There comes a time when your teen grows up and moves out. They might be leaving for college, to live with some friends, to get married, or to learn how to manage life on their own. Regardless of the reason parents can strengthen the relationship by preparing them for that day during the teen years.
At a recent speaking engagement I was asked what we did to prepare our teens for life on their own. I had to think about that for a few minutes. I began by reminding the parents that moving out is a normal part of the growing up process. It might be difficult to pack them up and send them on their way, but it will be okay.
That got me thinking, I should share them with you as well. So I put together 7 practical ideas we have used over the years to prepare our children for the day they would move out on their own.
- Teach them how to handle money – Teaching money management skills is often a forgotten subject. We have enrolled some of our children in a financial class. After each lesson plan to talk about the things they learned. Dave Ramsey offers several great courses. Arrange a meeting with a financial advisor to open your young person’s mind to incredible opportunities for savings and investments if they start during the teen years. Open up a savings, checking, and/or money market account for them. Getting them accustomed to banking now will serve them well in their near future.
- Make them pay their phone bill – Young people long to be treated as adults. Part of the privilege of being an adult is financial responsibility. Even though they might not think it’s fair to pay their phone bill when their friends don’t have to, they will secretly appreciate this task. Responsibilities are not punishments. When you moved out, the world didn’t punish you for getting older by making you pay bills. Present this as a right of passage into adulthood and explain what the phone bill covers. Use this as an opportunity to empower your young person through real-life information. If they want to upgrade their phone or plan, that comes out of their own pocket.
- Build a Hope chest – In the south, there is a tradition where girls fill a “hope chest” with things that can furnish and decorate their future home. I mentioned this idea to a young man once and he laughed, “With all that effort, you’d better call it a ‘For-Sure-Chest’! I think guys have the same thing, but we call it a bank account.” Basically, you know you will need bedding, towels, dishes, etc. If your teen sees something they really like, on sale, encourage them to purchase it and store it somewhere in your house for later when they move out. When they open the boxes, they will grin as they remember collecting every item.
- Create a personalized cookbook – During teen years, show them how to create their own cookbook by putting them in charge of making one meal a week. College students may live on Ramen Noodles, Pizza, and PopTarts, but when life settles back down for them, they will enjoy flipping through a cookbook filled with all of their favorite recipes. These also remind them of home. I always enjoy getting a text message or photo of their successful meal.
- Charge them rent – It can be on an increasing scale, starting at $200 a month for an 18-year-old and then increase it each year they live under your roof. This gives them an incentive to be think about life on their own. Some parents put their rent money in a bank account and give it as a gift when they move out. We did this when our son bought his house.
- Allow them to make big decisions – Even if they are making boneheaded decisions; let them begin making some of their own decisions. Give them advice and not mandates. Soon they will be leaving your home and be in charge of making all the decisions. Giving them advice now, and allowing them to take it or reject it, will build a bridge for them to keep coming to you for advice later. It will build their trust in you and confidence in themselves to move forward.
- Hug them a lot – Love on them and enjoy them. Smile at them. You may not see eye to eye on things right now and that’s ok. They will figure things out along the road of life and learn from their mistakes. Show them unconditional love and support them. This will mean more than you will ever know.
Understanding your teen takes intentionality. The values and standards you taught them will live on. I wrote about what I learned when my first child moved out in a post, They Still Call Mom. It might be hard for you to let go, but let go you must. It’s time for them to take their place in this world.