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How can I help my children get out on their own?

Failure to Launch is a comedic movie released in 2006 that poked fun at a 30-something year old who was still living in his parents’ house, and he seemed unwilling to move out. This is a fairly common scenario for young adults and their parents that can cause a lot of frustration on both sides. In the movie, Tripp was still living in his parents’ home because he was too comfortable, but often the causes are due to financial instability or lack of skills that make it difficult for kids to move out and on their own. As a mom, I have successfully launched 9 kids into the world! So, here are some tips that worked for us:

1. Start early

When your children are young, think through the skills they will need to know before they are ready to launch. Begin teaching those things even as toddlers. The more time you have to teach, the more you will be able to teach them. I wrote a list of 50 things I wanted my kids to know before leaving home. The list included things like changing a tire, baking a loaf of bread, getting a stain out of clothes, proper nutrition, how to host a party and so on. If you don’t have an end goal, it is difficult to know where to start. Even if your children are nearing adulthood, you can make a list and start teaching.

2. Teach your kids “life skills.”

Cooking, cleaning, shopping, laundry, and more can’t be learned in a day. Let them cook with you as toddlers and young children. Yes, it can be incredibly difficult in the moment, but long term, it is how they learn. Let them do the grocery shopping. Give them a list, a budget, and help them grow into that role. By the time they are 17 or 18, they should be able to manage a menu, create a shopping list, buy the food, and then cook it. The same process can help teach children how to do laundry and clean. They must be allowed to do it imperfectly in order to learn how to do it at all. A lot of the failure to launch situations are due to children not knowing how to care for themselves in these ways.

3. Teach children how to set and achieve goals

For example, do they want a Driver’s License? Let them set that as a goal and help them work out what steps are needed to achieve it. In our house that looked like:

  • Save money for Driver’s Education and arrange for times to drive.
  • Study for and set and appointment for the Learner’s Permit test.
  • Save up 6 months of car insurance premium. Assist them in the process of being added to the insurance policy. (Take this opportunity to teach them how to find and acquire auto insurance.)
  • Study for, and take the Driving test.
  • Save for a car. (Teach them how to purchase a used car.)

In every type of situation that “adulting” requires, this process helps them learn it.

4. Teach children financial literacy

Begin teaching financial skills at a very young age – even 3 years old is not too young to teach the value of money. Allow your child to earn money (this may look like earning a quarter for folding the washcloths, or ten cents for wiping the table) and teach them how to spend wisely. It is incredibly important to help them ingrain these concepts. In our home, we had a closet with things the children could buy with appropriate pricing for their earning abilities. The closet held treats, small toys, and things that would require saving to purchase. Teach your children budgeting, saving, responsible credit use, proper protection (insurances) and debt management at age appropriate levels.

5. Set expectations early

We always told our kids from a very young age that they could stay with us through college if they wanted to, and we would support them that way. However, they would be responsible for their own car, phone, personal expenses, etc. We would cover housing, utilities, and food. If their school schedule honestly wouldn’t allow them to have a job, we would help with a set amount of money. Past college, our children are and were on their own or pay rent. If they choose not to go to college, they pay rent starting at age 18. If there are extenuating circumstances, they know they must come and talk to us, explain the situation, and give us a plan to move forward. We have had our children make all of these choices, and it worked well for our family. Each family’s circumstances are different, however, if you set expectations early, your children will be better equipped to make choices in their young adult life.

No matter what age your kids are currently, now is the time to start. As parents, you must decide what they need to know, and then begin teaching it. If it is a skill you do not have, learn together! This is a fun way to bond with your children while also giving them the very best launch you could possibly give them.

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