The year’s coming to an end, and I’ve never looked forward to it with so much excitement. Yes, I’ve to accept some bitter truths like the grey streaks in my rapidly denigrating mane are not the result of the climate change or that my favourite bands are part of the retro collection or that it’s another year closer to the kids leaving home (it just felt like a punch in the stomach!). Every year I’ve watched my friends prepare their kids as they get ready to leave home to join college and every time I would wonder why was it such a big deal.
I understand it now as I’m standing at that very place, counting the months before we have to let go. Not one to get all teary-eyed, yet I know it’s going to be one of the most difficult things to do. That’s how I got around to thinking about what’s needed for these kids to be on their own. Just having a dozen accounts on social media or having a large following on Insta doesn’t speak much about their rapidly deteriorating life skills – which have further taken a beating during the pandemic.
So, I decided to list down a few things I felt these kids need to know, need to equip themselves with, as they step out into the real world, without their parents watching out for them at each step, pandering to their every wish, paying for their every fancy. Learning about these life skills can be started off even before they’re ready to move out so that it becomes a part of their personality.
- Learn to manage your time
Whether you admit it or not, but the time is THE boss. One must learn to respect it and work with it. Each one of us has the same number of hours; how we decide to use it is our prerogative. Plan your day but let the planning not take up a major part of the day! Have a flexible schedule (which includes work, study and leisure) in place so you know how to go about it. This will also help you to cover whatever needs to be done for the day.
2. It’s money, honey! Fix it instead of replacing it and more.
Till the day they step out, all expenses were catered for. The permanent in-house bankers provided the funds at no extra costs or rate of interest. So, life’s comfortable. But now it’s time to manage the limited funds, make the maximum out of it. Plan and prioritise your expenditures. Use the college Wi-Fi if needed to cut down the internet bills, eat at the cafeteria to be able to treat yourself during the weekend, buy the clothes/shoes at the discount stores, use the library instead of buying the books (you do know what’s a library, right?), etc. are ways to make the rupee stretch out.
3. Organise important papers.
All your documents need to be kept safely. Your school leaving certificates, achievement certificates, internship certificates, sports certificates, date of birth certificates, Aadhar card, Voter’s id, etc everything is important. You can save the scanned copies of these documents on secure locker apps like Digilocker, while you keep the photocopies of the same with you for ready use. Use a folder or folio bag to keep them all together and not scattered in different places.
4. Travel independently.
While some do learn to manage on their own using the ubiquitous autorickshaws or the local bus service but it still needs some getting used to doing it all by yourself all the way with no one to remind you to carry change or refill your Paytm or track your Uber trips. Learn to plan the trip in advance.
You should also be able to read the map or follow directions. Yes, Google Maps is easily available and handy, but what if the signal is not strong enough or your phone’s battery decides to just go kaput?
Learn to pack smartly without the need for a luggage caravan. Make a list of things to pack always ready, which could be tweaked as per the travel requirements.
5. How to cook, sew and mend
Now hollering from your room will certainly not work. If you’re sharing accommodation with other roommates, then you need to learn some basic cooking. That you may graduate with better culinary skills than expected could be the icing on the cake, both literally and figuratively, but you need to learn some basics to deal with those midnight hunger pangs. Those staying in the hostel may not have to worry about this particular skill but it’s not a bad skill to acquire (especially for the boys!) and may bail you out later in life.
Also being able to mend your own clothes is much needed – sewing a button or a small rip or a hook. You need not go to the tailor or depend on someone for these minor things. So, remember to pack some sewing needles and sewing thread reels in your luggage.
6. Taking care of your things.
Oh, yes! That’s one thing you guys really need to worry about. Looking for anything in a teenager’s room is like being in the movie Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them. The cupboards are like the pandora’s box; the study desk, a complex puzzle with precariously perched books, and their personal possessions have a mind of their own.
You need to know where what’s kept. You need to take care of your things. Clothes, books, shoes, everything tends to disappear if left unattended. Get into this habit early – practice keeping your things in a particular way or place, and maintain some kind of record of things lent or loaned. Sounds boring but a real lifesaver practice, believe me!
7. Understand follow up
What follow-up? I know, too much work. But it works both ways. If you have a task to finish, then remember to see it through to completion. Sometimes you may have to go back a step or two, no problem. Sometimes you may have to collaborate. At those times it’s important to follow up on the progress of the others. Remember your parents asking you for updates on some progress or feedback on some activity? Well, that was follow up, not intrusion, interference or nagging! I use something like this to keep myself organised even now; helps to declutter your mind and serves as a ready reckoner. Try it!
8. Be your own cheerleader
Constantly reminding the kids to do something will help you get it done now, but they have not felt connected with it. Teach the child to feel responsible for the tasks at hand if you want to ensure good results. Just pause and think – if they don’t feel like doing it now by themselves, will they do it later if they are not constantly told to? The child needs to learn to motivate her/himself. Once out of the home, without the constant reminders from the parents, the child will find it difficult to cope with this need for focus amid all the distractions of the newfound freedom.
9. How to cope with failure
This comes from confidence in yourself. Work on building the self – confidence in your child. Failure is a part of life and must be accepted gracefully. There are some very important lessons to be learnt from our failures. When at home, a big loving hug from mamma or a pat on the back from dad was enough for us to know all’s well with the world and gave us the courage to rise, brush away the failure and move on. But now, you are responsible for yourself. There are far too many things happening around you and it will get overwhelming. And to top it any kind of failure just leaves you wondering if you’re doing it right. Remember, you are not alone. Reach out to the right people, call up home, take a break, step back, rethink your plan but never, ever give up.
10. Keeping yourself safe online
Yes, you guys know a lot more about it all than your parents but that still doesn’t make it safer. Parents need to have the uncomfortable conversation about maintaining both online etiquette and protecting their privacy. Everything is out there – our whole life story is now everyone’s business. They have to be taught to demarcate and respect the line between the personal and private space. Awareness must be created about protecting their personal data from being misused.
The list is endless. It’s natural to feel it’s not enough but that’s the beauty of life – it goes on. The little ones grow up and leave the nest one day. And we must watch them go and hope that we have taught them well.
Feel free to send in more suggestions to add to this list in the comments section. I would love to hear what you have to share with the rest of us. After all, we’re all sailing in the same boat!
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