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Ready to launch: ‘Adulting: The Manual’ highlights skills students need for independence

By Jennifer Lawhead, Austin Aspires

“Failure is not falling down but refusing to get up.” – Chinese Proverb

Have we helped our children learn how to make decisions? More importantly, have we walked alongside them and taught them how to recover from mistakes?

With the best of intentions and motivated entirely by love, we “do” for our children. We make their doctor appointments, iron their clothes, make their meals and clear the paths in front of them so they don’t stumble. In the end, these are all good, commendable things that loving parents do. The challenge is, however, to cultivate these skills in our young people while they are still in our homes. I harken back to my teaching days and the notion of a gradual release of responsibility, using the “I do, We do, You do” model with my students. This practice can also be highly effective when preparing our children to head out on their own.

Austin Aspires is fortunate to have students from Austin and Pacelli high schools to serve as members of our Student Advisory Board. These fine young people in grades nine -12 share feedback with our organization about educational assets, barriers, and needs in our community. One area of need as identified by this group of students were the skills necessary to “launch,” “leave the nest” or “adult”. Adulting (verb) is defined by Urban Dictionary as “to do grown-up things and hold responsibilities such as a 9-5 job, a mortgage/rent, a car payment, or anything else that makes one think of grown-ups.” Some examples of these types of skills are how to do laundry, plan for and cook healthy meals, select a physician, make and maintain a budget, or how to rent an apartment.

Through brainstorming with these students and work with our Action Team, comprised of adults from the Austin community, we have put together a document entitled “Adulting: The Manual” highlighting skills students need to move toward independence as well as resources for students and families to consult if needed.

I had the great privilege of teaching alongside a wonderful woman for eight years of my teaching career. When I was having my babies, she was launching hers in to the “world.” I remember asking her, “Aren’t you sad that your kids are leaving?” Her answer has stayed with me and is becoming more real every day. She told me that no, she wasn’t sad. Her intention in parenting her children was to raise children who were independent, healthy, and ready to leave her.

In the end, we want our children to be independent, creative, healthy, and engaged citizens in this digital age. What actions do parents need to take in their child’s formative years to yield the intended outcome?

You can find “Adulting: The Manual” on the Austin Aspires web site. www.austinaspires.org/college-or-career-.html