You’ve done it. Twelve years of school are complete. You’ve prayed, you’ve cried, you’ve done more math than you ever thought possible. Now, it’s the summer after graduation. What lies ahead? College? Military? Missions? Moving out and moving on? Staying home? All those big questions are going to be answered. For now, though, there’s a window of opportunity to squeeze in a few last lessons.
What lessons should they be? Is it time for a refresher on the Christian faith? Perhaps, and as a pastor, I heartily recommend some good reading to stretch and prepare for any challenges that might come to your emerging student’s faith. Those are not the last-minute lessons I’m thinking of here, though. Let us turn our attention to life skills and the idea of running your teen through a life skills camp in these last few months. After all, we send our kids to Scout camp, band camp, church camp, sports camp…why not “Life Camp?”
What life skills?
The basics of surviving as an adult in the world around us; those are the life skills we need to deal with. We all want our children to dream big and aim for the stars. We also want them to have clean clothes when they hit those stars. And we do not want their car repossessed while they are off saving the world.
With that in mind, here are some basic steps to setting up a life skills camp:
First, determine what skills you want to emphasize. Hopefully, you have taught by word and deed many of the basics along the way. Pick a few key components to emphasize. Perhaps cooking has been sidelined in the chaos of the senior year, so you need to beef up that skill. Or maybe your student still has not gotten the hang of basic home repairs.
Second, determine your timing for camp. Set aside a week or a weekend with the plan that your student will handle every aspect of life. You are looking for a spot in your schedule that you can throw challenges at your student while still being there as a safety net for them. Picking a week that you are out of town will cause you to miss the point. You will need to balance real-world responsibilities and plans with the idea of building life camp for your student. (For example, making them miss work to understand the value of going to work is not counterintuitively brilliant, it’s pointless.)
Third, determine your schedule. During your camp time, you want your student responsible for everything they will be responsible for in normal life. This means they will need to: do laundry; fix something; pay bills; prepare food; clean both public and private areas of a residence; have time for work/school; keep a schedule…you get the idea.
Start by gathering up the artificial money in your home—Monopoly money, that leftover play money from childhood years, or something you have printed (legally!) from the Internet. Present your student with options for work, where time and money are balanced in an approximately real-world manner. For example, an eight hour a day job should pay more than the four hour a day job.
Then, present them with the list of responsibilities and costs for their work. Remember to include rent and utilities (and insurances like renters, auto, health) and keep these in proportion to your pay scale. If you have, for example, a structure that is paying $10 a week, then price based on percentage and let rent be no more than 30 percent of the pay. This is why “play money” works better, because you can use a closer approximation to real costs.
As you prepare the list of standard expenses, also create a jar for “random events.” This jar can have positive and negative moments. Pull one out every day and apply the consequences! Your student might get a raise…or blow a car tire.
The idea, after all, is to create a semi-lifelike environment in just a few days.
Fourth, determine not to intervene. Your goal is to let your student try, and maybe even fail. Obviously, you are going to prevent any permanent harm from coming to your student, but an unpaid electric bill can still put their room in the dark.
With a little effort on your part, you can spend part of your post-graduation summer not just celebrating the success but cementing the skills necessary for the years to come. When it’s all done, go out and celebrate! Make it one more time for Mom or Dad to foot the bill.
Looking for suggestions for your Life Skills Camp?
Here is a list of skills to make sure your teen can tackle.
- Laundry: sorting, washing, drying, dry clean options
- Cooking: planning, budgeting, preparing, cleaning
- Light home repair: leaky faucets, basic electrical, toilet flush valves, lock installation
- Cleaning: stains, shared spaces, personal spaces
- Organization: schedule, wake up, work allotments
What happens when the unexpected comes along? Here are a few suggestions for your “Random Events” jar.
- A monetary gift…if a letter is properly written, addressed, and “mailed”
- Flat tire
- Speeding ticket
- Bonus from boss for diligent work
- Medical bill