Nurturing competent young adults

By Jill McKenzie

May 25, 2017 12:00 AM

It must be difficult to be a young adult these days.
Those of us that didn’t grow up with the Internet and social media remember a time where our parents didn’t always know where we were and couldn’t fix everything for us with a simple phone call. 
Are young people still learning to solve problems on their own, given their access to google to think for them and the bank of mom and dad to make their worries go away?
You have to wonder, especially knowing that there are now courses in “adulting,” where young people can study online to learn grown up skills.
The fact a generation of people may not know how to follow a recipe, change a tire or write out a cheque is baffling if not scary.
Of course, these are sweeping generalizations.
Look hard enough and you will find many young people with great problem solving skills and an independent outlook.
But one has to wonder if the general population of millennials—children born between 1980 and 2000—is truly prepared to step into adulthood.
The season of recognition
The next batch of high school graduates is about to complete one phase of their lives, the time where they lived at home and had the daily guidance of parents and teachers to steer them.
Looking back, one might ask whether any of us was really prepared for the real world at that age.
But it’s also hard to resist comparing kids that have never done their own laundry with the great generation that marched off to war at the same age.
With these two extreme examples comes a spectrum of opinions on what childhood, adolescence and adulthood should be like.
Many would argue that kids should be kids and not have to face worries about money, survival or adversity.
Many others would argue that shielding youth from these challenges not only leaves them ill-prepared for real life, but also gives them an unrealistic expectation of what their future will hold.
If mom and dad have paid the cellphone bill and bought the brand-name clothes and taught you that you deserve the best that life has to offer, how will you transition to a minimum wage job, and rent, and a boss that might not recognize the special wonderfulness you have always been told you possess?
Cramming for life’s tests
If you’re a parent, you might ask yourself how your kids are usually allowed to deal with a problem.
Depending on their ages, there is usually a way that you can allow them to safely figure out what to do on their own.
Whether it’s allowing them to spend their allowance frivolously and then having them sit out the next shopping trip, or transitioning a few bills into their names while they still live at home, and ensuring that those bills are paid on time, there are many ways to ease kids into a more independent role while still being available to advise them.
If your child is now finishing up high school and will be leaving home in the next few months, whether entering the workforce or off to post-secondary in the fall, it might not hurt to evaluate some of their skills while they are still home under your care.
Take an hour and change a tire together.
Check the oil in their vehicle and make sure they can top up the fluids on their own, put air in the tires and boost a dead battery.
Give him or her an evening a week where they cook for the family.
Send them for the groceries with a set amount of money and a list.
Stop doing their laundry and making their lunches, if you haven’t already.
Show your affection in praising how they are handling these new responsibilities, rather than by doing it all for them.
Children learn responsibility by having rules and expectations.
As parents, you have tried to nurture their self-esteem and confidence, but have you given them opportunities to grow capable and self-sufficient?
Can they handle everyday problems and challenges, or should you spend this summer preparing them for adulthood?
A new world of independence is opening up to this season’s graduates.
They’ve anticipated this moment for years, as have their parents.
With the great adventures and new beginnings come new responsibilities.
Websites like and are a helpful jumping off point if you’d like to make sure your kids are ready to handle their own money.
Creating competent young people is a combination of nurturing their emotional growth as well as their practical knowledge.
Kids today have technology to help them, but are at risk of having it stunt their common sense.
Giving them more responsibilities will help grow their independence.

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