I’m not a housekeeper, I’m a mom, and these are not the same things. I work full time, so does my hubby, and we have a toddler and a 12 year old in the house. Things can get messy and hectic. I would rather spend my time loving on my kids and enjoying life than cleaning up after everyone. Of course, sometimes I just have to because no one wants to live in squalor and I have serious clutter anxiety. But the responsibility for keeping the house up and the kids healthy should not reside solely on my shoulders.
Speaking of responsibility, raising a tween and a toddler simultaneously creates for interesting days. Sometimes, I’m changing one kid’s diapers and fighting with the other about stupid stuff that isn’t worth fighting over behind slammed doors. These are not easy times. I do my best to make some things easier on all of us, though. And as my tween gets older, there are a ton of life skills she should learn that not only help me out, but they will actually benefit her to know before she ventures off to high school. So …
Here is my list of the top nine skills your kid should know before starting high school:
1. Doing their own laundry
As a working two-parent household that includes both a tween and a toddler, laundry is something that just can’t be my downfall. I do my own laundry, hubby does his own laundry, he and I share the toddler’s laundry, and the tween does her own. Sure, I’ll help throw her stuff in the dryer if I’m in the vicinity, but in general she is responsible for doing her own laundry. Tweens can be taught how to sort by color, set the washer to the right settings, avoid the bleach altogether and put things in the dryer. It’s not that hard.
2. Making their own lunch
Making lunch is one of the easiest things a tween can learn before heading off to high school. I actually taught my daughter to put her lunch together in the fourth grade. She loved the control and the independence of the task at that age. Now that she is 12, it’s a little harder to motivate her, but not making her a lunch is an easy way to get her to do it herself. Ha!
3. Making quick and easy breakfasts
While I don’t expect my tween to throw together some fancy Belgian waffles with fresh strawberries and hand whipped cream, toast isn’t hard to make. Neither is cereal, yogurt, fruit, or a granola bar. Just like lunch items, you can make these quick and easy breakfast items available for your tween to just grab and go. Sometimes when I’m feeling ambitious, or I’ve had a ton of coffee, I throw together some eggs with cheese, sausage and spinach and cook them up in a muffin tin on a Sunday. This gives all of us a quick breakfast that we can pop in the microwave for a few seconds and eat while we are running out the door.
4. Doing the dishes
One of the most infuriating things for me is a sink full of dishes. Hate it. What I hate most is sticking my hands into murky old food clouded water to dig out silverware for the dishwasher. Nope. Just not going to happen. My tween is responsible for emptying the dishwasher when she gets home from school. That way, all of the dinner dishes have a place to go that isn’t the sink. Genius, I know.
5. Understanding Social Media
This one is tricky. My tween has been on social media since she was 10. She isn’t a prolific poster, but she is a voracious absorber of all things Snap and Instagram. We have had many, many chats about what is or isn’t appropriate on social media. She has seen some friends get bullied and goes through stages of FOMO. The best I can do is prepare her for the realities of what this medium breeds. I imagine when she hits high school, things will rapidly deteriorate, but I want her to be at least moderately emotionally prepared for what to expect. Open and honest conversations around social media is the least I can do as a parent. And also stalking her through various listening applications doesn’t hurt.
Should she binge watch Friends on Netflix or write that two page book report? As a parent, I should care which one she does, but in the end, it’s not my place to say. If she can get that report done well and turned in on time, I don’t care how or when she does it. I would imagine that is not a popular opinion, but it sure does work for our family. My tween knows that I care about her grades and her success, but I do not hover. If she wants to be successful, she needs to learn how to prioritize. Should the binge wait until the paper is written? Maybe. But that’s her call. It’s all a part of growing up.
We are cheap. As a family, in general. Hubby and I have been working our asses off since we were 18 to build a comfortable life and a future for our kids. And to retire no later than 55. We have these discussions frequently and openly in front of both kids. She doesn’t know how much money we make, but she sure does know that we won’t spend it on things we just don’t need. She makes money from babysitting mostly, and she has her own bank account. When she wants to buy something that isn’t a necessity, it comes from her money.
Very similar to #6 up above, I have tried to instill self-motivation into my tween since as far as I can remember. She knows that I love her no matter what she does and that isn’t conditional. But she needs to try to do her best no matter what. I’m not going to helicopter over her every move. She needs to take the initiative to make good grades and make healthy choices. The closer she gets to high school, the less and less we will be there to shepherd her through life.
9. Skin Care and Grooming
When kids are little, like my little toddler dude is, you bathe them, wash their hands and brush their teeth. This is just not something you should do with a self-sufficient, functioning tween. And even more so with a high schooler. Setting clear needs for their skin care and grooming early is very important. Smelly kids need deodorant. Buy it in bulk and put it everywhere. Hormones and greasy foods cause some wicked breakouts. Make sure your tweens know how to properly clean their face at least once a day. And they should shower at least every other day or more depending on the level of sweatiness. Basically, you should not smell your kid from another room.
These are just a handful of the key life skills every kid should know before high school. I could add so many other things like self-respect, kindness, empathy, time management … the list would probably never end. As parents, we should do the best we can to prepare our little birds to fly and if that means they can also load and unload the dishwasher without being told to, well that’s a win-win for everyone.