hesitated as if they weren’t really sure they were answering correctly. So, I would recommend reviewing these resources with them. If you go online you can purchase postage stamps here:

Stamps can also be purchased easily at these places locally:

  • your local post office
  • gas stations
  • grocery stores
  • UPS Shipping Stores
  • Retailers like Costco even ask you around the holiday season

While this may seem overly simple to most of us parents who mailed things regularly over the years, it might be a good idea to spend a few minutes, grab an envelope, show your teens where to put the stamp, address, and return address. Let your teenager know that as of 2019 a domestic stamp cost 55 cents each, that each regular-size envelope requires one stamp, and that if they need to ship a package or larger envelope talk to them about how they handle that. Who knows this might inspire them to send you a handwritten note or letter from college!

How to use a To Do List

Being Organized

Some teenagers really need more help than others when it comes to developing organizational skills. Many of us parents have made sure to keep our teens’ lives organized since birth in order to keep our own schedules sane and the family wheels turning, but now it is time that our teens know how to take over and stay on top of it themselves. Here are some important tips for you to share with your teen:

  • Purchase your teen a whiteboard calendar or a day planner. Talk to your teens about the benefits of using these items to track assignments, due dates, or even get-togethers with their friends.
  • Encourage your teenager to schedule due dates and making it a habit to set reminders with their smartphone. Take advantage of the smartphone skills that they are so comfortable with and you know that the phone never leaves their side like a traditional calendar or planner.
  • Encourage them to get into the habit of using time management or task apps.
  • Sit with your teen on a Sunday afternoon and show them how to plan ahead for the school week. Making to-do lists and tracking any upcoming meetings or homework due dates in their calendars.
  • You will probably graduate your teen from the parental controls once they turn 18 and head off to college but that doesn’t mean you shouldn’t encourage them to be aware of the time they are spending online. So much time is wasted these days just scrolling through social media by all of us. We were shocked to hear how much time a few teens we know spent viewing pornography on their devices once they left the family home. You can work together to encourage your teen to block pornography and you can do it for free.

Phone and Communication Etiquette

Teach Phone Etiquette

Most communication these days is pretty much texting, posting, or even snapping online, but there are still times when your teenager will need to use actual formal English outside of the classroom. Applying for a job, communicating with a college professor, or even sending a thank you note to Grandma, may require more formal language than your teen is accustomed to. Sometimes sending a formal letter, note, or even making an important appointment over the telephone is important to make sure that you cover a few basics with your teen.

  • Talk to your teens about the importance of saying thank you. Typed letters or a handwritten card are still appropriate for thank-you notes. It’s always a blessing for Grandma to receive that “thank you call” for the birthday gift, in fact, she would probably prefer it. But as your teen gets closer to the professional world, they should know that a thank-you letter will help them stand out. Whether it’s a professor who met your teen for extra help, career advice, or the employer who interviewed your teen for a potential internship or summer job, it’s best to follow up immediately with a brief note of thanks for that person’s time. Make sure to spend a little bit of time going over the how-tos of writing a formal note or letter. One quick search online will provide you and them with plenty of resources.
  • Explain to your teens the importance of sending condolences. In the case of the death of a family friend, a mailed handwritten sympathy note or card is still the standard. Hopefully, your teenager isn’t experienced with this sad situation, but you’ll still want to make sure they know how to handle this type of communication sooner rather than later.
  • Ensuring that your teen is comfortable using the phone the old fashioned way is crucial. Making a phone call to make an appointment is a very intimidating task for many teenagers since most have become so comfortable communicating by only text message. But being able to set up an appointment over the phone is an important move out skill teenagers will need once they leave home. Start with baby steps like having them schedule their own hair appointment or even encouraging them to call a friend on occasion when they are planning to meet for coffee or a movie instead of planning through a text message.

Finances

Teach Finances

Being financially responsible will serve your children well not only while in college but as they go through life. Although, you may have already taught your teens the basic skills of saving allowance from babysitting or a summer job. Many of us forget some of the other financial skills that it is important for them to know well.

  • How to actually step inside of the bank and open an account.
  • How to write out a check. We don’t do it often these days but to pay certain bills you still need this skill!
  • How to pay a bill online and through snail mail.
  • How taxes work when they do start getting a paycheck. Often that is a big shock and disappointment!
  • How to do and file their own taxes.
  • It is so important in today’s online world to talk to your teen about protecting their identity, financial accounts, and their privacy whenever they do any shopping or other financial transactions online. Many teens these days are already being wise and using a trustworthy VPN to protect their information.

These are only four skills that are simple for teenagers to learn before beginning the journey to college and beyond. While these skills seem simplistic they sometimes get overlooked. If your teen has these items already covered it doesn’t hurt to review them again just in case. Teaching simple life skills to teenagers is not always easy, but your teen with thank you for it …much later.

What other simple life skills do you think teens should be taught before heading or for college or the real world?

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