Is your child ready to leave home?
What your teen needs to know before going solo.
Living at home is a luxury. It’s a concept most kids don’t get until they’re out there on their own, without Mom and/or Dad to keep the wheels of domestic life ticking over. Before your teens leave home for the big adventure of varsity, they should know these 5 things.

1. Drawing up and sticking to a monthly budget

This is the most vital part of going solo for kids – when finances go awry, life gets complicated. The monthly budget needs only two columns: what’s coming in and what’s going out.

In the ‘expenditure’ column, include the obvious expenses such as rent, electricity, groceries (including cleaning materials and toiletries), tuition fees, books, petrol and/or travelling expenses, as well as those that might be overlooked and could blow the budget (medical expenses, car maintenance, cellphone bill, entertainment and clothing). Encourage your child to keep all her slips and do a weekly reconciliation to make sure she’s staying within her budget.

2. Drawing up a healthy, budget-conscious shopping list

For kids whose only experience of groceries has been opening the fridge, keeping their own pantry stocked can be daunting. Help them draw up a list of basics that need to be replenished daily, weekly and monthly (eg, daily: milk, bread, fruit and veggies; weekly: toilet paper, canned goods; monthly: cleaning materials).

Encourage them to shop around to find the best products at the cheapest prices – for teens on a budget, a few cents’ saving here and there quickly adds up, while lazy shopping can quickly blow the budget.

Draw up a basic shopping list that you child can tailor to his own needs.

3. Cooking healthy, budget-conscious meals

In no area of solo living do kids miss Mom more than home-cooked meals. It’s a shock to many kids to find out how much time and energy goes into preparing food daily, which is why so many of them resort to unhealthy, fattening and often expensive fast-food. Show him a few simple meals to get him started.

‘Some institutions also have cooked meals for students who stay in private accommodation,’ says Anne Havemann-Serfontein, a counselling psychologist who works with students at Stellenbosch University. ‘This is usually provided by food services in the student centre and students can buy a coupon or monthly package to get a cooked meal each day. The student can sit down at a table and interact with others while having a home-cooked meal.’

Anne also suggests cooking larger quantities and freezing some for later use – this can be done by the parents of students who live close to home, or by the students themselves.

4. Keeping house

Many teens are amazed to find, when they finally move out of home, that there is no laundry fairy, that changing bed linen is done by an actual human being, and that the toilet isn’t self-cleaning. Keeping domestic order in a student home, whether it’s a room in a shared house, a flat or a residence, requires organisation, time and energy, and usually without the help of appliances such as washing machines and dishwashers.

Encourage your child to draw up a cleaning roster, especially if they’re in shared accommodation. It’ll help them enormously if, for the first few months at least, they can bring their laundry home at weekends.

5. Time management

For any teen whose only responsibilities prior to leaving home were to always let their parents know where they were and get their homework done, life ‘on the outside’ can very quickly become overwhelming. Not only do they suddenly have to run the logistical aspects of their own life, they’re also required to attend lectures, complete projects and turn up for tuts and tests – all without constant reminders from Mom. Aids to time management might include  diary reminders on the cellphone, a time-table stuck on the fridge, or an online calendar.
‘Although the freedom can be overwhelming for some, others almost take advantage of this newly found freedom,’ says Anne. ‘There needs to be a balance in terms of enjoying your independence, but also taking responsibility for managing your own time and life.’

What advice do you have for parents or teens facing this milestone?

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