My 15-year-old daughter has been working a side hustle where she sells clothing she no longer wears through a consignment app. It’s all automated, and when someone pays her through Venmo, the app prepares a UPS label that she just prints and tapes on the package and either my husband or I drop it off for her. Recently, however, she sold something to someone local (not through the app) so she had to address the package herself.
This presented a bit of a challenge as she came out of her room quizzically asking, “How do I print the UPS label for this? Like, where do I get the label from?”
I said, equally as quizzically, “Are you sending it via UPS?”
Her: No, just regular mail.
Me: Do you know the difference between UPS and USPS?
Her: ~Blank stare followed by an eye roll~
I proceeded to explain to her how the post office works, and how to address her manila envelope so it would get where she needed it to go. I told her to put our return address in the top left, but when I checked on her she had literally just written our street address there. No name, no city, no state, no zip code. We fixed that. Then I told her to write the address of the person who would receive this package in the center of the envelope.
“Do I put her name above the address?” she asked. I nodded yes. And when she was done she asked, “So do I just put it outside in the mailbox?” Now it was my turn for an eye roll.
“No, love. Mail is not free,” I say. “You have to pay the post office to take it, just like UPS.”
To be fair, I had never previously taught my 15-year-old how to address a letter. Any time she has ever needed to send something via snail mail, such as a card or thank you letter to a family member, I only ask her to sign the card. I always stamp and address the envelope myself. So it’s not her fault.
She lives in a digital world, where communication happens only via text, snaps, social media DMs, or in the ether. Why would she instinctively know something as archaic as addressing an envelope? This exchange with my daughter got me thinking about how my son is graduating from Tampa Prep this spring and heading to college this fall. He will be making all kinds of adult decisions soon, which led me to the question, what other life skills do my kids not have?
I would define my parenting style as hands-off, free-range, and make-your-own-choices-and-live-with-your-own-consequences. I was never the mom who stopped her kids from feeling physical or emotional pain. Of course, I never enjoyed seeing them hurt, but I do believe that learning how to (and that you can) bounce back from tough times is critical.
As soon as my kids could walk I was a proponent of “if you can reach it, you can do it.” My husband and I pride ourselves on the fact that our kids--since about the age of 10--do their own laundry, including changing out their own bed sheets and towels. They are responsible for helping to clean, cook, do the dishes, take out the garbage and walk and feed the dogs. We expect them to do these things, not for allowance, but because that’s what you do to pitch in when you’re part of a family. Our son has worked part-time since the day after he turned 16. As soon as he got his first paycheck we taught him how to open a checking and savings account, how to manage his money, and even how to file his own taxes.
All of this independence, and yet there I was, explaining to my teenager how to address an envelope. Perhaps the gap in life skills comes from the fact that a lot of the things I had to learn as a young adult are no longer relevant in my kids’ lives. They will never have to worry about carrying a quarter in case they have to make an emergency phone call (or find a phone booth for that matter). They will never know that stamps used to be licked. They will never know the fear and urgency that came with having to get your Blockbuster video back to the store on time (and rewound!).
In searching for a list of relevant skills that Gen Z kids should know, I found the below list of 100 Essential Life Skills Teens Need to Learn at Home from a blog called Grown & Flown. (If you’re not familiar with that blog, I highly recommend it. They have some great resources for parents of teens and college-aged kids.)
I was happy to see that my teenagers do know how to do the majority of the items on this list, and some of those skills they learned at Tampa Prep.
- Several of the money-related items they learned (or had the opportunity to learn) at Tampa Prep through classes like Economics, Financial Literacy, or Algebra 3 with Financial Applications.
- They learned many of the health/first aid items in Health class, Intro to Sports Medicine, and Emergency Medical Response.
- Tampa Prep’s Freshman Transitions Program and amazing Academic Support Counselors really helped my kids learn to set goals, manage their time, and how to reach out to teachers/professors for help.
- And this year, as a sophomore, my daughter would have eventually learned to address an envelope because she has Mr. Sarkozy as a Math teacher. He makes all of his students write and address a thank you letter to someone (yes, in Math class) because he understands the importance of being able to do so, and that some kids--like mine--were never taught how.
I hope the below list is as helpful to you as it was to me, even if just as a reference to validate all you’ve done to get them this far. Goodness knows we’re all just doing the best we can, trying to navigate parenting a generation that is blessed (or cursed?) with so many modern conveniences we never had, and in the middle of a pandemic no less.
So as we near graduation day and my own “senioritis” sets in, I allow myself some grace for having a teenager who didn’t know how to address an envelope. And when I see things on the list below that I have never discussed with my kids such as when to seek professional medical help, how to turn off an overflowing toilet or how to use jumper cables, my go-to words of wisdom for them will be, “I’m sure there’s a YouTube tutorial for that.”
- Say “no”
- Set and manage a goal, with a timetable and milestones
- Communicate with and get to know professors and teaching assistants
- Manage their time with a calendar
- Read a bank statement and monitor an account balance
- Create a lifelong habit and plan for saving money
- Use ride-sharing services safely
- When to make a phone call rather than texting (some things require a conversation)
- Understand, improve, and maintain your credit score
- Mail a package
- Address an envelope
- Figure out postage/buy stamps
- Make, change, or cancel an appointment
- Deposit, withdraw or move funds in an account (either by ATM, phone app or teller)
- Find medical care in an emergency and how and when to call an ambulance
- Get involved in their community and helping others
- Understand now compound interest impacts savings or borrowings
- Memorize their social security, credit card, and student ID numbers
- Turn off an overflowing toilet
- How to wisely borrow and lend money
- Manage peer pressure
- Walk away from…anything
- Utilize a meal plan and not waste money
- Do laundry
- Shop for groceries (lists, budget, coupons)
- Read nutrition labels
- Make a list of favorite recipes
- Write a check
- Understand the terms when applying for a credit card
- Use any form of transportation including navigating and ticketing
- Choose a doctor
- Fill and refill a prescription
- Manage subscription services
- Correctly use over-the-counter medications
- Maintain scholarships and financial aid
- Eat healthily and resist unhealthy food choices
- Fill out health insurance forms
- Do their taxes
- Clean anything and everything
- Administer basic first aid
- React and what to do in a lockdown
- Be prepared for a weather/power emergency
- Find and work with a study group
- Find academic help/tutors/mentors on a college campus
- Cope with feelings of stress or being overwhelmed
- Decide between a doctor’s appointment, urgent care and the ER
- Understand medical coverage
- Write a resume
- Dress for an interview
- Complete a LinkedIn profile
- Stay in touch with friends and family
- Consume alcohol, safely
- Get and use birth control
- Live with a group of strangers
- Plunge a toilet
- Stay safe
- Get the right amount of sleep and exercise
- To know when to seek professional medical or mental health services
- Prepare if you are pulled over when driving
- Store and prepare food safely
- Read and understand a credit card statement
- Use basic tools for minor repairs
- Create and stick to a budget
- Deal with unexpected expenses
- Turn off a smoke alarm
- Stay healthy, including hand washing
- Use a fire extinguisher
- Recognize fraud in emails, phishing and phone calls
- Write a professional email
- Stay current with the local and national news
- VOTE, because it matters
- Advocate with and ask questions of medical professionals
- Apply for jobs, internships, and on campus positions
- Locate routing and account numbers on checks
- Remember and recognize important dates in other’s lives
- Complete important forms like HIPPA, FERPA, Power of Attorney
- Get renter’s insurance
- Aid a friend who drank too much
- Deal with a car accident
- Be clear about consent and the wishes of a romantic/sexual partner
- Be your own strongest advocate in a positive way
- Manage if a credit card is lost or stolen
- Write and send a handwritten thank-you note
- Pay bills on time and set up automatic payment
- Understand the expense and responsibility of owning a pet
- Follow an auto maintenance schedule
- Understand auto insurance and coverage
- Save money on textbooks
- Change bed sheets
- Manage social media presence
- Change a flat tire
- Sew a button
- Iron, or at a minimum steam an item of clothing
- Cope with loneliness
- Greet someone respectfully, with eye contact and a handshake
- Use jumper cables
- Research potential career paths
- Put yourself out there and make friends
- Move homes