THE BLOG
10/04/2008 10:33 pm ET Updated Nov 17, 2011

Teach them Life Skills

Are your children learning life skills at school? If not, time to wise up and integrate those lessons into your home life, because many kids are graduating from high school without a clue about how to function out there in the real world. And without going way out on a political limb, life skills include recognizing our sexuality. Our kids need to understand the consequences of engaging in unprotected sex, and have a sense of the responsibilities that come with an unwanted, unanticipated, and untimely pregnancy. Is abstinence a life skill? if it is, it isn't being taught very well, or perhaps not learned very well, or perhaps simply not a universally viable option. I personally think our kids need to see the full picture - they need to be taught all the angles, every option. And then perhaps they'll grasp why personal responsibility is so important.

When you were growing up, you probably had chores to do, and perhaps this was a way to earn an allowance. My allowance was pitiful compared to what many kids today are given, including my own kids -- but the idea of an allowance is a good one, especially if it's being given as a reward for accomplished duties. Children need to learn about finances at an early age. We're about to hand them the biggest debt ever passed along to our future, so it's high time they were given a heads up.

Since my folks didn't have extra cash to throw around, my allowance was what I used to buy special items that didn't fall under the need-to-have category. As soon as I was old enough, I started babysitting. I couldn't wait to start my own savings and checking account. In fact, I learned how to go to the bank, to deposit cash, and to open and balance a checking account before my own mom did. Amazing.

I was of the generation that had obligatory home economics and shop classes. I took typing and shorthand classes as well. We were taught that work skills and life skills were not only important, they were crucial to our ability to "make a living." It was assumed we'd need to know how to cook for ourselves, and to sew a seam to repair a piece of clothing. Kids don't learn these skills now, unless you teach them at home. Too many kids go off to college without a clue about how to buy enough food to prepare a meal for two people.

Teach your kids these basics. As soon as they're old enough to understand, show them how to make a deposit in a savings account, and give them access to their savings account booklet so they can see how it grows. When your kids are old enough to have their first job, teach them how to open a checking account - show them how to write a check, how to keep track of their account balance. You'd be amazed how many kids leave high school without this knowledge. And most important - explain to them what a "credit card" is. Teach them about "debt." College-bound kids are easy prey to credit card companies. Make sure your kids understand that when they spend someone else's money, they need to pay it back - with interest. It's an important concept.

Teach your kids how to do their own laundry; how much soap to put in the washer, how to separate the colors and jeans from the whites. Teach them how to buy groceries, how to prepare a meal for one or two people, and how to preserve their left-over's. Teach them how to clean up after themselves - to have pride in their surroundings, and respect for the things they've been given. Encourage your kids to learn marketable skills. They may need to work to put themselves through college, and even if they don't need to, they should. They should certainly earn money for the extra things they desire. Because when they do these things for themselves, they become empowered as individuals. They earn self-respect, which is one of the most important benefits they can gain.

And finally, give your kids the benefit of your experience. Teach them the valuable life skills you worked hard to attain. As is painfully obvious from the current state of affairs, more than ever before, they'll need them.