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3 Unique Ways to Prepare Your Kids to Live on Their Own

Feb 14, 2019 4 Min Read Karen Kroll

Key Takeaways

  • Working toward a goal can help kids develop confidence and resilience.
  • Parents can help their kids assess trade-offs when making decisions.
  • Chores and part-time jobs help instill responsibility and money management skills.


Many parents can relate to the saying about child-rearing: “The days are long, but the years are short." One day, their kids are toddlers balking at afternoon naps, and seemingly the next, they're teens, receiving their high school diplomas. In between, most parents are trying to teach their kids to learn on their own and prepare to move out of the house.

While the goal remains the same, each journey differs. Along with helping their kids learn the skills necessary to move out and live on their own — how to cook and drive and make doctors' appointments — many parents also work hard to instill in their children a sense of confidence that they'll be successful on their own. For Connor Good and his dad, Chris Good, that meant climbing about 8,000 feet up Mount St. Helens in Washington. (Read more about their story on Prudential’s Everyday Bravery podcast Opens in new window.)

The two began their trek at about five in the morning. As they climbed higher, both considered turning back several times, especially when they slipped on the snow and ice. But they persisted, using crampons and ice axes to maintain their footing. Connor and his dad reached the summit about eight hours after they started.

This would be an achievement for any father-son duo, but it was especially meaningful to the Goods.

Connor has autism. By tackling the summit, Connor proved he could set a challenging goal, and then work toward it, an important step in becoming independent.

“Independence is important to me," Connor says. The Goods also used the climb to raise money for Connor's post-high school education.

Connor's experience offers lessons that apply to many parents preparing their kids to move out of the house and live on their own.



Help your kids set and work toward goals — and keep going when they fall short

Like the Goods, parents can help their children identify and pursue goals that are challenging, but not impossible. Parents also can let their kids know that failure to achieve a goal doesn't mean they've failed. If they challenged themselves, they can learn from the experience. Then, they can try again.

Indeed, most adults have fallen short of a goal but they've learned to bounce back and figure out a new way forward. Connor encountered obstacles with his educational plans. He had hoped to enroll in a transition program that would have allowed him move out of his parents' house and live in an apartment, yet with support and supervision. However, the cost was more than the family could afford, and they failed to reach their fundraising goal.

Then Connor discovered another opportunity. Western Michigan University offers a seven-week program that helps people decide if a traditional college program is right for them. Connor got into the program, and the cost is within the family's budget.


Help your children analyze trade-offs

Most choices in life require trade-offs. Parents can help their children analyze the pros and cons of any decision. Devin Pope, senior wealth advisor in Salt Lake City, recalls that when he was growing up, his parents gave him and his siblings a choice: they could stay home for Christmas and get presents or they could take a family trip.

They decided on the trip because it was likely to be one of the last trips they'd be able to take together, as some of his siblings were headed to college. “This was an opportunity we wouldn't have again," Pope says. “There would be other Christmases to get gifts, but this time, we'd spend it with family.


Give kids increasing levels of responsibility

Start early — even young children can help with chores. Chores help children learn skills they'll need to live on their own. Susan Kuczmarski, Ed.D and, author of The Sacred Flight of the Teenager: A Parent's Guide to Stepping Back and Letting Go, had each of her three children pick a chore. One took care of dinner dishes, another folded clothes, the youngest set the table. Not only was this a huge help to her, but the children learned that others counted on them.

Similarly, an allowance can help kids learn to budget money when the stakes are still relatively low, Pope says. A teenager who uses their lunch money on new clothes may have to brown-bag it for a few days. Whereas an adult who overspends may rack up a credit card bill or hurt their credit score. Get more great money lessons for kids Opens in new window.

As your kids get older, encourage them to get part-time jobs. When kids earn money Opens in new window, along with budgeting, they learn responsibility and the ability to take direction.

Most young adults want to live and thrive on their own. Parents can help them do this.


What you can do next

While many kids transition from school to work relatively smoothly, some struggle. With older teens and twenty-somethings, the parents' role becomes more nuanced. Express your concern with a nonjudgmental approach, says Jay Boll, LMSW, vice president of Laurel House, Inc., which provides mental health resources to people coping with mental illness. Lashing out often shuts off communication. If verbal communication becomes too heated, shift to emails, letters, or text messages.

At the same time, try not to make it so easy for your young adult to remain in place, rather than working toward independence, Boll says. If he or she has returned home, assign responsibilities, such as paying a modest amount in rent, or handling dinner several times a week. If they're struggling to make ends meet, help them establish and live within a budget Opens in new window.


Karen Kroll is an experienced freelance writer and editor, with a focus on corporate and consumer finance. Her articles have appeared in AARPBulletin.com, Bankrate.com, Business Finance, CFO, CreditCards.com, Global Finance and many other publications.



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