Today “Adulting” is the new term to describe the process of taking on various life responsibilities. This process typically occurs sometime between ages 18 and 22, although in some cases it can take place even later.
Many young adults feel overwhelmed by navigating the responsibilities of life. Managing finances, choosing health and car insurance, paying rent, maintaining a steady job, and managing home repairs can feel like daunting tasks. Stress often leads to avoidance and inaction, as young adults feel fearful of making the “wrong” choice.
Adulting should be thought of not as an event that takes place after age 18, but as a process that occurs throughout the lifetime. The skills needed to become a successful and confident adult take significant time and effort to develop.
Here are some ideas for helping your children develop responsibility at different ages:
Although their efforts may be slow and clumsy, young children take great pride in helping their parents.
Preschoolers can manage many simple tasks, such as putting toys away, placing dirty clothing in the laundry bin, helping feed the pets, and more.
It may be tempting to simply complete the chores on your own because that is faster and requires less effort. Resist this urge for efficiency, and you will help instill in your child a sense of personal responsibility and awareness of their impact and role in the home.
Early to Middle Elementary School Children
This is the time to build on the chores from preschool days, while adding additional steps and complexity based on each child’s emerging ability.
For example, you can ask your child to go collect all the dirty clothing from their bedroom floor, place it in the laundry bin, carry the bin to the laundry room, and then sort the laundry.
Increasing the task complexity and time involved helps your child become prepared for the next step.
Late Elementary to Middle School Children
Give your child a list of tasks and have them determine when and how to complete the required chores. You may give them a deadline, such as completing all chores before dinner.
Resist the urge to constantly remind them to get back on track when they stray. If the chores are not completed by the deadline, discuss with your child what went wrong and how they will change their approach next time. By doing this, you are helping your child develop planning, time management and self-regulation skills.
They should also be using a paper or electronic calendar to keep up with assignments and learn time management. Parents will have to check the calendar and provide reminders as needed, but over time children should become more independent with planning.
High School Students
Encourage teens to call places of business when applicable, such as allowing teens to make their own doctor appointments. Due to the popularity of texting and social media, many young people are anxious about making phone calls and will avoid making important calls.
Your teen should also continue using a calendar to keep track of school assignments and life activities. Part-time jobs or volunteer activities are excellent ways to increase responsibility and confidence.
High schoolers should also be managing their own money, whether this is money from a job or an allowance. Parents need to discuss what items their teens will spend their own money on and what items the parents will fund.
For example, you may have decided your teen will spend their own money on fun activities with friends. What happens when your teen runs out of money and comes to you begging for $20 to go to dinner and the movies? Withholding the money or providing extra chores to earn the money will help teach financial responsibility and planning.
This is your grown child’s chance to apply all the skills you have been teaching them over their lifetime. Are they going to make mistakes? Of course!
Just like riding a bicycle, it takes multiple mistakes, trials and errors to become skilled in life management.
College students should continue to use a calendar to keep track of assignments and responsibilities. They should be communicating with professors about important things when needed.
Parents should avoid contacting college professors on behalf of the student unless it is absolutely necessary. College students should also have control over their own finances and pay for some necessities such as groceries or gas, whether this money comes from an allowance or from a part-time job.
Adulting doesn’t have to feel painful, sudden, or overwhelming. By helping your child cope well with responsibility over their lifetime, you are helping prepare them for a smooth process into adulthood.