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Move Out Skills: Wayfinding And Teaching Teens How To Not Get Lost

A Your Teen reader recently shared a story with us. Her son missed the bus home from middle school, so he decided to walk. An hour or so later, her son calls her at work. He’s halfway across town, several miles from home … completely lost. She was stupefied. “We’ve driven him back and forth from school dozens of times, yet he has no idea how to get home!”

Like many adolescents, our reader’s son hadn’t ever paid much—if any—attention to how to get places. And, parents don’t necessarily think to teach their adolescents these wayfinding skills. Yet before we know it, our adolescents are asking for more independence to go places on their own. So how do they do that when they can’t find their way?

Learning How To Get From One Place To Another

Among the key life skills for teens: how to get from one place to another. You can teach this skill by:

  • Elevating the conversation to include directions. For example: “I’m taking a left onto Main Street” or “We’re getting onto the green line.” Also, note useful landmarks, like “Remember the church is where you turn right to get to soccer practice.”
  • Asking your adolescent to navigate. “You tell me how to get to soccer practice and I’ll follow your instructions.”
  • Setting your teen loose. Let your teen get places on her own, when you’re ready of course.

Note: Some adolescents (and grown ups) are challenged in the wayfinding department. If your adolescent is a member of this club, then he’ll need some additional tools. For example, if he wants to walk or bike to a friend’s house across town, draw a simple map for the first few trips. Or, if he has a smartphone, show him how to use an app, like Google Maps (for walking, bicycling, or driving) or Transit (for public transportation).

Diana Simeon is an editorial consultant for Your Teen.

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