In my father’s family, there was a list of skills that had to be mastered before they were eligible for their driver’s license.  It included things like being able to do their own laundry, changing a tire, and planning and preparing a meal.  My grandparents’ idea behind this policy was simple:  driving a car is a privilege that demands responsibilities.  As times have changed, however, so has the self-efficiency time-line.  Preteens of today are more precocious and savvy than previous generations.  They need survival skills well before they’re 16 because they drive choices that will forever impact their lives well before they ever get behind the wheel:

1.)    Budgeting Lessons Help May Help Balance Trendy Fads-

Whether you give your child an allowance that s/he as to earn through chores or designated family responsibilities, or extend as a stipend, those funds create ample teachable moments.

a. Fix the amount and stick to it.  Having to stretch money over the course of a week teaches simple budgeting principles.

b. Set price limits on what you are willing to spend on given items such as clothes, shoes, technology, school supplies, etc.  If your child wants to get the hot shoes or latest jean label, s/he will have use allowance funds or save up for it.  This practice will help preteens become critical not only of their choices – what is important enough for me to spend my own money on, but also aware of the (high) price of things in general.

c. Consider mandating child set aside a portion of his/her funds off the top for savings, college, tithing, taxes, etc.  Doing so models how much of family allotted funds have predesignated purposes that might help preteens understand the realities of budgeting on a larger scale.

2.)    Laundry

I don’t advocate that preteens learn to do their own laundry because I think they need another chore, I suggest it because it is a lifelong maintenance issue of housekeeping.

a. Sort and Temperature.  Teach why it’s important to sort the laundry into darks and whites and wash them at the appropriate temperature.  Bottom-line it, “If you want that new shirt you just spent your allowance on to last, you need to take care of it.”  Caring for their own clothes can teach preteens more than just laundry skills; it can help them develop responsibility.

3.)    Changing a Flat Tire and Simple Car Maintenance

Let’s face it: it’s not just a helpful skill to know, it encourages self-sufficiency.  These are not the times when I want my son or daughters dependent on the kindness of strangers to fix a flat.

4.)    How to Plan and Prepare a Meal

Like car maintenance, planning meals is a routine chore of every household.  Preteens cannot appreciate or learn the process without getting involved.  Given the epidemic of childhood obesity and the pennies most of us have to pinch, it’s a good idea to show a budding adolescent that it’s all a little more complicated than it looks.

a. Get out the recipe book.  Mandate that the novice chef model the family dietary recommendations.  Emphasis nutrition.  Set a limited number of vegetables and a maximum number of calories.  Remind them why it’s important to eat well.  Let them research how much work is involved in choosing and making a meal.  Whatever their attempts taste like, it will help them appreciate what the usual house chefs go through every night.

b. Set the budget.  Have them write a grocery list and accompany you to the store.  Insist they keep to the budget.  Encourage them to make the choice between generic pasta and no-label ice cream.

c. Make meal.  Celebrate the attempt and choke down whatever they serve.  Fair is fair, it’s what we ask of them.  You might even offer to do the dishes.

5.)    Family Drug/Alcohol Policy

No one likes the cliché, “If you don’t talk to your kids about drug and alcohol, someone else will,” but it is nonetheless true.  What will be your family action plan for alcohol/drug policies?

a. Educate yourself and each other as a family.  Talk about drugs and what is and is not acceptable under your family model.

b. Draft and ratify a Family Drug/Alcohol Policy and have all members of family sign it.  Post it in the house to remind everyone what they agreed to.  Consider the following items to include:  Definition of drugs, list of drugs that are and are not acceptable, specific consequences for use (first offense, second offense, etc.) Pledge not to drive with impaired individuals (all); Pledge to pick up family members, no questions asked, if they call for a ride in lieu of getting in the car with someone with whom they do not feel safe, etc.

6.)    Family Crisis Plan

It doesn’t take the war in Iraq to document that these are uncertain times.  Humans are fragile creatures.  All times in the history of time were uncertain.  None of us are immune to challenge, but as families we can plan for what might come so that if it does, we can stand united:

a. Smoke alarms, family escape plan, family meeting place and fire drills.

b. Plan what to do if one is separated from the family in a crisis.

c. Organize back-ups; make certain the entire family knows the name, number and address of an emergency contact person.

d. Store provisions handy in the event of big snow storm, bad weather or unexpected events.  It always makes good sense to have batteries, water and a store of canned goods on hand.  Make a family project day out of organizing provisions.  Consider launching neighborhood focus group together.

We can’t protect our preteens from all the temptation, challenge and pain that is out there, but we can equip them with the survival skills of critical thinking and life-skills so they enter their teenage years with tools. Feeling unprepared for what the world demands of us is an Hallelujah breaker at any age.

You say I took the name in vain
I don’t even know the name
But if I did, well really, what’s it to you?
There’s a blaze of light
In every word
It doesn’t matter which you heard
The holy or the broken Hallelujah

Hallelujah, Hallelujah
Hallelujah, Hallelujah

I did my best, it wasn’t much
I couldn’t feel, so I tried to touch
I’ve told the truth, I didn’t come to fool you
And even though
It all went wrong
I’ll stand before the Lord of Song
With nothing on my tongue but Hallelujah!