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There are all sorts of skills, social, emotional, and practical, that a child needs to know before they reach their teen years. Many are foundational for what millennials have termed “adulting” but, even before then, they enable your child to become independent and self sufficient. You would never want to dampen your child by cocooning them in privilege and letting your over protectiveness undermine their future capabilities.

How To Raise An Independent Child

By the time they are 12, there are many things you should no longer be doing for your child. They shouldn’t be relying on their parents for everything. Part of letting them grow up is preparing them to live on their own in the not so distant future. Here is a comprehensive list of skills every neurotypical child should learn before they are 12.

Inside The Home

  • Meal Preparation
  • Putting away dishes
  • Cleaning up after themselves
  • Cleaning common space areas
  • taking out the trash
  • Doing their own laundry
  • Shoveling snow or raking leaves
  • Getting ready for school on their own
  • Making their own lunch
  • Making their bed

Most child development experts would agree that basic meal preparation is at the top of the list of life skills your child should know. Not only will cooking teach your child self sufficiency but they can be paramount in emergency situations. Though, it might make you nervous to have your children in the kitchen, but with supervision they will make excellent sous chefs. However, don’t stop at teaching them to make the food, by 12 they should also be proficient in putting away their dishes afterwards. Teaching them to clean up after themselves should also extend to their bedrooms and other common space areas. Other age appropriate household responsibilities include taking out the trash, doing their laundry and shoveling snow in the winter.

By this age, they should be getting ready for school in the morning, packing their homework, lunches, and making their beds all on their own. And the vast majority of that schoolwork should be done on their own.

Outside The Home

  • Talking to adults
  • Communicating well with peers
  • Talking on the phone
  • Have good manners
  • Be able to articulate thoughts and feelings
  • Basic navigation
  • How to use public transportation (safely)
  • How to get home, to a trusted neighbor’s house, or to school
  • Find your family’s emergency meeting place

As they are getting older, it becomes more and more important that they get a chance interacting in the adult world. This primarily means talking to adults for themselves when the opportunity presents itself. An easy way to practice this is with a waiter at a restaurant or talking on the phone. When they are more comfortable, have them set up their own appointments and let them ask their own questions. Alongside this skill, it’s important they practice good manners (i.e. respecting others while maintaining boundaries). All the while, they should be encouraged to articulate their thoughts and feelings with ability to back them up.

Basic navigation and knowledge of how to use public transportation is an important spatial as well as life skill. Practice navigation with your child by teaching them how to get themselves to school and test their memory by asking them to direct you as you drive them there. In addition to knowing their school’s location, let them know where a trusted neighbor’s house, the police station, library, or your emergency meeting place is. 

Grocery stores provide a great exercise in adulting. Start by giving your child the responsibility of grocery shopping for a family meal. You can help them by picking the recipe and creating a shopping list. Encourage them to use their math skills while filling the shopping cart to keep within your budget.

Though not usually on your parenting radar, teaching your child basic camping skills can be invaluable. Whether or not your child has ever been a scout, getting outside into nature and developing a relationship with the natural world is an important. Basic outdoor skills include plant and animal identification, how to build a campfire, and even how to navigate with a compass. Additionally, learning to swim and how to administer basic first aid can be lumped into this category.

Handing Over Control

It’s important make sure you are giving your child enough responsibilities to prepare them for the future while not letting them be too dependent on you. Luckily, there are limitless life skill learning opportunities at your fingertips. While teaching many of these start in the home, there are even more place to teach your child in your neighborhood i.e. restaurants, grocery stores, and the local parks. It can be tough giving up the reins to your child, but at some point you need to lean back and enjoy the ride.


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