While living abroad, we had household help. It was heaven on earth for us (I often tell the story that I did not do a dish for the four years we lived in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia). My husband and I were teachers at an international school in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia. The ‘amah’, as our Angeline was called allowed us to focus on our children, and on our jobs. She cleaned, did our laundry and cooked our meals. Certainly, we planned our meals, taught Angeline how to cook certain western dishes, but welcomed her cultural dishes into our home as well. Fortunately, for us, she taught our children a few of her dishes as well. That, looking back, was a stroke of genius for the future.
We left that job for teaching jobs in London. With those teaching jobs, we were left without this wonderful domestic help and found ourselves putting dinner on the table at 9 pm (unacceptable), laundering late into the evenings or on the weekends, again, unacceptable, because, isn’t the point of living abroad, or even not living abroad is to take advantage of everything around us…whether we live in the mountains (as we do now), in a city like Chicago or Denver, or in any part of our fascinating world? So, we knew we had to implement a survival strategy.
Our first strategy was to make our children responsible for putting a meal on the table. They became very creative cooks-whether it was Duck a la Orange as a special treat, tacos (find those ingredients in London way back when), Second, they each were responsible for doing their own laundry. We taught them how and of course made them accountable for running out of essentials. Having a teenage daughter; this was a no brainer. Our son caught on as well. It took a lot of pressure off the household. The only issue with laundry was signing on to the washer/dryer.
We, as parents, want our children to focus on their homework, GPAs, test scores, extracurriculars and be the best they can be in school and out of school so they can achieve whatever it is for beyond high school. But, wait, when they leave school, they aren’t going to have us to assist them with these domestic skills that are so necessary for survival. They need to learn how to balance their lives. And actually, this responsibility can start from toddler hood by starting to put away toys and books.
These skills served them well as they moved on to university. Our daughter, the eldest was caught off guard when she went away to university by how many of her dorm mates were clueless as to how to do their laundry, not to mention basic life skills. I am sure she showed her dorm mates a thing or two.
Now is a great time, if parents have not started to teach their young adults how to do laundry, how to cook a few meals, and pretty importantly, how to clean a room and even the bathroom. Our amah was not to make the beds in our children’s room. It was tough on her to see that the beds did not have perfect hospital corners… but, as we told Angeline, that would come in time.
So, as your children, now young adults get ready to launch, teach them a thing or two… how to do laundry… and of course, their laundry can’t sit in the washer or dryer at college, someone in the dorms will pull out their wash and leave it to rot. Teach them to cook a few meals. Whether there is a kitchen in the dorm, or maybe just a quick microwave meals… that will do too.
Teach them a bit about cleaning their rooms. Maybe for the first time, they will have to live with a roommate. They will have to learn about respecting someone else’s space. Perhaps their space will be smaller and no doubt, your student will have to be judicial about what to bring to the dorm.
Communicating is important as well. As mentioned, this may be the first time your student will be sharing a room. While his/her space may have been his/her castle previously, this may be no longer the case. Thus, the ability to communicate with someone in a small space is of the utmost importance.
And of course, teach your student how to budget, balance the bank account and be judicious in using the credit card, apple pay, or whatever type of account s/he uses.
But, bottom line, make sure you continue to have open communication with your young adult. The importance of this is paramount.
Now is the time to be sure your student has the skills to be independent. But, in reality, the sooner these are taught, the better. However, enjoy this time with your teen. It’s a momentous time in both your lives. A shift in life to be sure.