Life Skills Brought to You by a Pandemic
Life Skills Brought to You by a Pandemic by Lori Turner
The 2020 pandemic ended the school year abruptly and many parents are left to worry about how their children will catch up academically and be ready for the next grade level. There is justification to be VERY concerned as large public-school districts are still in the midst of trying to figure out how to proceed with the next school year. I have a tremendous amount of empathy for parents that have small children who were unexpectedly ripped away in the middle those foundation subjects of reading, writing, spelling, and math. Personally, I would have been panicked! However, I am a lucky mother of a high schooler with a solid academic foundation who was doing well at the time of the shutdown. At first, like most American’s who had never experienced a pandemic before I was frightened and disappointed but soon realized this was an opportunity to spend some time with my teenager that normally has very little time with a busy schedule of homework, band performance, and sports. Instead of dwelling on the shutdown with nothing to do, I quickly embraced this was our opportunity for me and my husband to teach essential life-long lessons and experiences not taught in a classroom. I am here to assure parents even though kids are missing out on school and special events they can learn to become well-rounded people simply by your guidance. “Survival tools” or "Life Skills" as I call them are not just temporary but shapes them into who they will become and sustains them throughout their lives. In turn, they can carry on and provide these same lessons and experiences when they have children. These life skills seem obvious and simple (and kudos to those that have already thought of these lessons) but I’d like to share with you our conscious effort to make sure our teenager is ready and is prepared to leave the nest.
I have witnessed many of my friends and family proudly send off their high school graduates to college only for them to come home after their freshman year. The shock of being away from their support system and their comfortable lifestyle is too great. Suddenly, their nice quiet room and their homecooked meals are replaced by a floor of screaming dorm room tenants and blah cafeteria food. It’s a shocking way to start off a new chapter in their life. Many parents find this amusing and use this opportunity to teach a “spoiled” and “unappreciative” teenager a lesson but we must ask ourselves is it really a lesson for them or will they EVER be able to handle tough situations? Feeling like a failure isn’t a dream we have for our kids yet if we don’t prepare them for how tough life will be, we as parents are a part of the problem. What about their personal safety? Mom and dad cannot come to the rescue three states away when junior calls from the side of the road with a flat tire. “What do I do Dad? Well son, you can read the manual, call the towing company, or sit by the road and cry.” Not my teenager! My teenager will know what to do and be safe.
At the beginning of our stay-at-home adventure, some of the life lessons seemed simple. The difficult part was realizing how many things as a parent (due to my OCD tendencies) I didn’t allow him to do. I always vacuumed, mopped floors, dusted, constantly disinfected surfaces, tidied up, and basically maintained the household as best I could. Due to a recent surgery and being on strict restrictions I wasn’t able to clean ANYTHING for 6 weeks. It was a tough pill to swallow. “Let’s hire a cleaning person.” I said to my husband. Funny thing when he pointed over to the couch where the teenager was yelling at the Xbox. “There is your cleaner right over there.” The teen always did the regular stuff like dishes, trash, and cleaned toilets but it never dawned on me how much he didn’t know about the rest of the chores. He actually thought vacuuming and mopping weren’t that bad. Go at it kid because Mom thinks it sucks!
My husband and I like to listen to Podcasts instead of the music on the way home from one of my follow up appointments with my doctor. One Podcast that caught our attention was the Candace Owens Show
On this particular Podcast, she was interviewing a former United States Navy Seal Commander by the name of Jocko Willink. https://originleadership.com/jocko-willink-bio/s Jocko Willink. In addition to being a highly respected retired military Commander, he was an author of six books, has a podcast, owns a gym and is a business guru. Jocko was being interviewed on Candace’s show discussing children’s books he has written supporting the notion that uncomfortable moments build character in kids. It’s ok to learn from failure and it is a way to help children face their fears. Naturally, that caught our attention as we were experiencing the same thoughts as our teenager was home in quarantine with the rest of the country. https://www.amazon.com/sk=jocko+willink+childrens+book&i=stripbooks&crid=1CI6HVS7UCPO9&sprefix=jocko+willink+childre%2Cstripbooks%2C229&ref=nb_sb_ss_i_1_21. In his writings, Jocko focuses on teaching the leadership principles that he learned as the Commander in the Navy SEALs. What resonated with us when Jocko said, "If you are helping your kids too much, they can’t rely on themselves to get the job done. It messes with their opinions of themselves that they can’t do anything. If you are over protecting them from hurt or pain you as a parent are actually hurting them. There is humility in the basics like cleaning the toilets and mopping the floors. You have to put your kids through some sort of humility if they are going to survive in the world." Go figure? Another person feeling the same as we did! Later on, as a family we listened to the podcast together and had a discussion about being a good parent is to let teenagers handle some uncomfortable situations without parents hovering over all of the time. However, it is our responsibility to make sure we do our best to prepare you for what is coming down the road as you grow up. Little did we know a minor fender bender would show us how well prepared our teenager handled the stressful situation.
Long gone are the days of taking a Driver's Education class at school. It seems in this day age sixteen-year old's are perfectly content with not learning how to drive. What was once a right of passage for us old-timers it is now our duty to teach our offspring the ins and outs of driving. Driving on the road is definitely more dangerous now then it was 30 years ago. As we were on this kick to make sure to teach our new driver was prepared, we made sure to go over EVERYTHING car-related. This included the boring lecture about why we have insurance, why it is so expensive, why we pay taxes on a vehicle, and why the car must be registered to drive legally on the road. Along with an online Drivers Education course he was well on his way getting his license. Unfortunately, at a very busy intersection on a yellow light, we were rear-ended by a large utility truck as he made a quick stop. As his mom, my first instinct was to protect him because he was really shaken up. However, in that moment, it was time to let him handle talking to the police officer and it was one of the most difficult yet proudest moments of being a mom. Despite the anguish of being in a car accident he had his identification ready, made a statement, filled out the report, and provided the officer with all of the insurance and registration. In the end, we were all just fine, including the guy that accidentally hit us but I know this accident was meant to be so I could witness first hand we were I doing a good job as parents. When we arrived home that night and I had a moment to think about it, I was able to see our boring lectures about life skills were not ignored and he is well on his way of becoming a responsible adult that can navigate a complicated but rewarding life. Parents, teenagers, or anyone reading this please note that difficult moments, menial tasks, and failure will humble you and not harm you. It builds your character and give you life skills never to be forgotten. Take a moment and reflect on how you want your most precious gift to leave the nest and become an adult.
Below is a list of some of the life skills we wanted our teenager to experience. We hope as you read this it gives you inspiration that not all learning is lost because school ended abruptly! What can you add to this list?
Teenager “Life Skills” List
1. Cleaning- what to use for mirrors, sinks, and toilets. Cleaning products specific to surfaces. Vacuuming corners, baseboards, window wells, then carpets. Mopping with steam mop.
2. Laundry-types of detergents, colors with same colors, same fabrics together. Explain all the settings on both washer and dryer. Look at clothing labels. Explain dry cleaning. Don’t dry everything!
3. Car (if learning to drive) -explain insurance, show the cost of insurance and registration. Explain why these are needed to be on the road. Show them the car manual and what all the dashboard lights mean when a light comes on. Show them in the book how it explains to change a tire. Show them the location of the spare tire and tools. Explain the basics or have them change a tire. Go over all of the interior buttons, and most importantly hazard lights. Open the hood and show them how to top off windshield fluid and why it is important. Check the oil. Explain as best you can all the complicated parts. Take them with you to get oil changes and explain how breaks pads and rotators maintenance. Talk about hazardous conditions and how to deal with them such as weather or car accidents. In our case, we have a vehicle with a manual transmission so he learned to drive it. Washing the car by hand.
4. House-showing the location of the breaker box, location of main water valve to the house, turning off the water heater
5. Gardening-trimming bushes, trees, and weeding. Hauling and cleaning up trimmings. Planting and watering. Using appropriate gardening sheers and tools to work smart not hard. Showing were the sprinkling system is and how to set it up. Mowing and trimming and maintaining it.
6. Watch or help- fix or build something with someone.
7. In charge of taking care of the family pet.