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5 Things Teenagers Should Learn Before They Learn To Be Independent

Life Skills To Learn To Become Independent Adults

There are two important sides of college to prepare for: academics and learning to be independent. For the latter, there are five things your teenager should learn before he heads away from home.

1. How to Do Laundry.

Sure, it’s a cliche, but unless you teach your teenager how to do laundry, he won’t know how. From which cycle to choose, to separating whites from darks, make sure your teenager is equipped to handle this domestic chore. At a minimum, allow him to be responsible for his laundry the summer before leaving. But there’s no reason your teenager shouldn’t do his own laundry throughout high school too.

2. Eating Well.

There’s no reason to sit down with your teenager and remind her that vegetables are healthy and a steady diet of junk food is not. But it’s important to help her understand how to balance her choices, including ways to make smart decisions when it comes to eating in dining halls (where she could eat hamburgers and fries every night and no one would stop her).

3. Living on a Budget.

Money management is a struggle for many college students. Encourage your teenager to develop his budget for each semester. Break it into different categories he can keep track of. If he starts keeping track of his financial needs well before college starts, he will be able to transition more easily into the school year.

4. Managing Social Life.

Sit down and talk about your expectations for your teenager’s academic performance in college, then allow him to plan how he will meet those expectations. When it comes to immersing himself in a living environment with his friends all the time, it’s easy to let work slip. While your teenager is still under your roof, emphasize the importance of putting homework and other responsibilities ahead of social activities.

5. Staying Healthy.

Even if your teenager knows where the health center is on campus, she may not know what services are available—or whether she’s allowed to use those services with her insurance. But for students, a college’s health center is an important starting place for all kinds of health-related needs (including basic first aid, colds and flu, birth control, even mental health). What’s more, at many colleges, the health center is free, regardless of what insurance your student carries (if a health center is not able to meet your teenager’s needs, she will be transferred to a medical facility that can).

Samantha Zabell just graduated from Northwestern University with a degree in journalism.

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