“I wish I knew then what I know now.” If you’re an adult and haven’t uttered these words, you will. Parents must catalog these moments in their memories and pass their wisdom along to their children. When artful and creative, parents can school their children even before they realize the lesson has been learned.
Concepts like saving get lost in this modern, instant-gratification-laden world. Only 1% of children who receive allowances save, but savings bonds were once the standard for birthdays and holidays. No kid enjoyed getting what amounted to a glorified IOU, but that same child is ecstatic when she has money to pay for college, and even happier when she realizes she won’t be enslaved to student loans after graduation like most of her classmates. Saving will never sound fun, yet parents must find creative ways to instill the concept of saving early on.
For most parents, implementing healthy eating habits conjures up nightmares of the dinner table. Giving in to whines for cookies may feel like a victory in the short term, but it can have disastrous long-term effects. Poor childhood eating habits overwhelmingly continue into adulthood and can lead to tooth decay, diabetes, obesity and even eye problems, which may require cataract surgery to correct. A tough-fought battle of wills now can literally pay off later—healthy adults spend less on preventative care and diagnostic and corrective procedures.
No matter what you want, there’s an app for that, but with technological advances comes debilitating convenience. The art of conversation has been reduced to abbreviations, emoji, and television shows. Don’t allow technology to co-parent. Instead, prepare children for the inevitable adulthood awaiting them. Skills like budgeting, changing a tire, cooking a simple meal, doing laundry, and making small talk are invaluable and timeless.
Any lesson in love is not about avoiding heartbreak; it’s about picking up the pieces after heartbreak. What teenagers often cannot see and what parents have to remind them is that the world is quite vast. And chances are, that first love or high school sweetheart is wholly incompatible with the person they will be even five years from now. One day they may even look back and realize they’ve dodged quite the bullet.
Before children even master coloring inside the lines, adults will ask them, “What do you want to be when you grow up?” By the ripe age of 18, teenagers must know because their collegiate curriculum depends on their decision. Parents must encourage their children to explore their interests without unnecessarily pressuring them to make a lifelong commitment. Majors change and interests wane. But passions ignite, and strengths surface. Children should make goals, but if the road to that goal detours or completely reroutes, their journey doesn’t end. In fact, it’s just beginning.
Like their children, parents are growing and learning too. Try as you might, you can’t shield children from every bad break in life nor the cares of the world. As parents, you can, however, share your life’s lessons. Even if they deny it at first, your children will thank you for it.