By: LP 2010 (Or, click here to download Life Skill Competencies You Can Build in Your Child in Preparation for College)
Your children’s college years can be some of the most exciting times of their lives. They will make new friends, discover more about themselves and their spiritual walk, gain an education, and prepare for the future. The day they leave “home” to go to college or live on their own, is a milestone in their lives and yours. Many memories have been implanted in them in their experience of living with you and in their host culture. The lifestyle they have lived overseas will not be the same as in the states. They will experience many rapid changes and they need you to help them be prepared.
How can you prepare them for this time while still overseas? There are ten areas of competencies a TCK needs in place before entering college. If you will be intentional about addressing each one, you will be investing in sending a more mature child to college, who will have more tools to adapt to the changes to come.
1. Emotional Stability Their emotions, as a teenager, are set loose at such a high rate, that at times, they may not understand themselves. Why do they do the things the do? What makes them act or react in a certain way? Being a teenager is not easy. College life requires they be emotionally stable so that they can make good decisions and interact successfully, with many different kinds of people.
So, what can they do as a teenager to bring their emotions into check? You can help them now, by:
- modeling emotional stability;
- Encouraging them to keep a diary documenting their feelings to assist them in controlling emotions and making good decisions.
- Encouraging them to find a wise friend/confidant. They should share their feelings with someone they know and trust as sharing their feelings with someone other than you can be a healthy outlet, preparing them to find confidants when they go away to college. They should be encouraged to find someone who has a positive outlook on life and similar values.
- Encourage them to compare their emotions with Biblical principles. We all have thoughts that go astray at times, but steer them to look to the perfect model we find in Jesus Christ and to rest in His love and forgiveness and keep looking to Him, even when it feels difficult.
2. Identity Awareness They will need to be able to know how to initiate, form and maintain lasting relationships. The ability to do this requires they know who they are and know what they need to survive, emotionally. You can encourage them to:
- Journal about all types of personal preferences such as what they like to do and what they don’t, if they are a quiet person who needs his/her space or if they need to be around people to charge their batteries. What kind of emotional feedback do they need from others to survive? Do they need physical contact (hugs) or do they need someone who can affirm them constantly? If these are things that are important to them, then it is important that they find a group that can nourish them, emotionally.
- Help them realize that we are different emotionally. They need to be aware of how God has “wired” them emotionally. They should find others that have their similar, values, interests and needs.
- Encourage them to cultivate new friendships while maintaining the old friendships. It takes effort and time, but will be worth the investment when they are later out on their own. They will find that it will become easier to find and make lasting relationships when they know who they are.
3. Decision-Making Skills The area of emotional stability also has to do with making decisions. While living at home, many decisions are made by you for them. You provide them a physically safe environment in your house and rules have been established to protect them physically and emotionally. When they move out, they have to decide where physical and emotional boundaries are going to be established. Many people will push them to open their boundaries. During college years your children may test many of those boundaries in their process of becoming independent from you. They will make decisions about kinds of friends, study time and place, work environment, place to live and whom to allow into their new home, banking decisions, religious affiliation, etc. Have you provided them with opportunity to have ample practice in making decisions? High school is the time to begin allowing them to make some fairly significant decisions on their own, while they are still in close proximity, to learn from poor decisions and your debriefing them. They can learn much from their mistakes, and mature on the way.
How do you encourage them to learn to make good decisions? Encourage them to:
- Look at all aspects of the goal/challenge through exploring all possibilities that could be a solution.
- Take a look at their Christian value system and eliminate those possibilities that they know don’t fit with who they are or want to be.
- Find wise counsel from someone who can remain objective, yet steer them towards making the best decision.
- Ask God to guide them during the entire process, giving them a peace about the final decision.
- Always look for the decision that will give them a long range answer. They may have to work longer for it, but it will lead them to more stable decisions in the future.
- If there are still two good decisions, they should choose their preference according to their personal likes or desires.
- Remember that all decisions are not necessarily between good and bad. The goal is to make the best decision they can.
4. Responsible Behavior Another competency that relates to emotional maturity is responsible behavior. This is a skill that needs to begin when your children are very young. Two sayings that many parents have passed down to their children are: “I will trust you until you give me cause not to,” and “Trust must be earned.” When your child begins college there are many things that will become their sole responsibility. They must learn to get up on their own, to get to class on time, to finish their homework, to pay bills and act responsibly in other areas. Responsibility is a learned behavior and many college students fail because they haven’t learned the importance of responsibility. Encourage them to take initiative in high school to take charge of more and more areas of life and responsibilities. They will find that responsible persons are given more freedom and more choices. They are also the kind of people that find the best jobs and become leaders.
5. Practical Knowledge There are many life skills needed to live independently. Your child will need to know how to:
- wash laundry
- clean apartment/dishes
- plan and shop for meals
- pay bills
- live on the money they have and not overspend
- take care of a car
- manage time wisely
- find and keep a job
Many of these skills can be developed prior to and while in high school. If they don’t know how to cook, do laundry, or care for a car, be intentional to help them to develop and practice these skills. It will make life much easier in college.
6. Spiritual Development TCKs will face temptations independent of your guidance in college. You have made many decisions and given them boundaries while they have lived with you. When they begin college, they will need to set their own spiritual guidelines. Help them now to develop boundaries and disciplines that will hopefully continue when they are on their own. Help them establish:
- A daily devotional discipline
- Church attendance and ministry mentality
- Those who will be spiritual supporters
- The ethical boundaries they will set and live by and the type of friends they will make
- The type of activities that are worthy of their time and energy
- Know what they believe and why
7. Financial Responsibility I Tim. 6:10 (NKJV) says: “For the love of money is a root of all kinds of evil.” Help your children to be wise with money. They will need to have money to “learn” with from a very early age. It will take years of practice to learn what money can and can’t and should and shouldn’t do. It is very easy in college to get a credit card, even if you don’t have a job. Loans are easy to get in college, also, but then you may spend a lifetime paying them off. Help your children learn about using money by:
- Opening a checking account and a savings account for them.
- Encouraging them to put away a little bit of money each month. Find imaginative ways they can make money.
- Helping them establish the disciple to tithe and give.
- Giving them set amounts of money for their needs beyond food and shelter and let them have much practice in seeing how far money can and can’t go.
8. Communication Skills Communication skills are very important for school, work, and relationships. They will need to communicate their feelings, opinions and beliefs appropriately to be received well by others. As they clearly, yet tactfully, articulate feelings, needs, opinions and suggestions they will present themselves well and others will be accepting of them. Help your child to:
- Communicate how they feel in a manner that people can understand, but not in a manner that leaves bad feelings or misrepresents how they desire to be perceived. There are many great books in this area that can help.
- They will need to communicate well in interviews and in relationships. Model communication well in the home. Much more is “caught” than “taught”. Remember that not only words, but the way they sit, use their hands, use their voice, and manner of dress communicates much.
- Be careful in posting their information and communications on-line as they will want to be perceived well, by future employers and others who may access this info.
9. Work Ethic Many times, TCKs will reflect many subtle values of their host culture. They will need your help in developing understanding about appropriate work ethic skills in the U.S. culture. You can help to develop this competency by:
- Allowing them some work experience as often as possible.
- Allowing your children to come back to the U.S during the high school summer months to stay with family and get a summer job to build much life and work experience to prepare for college entry. They should learn skills such as never saying negative things about their employer unless it is to his face. They should learn to respect the Dress code by looking decent, clothes washed and ironed, and bathed. They should use decent and uplifting words on the job. No cursing, be overly negative or picking on others. They should be hard working whether their boss is looking or not and to always do their best.
- Encouraging them to learn and practice the work principles, mentioned above, while at home, whether they have an outside job or not. If they don’t treat your family and others well, then they are going to have problems with others in future environments.
10. Time Management This is a very important factor in college and in life. There are several areas that need to be measured and managed, such as studies, devotionals, social, church and ministry activities, rest, and work. Studies include classes and studying. You can assist them to develop good time management skills by:
- Assisting them to schedule their time at the beginning of the semester as you sit down with them and provide instruction and encouragement in and writing out a schedule. Include hours to complete long projects due at the end of the semester.
- Encouraging them towards promptness by giving them tools such as an alarm clock towards arriving to class on time.
- Developing a mentality that they control their schedule and they should not let friends dictate their schedule.
- Making priorities and keeping them.
- Helping them build in time for rest and relaxation in their schedule.
If you intentionally, consistently assist your child in developing these competencies in high school, they will find that life out on their own will come much easier.
Proverbs 3:13 says: “Happy is the man who finds wisdom, and the man who gains understanding.”