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Preparing teens for living on their own in university

Are your kids ready for university? Do they know how to shop, cook and clean for themselves? Maybe not. Make sure your children are totally prepared for university life with this simple guide.

College girl moving into the dorm

Ever heard of the “freshman fifteen”? It implies that kids in their first year away from home are prone to gaining 15 pounds and seeing their marks drop by 15 per cent. And for many new university students, it isn’t just an expression — it’s the truth. Help your kids stay clear of such challenging situations by preparing them in a few ways.

Teach them to shop and cook

Many new university students put on weight because they don’t know how to cook and aren’t familiar with having to make healthy choices for themselves on a regular basis. In the majority of households, it’s a parent who does the shopping and prepares most of the meals, so teens are put to the test of making dietary decisions only on occasions when they head out with friends.

Take your teen grocery shopping with you, and ask questions along the way, such as “how much do you think we’ll need of this product for the week?” or “which of these seems like the most budget-friendly option?” Encourage your teen to get involved in the decision-making and to prioritize which groceries are most crucial.

Then, assign them one night a week when picking a recipe and cooking dinner is their responsibility. Assure them you are around to answer any questions, but it is their responsibility to get the meal planned and made.

It may also be a good idea to encourage your teen to come up with a weekly meal plan. Just getting them thinking about which types of breakfasts, lunches and dinners are healthy, simple and effective forms of nutrition is a good place to start. And above all else, encourage them for their many successes along the way!

Talk about budget

Whether or not you are assisting your teen in paying for university, there will undoubtedly be things they have to budget for. When buying snacks, picking up books or going out with friends, they will have to know how much they can spend so they don’t wind up in debt by the end of the year.

Sit down with your teen and discuss how much they have coming in financially and where they feel most of their money will be spent. Use tables, charts or planners to help your teen lay out what will work best. Wherever possible, let them come up with the numbers and facts themselves, and then guide or advise accordingly.

And don’t forget to let your teen know that budgets can come across all types of challenges, and it’s OK if they have to reorganize their priorities. You’ll always be there to help out!

Assign cleaning tasks

No matter how many cleaning chores you may or may not assign your teen, chances are they have no idea just how much work goes on behind the scenes. And you certainly don’t want them to be the roommate who’s guilty of always leaving dishes in the sink or failing to wipe down the bathroom from time to time.

The best thing to do is to put your teen in charge of cleaning a couple of areas in the house. Their room goes without saying, but select other rooms they use frequently, such as the bathroom, and a portion of the family room or kitchen. Encourage them to pay attention to what causes mess to add up and how frequently a good cleaning is needed. It will be easier for them to get along with their roommate(s) when they have a better sense of what tasks need to get done and when.

Help with problem-solving

Over the course of your life you have likely learned how to handle a variety of tasks and solve many problems. For instance, when a light bulb goes out, you know to turn off the electricity in that room, find a correctly sized, fresh light bulb and screw it in. Or when the toilet is running, you may know of a few quick fixes to sort out the tank and avoid wasting water. You are your teen’s biggest resource for these types of household skills, so try to impart as much of your wisdom as you can.

The next time something acts up around the house, bring your teen over and let them see how it gets solved. Even simple things, such as how to properly clean a casserole dish or make the most of fridge space, are useful skills to learn, so make sure your teen learns them before heading out on their own.

Open the lines of communication

No matter how much wisdom you try to impart to your teen before university begins, questions or problems will undoubtedly pop up in their life. And though they are no doubt eager to set out on their own, it’s still nice to know someone’s at home who can help out when they’re in a bind. So remind your child you’re always ready and willing to lend a hand and to answer any questions they may have on their journey toward independence.

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