8 Skills your teen needs to develop so your empty nest can stay empty

Aug 23, 2014 at 11:30 a.m. ET
Image: YinYang/E+/Getty Images

If you teach your kids all the things they need to know, they won't need you anymore, right? Simple concept, but many kids are returning to the nest just when Mom and Dad are ready to move on with their lives. How can we keep our young adult children moving forward?

Because we love them, but we sure don't want them back

Dr. Melissa Deuter is a board-certified psychiatrist in San Antonio, Texas, who specializes in the care of emerging adults. She helps parents deal when their kids end up back at home. We asked her how to keep kids moving forward instead of moving back in.

"Give your teen room to take on responsibilities and make mistakes while he still lives at home," Deuter says. "Provide abundant opportunities for supervised practice." Your expectations should be based on your child's abilities and level of emotional security — not on age alone. Setting higher expectations than your child is ready for is just as bad as expecting too little from him.

Dr. Deuter groups these skills into eight categories.

Emotional/psychological skills

"These include the ability to identify emotions, self soothe, exhibit self-control of inner emotional states, wait patiently, solve problems, delay gratification, tolerate uncomfortable feelings and maintain control of behavior," says Deuter. These skills help your teen walk away from a fight or get himself out of an uncomfortable social situation.

Friendship/interpersonal relationship skills

Your child may not always feel comfortable in social situations, but good social skills go a long way. Teach your children how to start and carry on a conversation with others. "They should learn to speak up, stand up for a friend, keep (or refuse to keep) a secret, ignore bad behavior and to confront someone who is out of line. Likewise they need to learn to really listen, admit fault and apologize, talk out a conflict with a friend (or roommate), say I love you and hug," adds Deuter.

Romantic/intimate relationship skills

Being able to tell the difference between love and a crush is an important benefit of teen dating. "They can learn to ask someone to dance, navigate romantic feelings and eventually to break up with a boyfriend or girlfriend," says Deuter. "They can also learn to cope with rejection, say no and control the urge to advance physical relationships too quickly."

Financial skills

Teens aren't always comfortable with financial skills because they haven't been given the chance to learn. "Before leaving home, teens need practice budgeting, managing money, balancing a checkbook, saving for emergencies, maintaining bank accounts and paying bills," shares Deuter. Don't assume it's too complicated, and start them off early.

Academic/work skills

Want your child to be a hardworking young adult? Start by teaching them basic responsibility. "When teens know how to be punctual, stay on task and pay attention to details they are better equipped for school and career," says Deuter. Volunteering or part-time work while still living with you is a good place to start.

Domestic/maintenance skills

Many teens don't have basic cooking skills or know how to handle simple problems. "Auto maintenance, laundry, cleaning skills and handling small household emergencies like a clogged toilet are all skills necessary to build before teens move out," shares Deuter.

Self-care skills

"Your teen should be equipped to ask for help, say no and be assertive," says Deuter. Work with your teen to help him figure out what works best for him. Maybe she needs a quiet place to regroup, talk or write about problems, or a supportive community group.

Medical care skills

Time for your teen to take control of her health care. "Every adult needs to have health care knowledge to be capable of giving a medical history, filling a prescription at a pharmacy or knowing how to self-diagnose simple illnesses, use a thermometer and take over-the-counter medications," Deuter adds.

Ready to launch? Teach them these skills and they will soar.

More about teens

Do you read your teen's text messages?
How to fix your teen's bad sleep habits
What parenting style is best for raising well-rounded teenagers?