My son is entering junior high this year, and it hit me — my baby is now a young man. As a parent, I had to wonder, "Have I given him the knowledge and skills he needs to be successful?"

It’s our job as parents to equip our kids with the skills they need to take care of themselves as they navigate this next phase of their life. Here are the 13 things I hope my son knows by the time he turns 13.

1. Health and wellness. Self-care is a critical skill for young teens as they learn to navigate their changing bodies. Give them the tools and resources they need to deal with body odor, hair growth and other body changes. Also, realize they may be too embarrassed to ask about bodily changes, so don't be afraid to bring it up first.

2. Nutrition and cooking. Give kids the ability to practice food preparation and food safety in your kitchen. Additionally, teach kids healthy habits and proper nutrition. It will benefit with their overall health and well-being.

3. Money. It is important to teach kids money matters from a young age. Does your soon-to-be teen understand the value of a dollar? Do they have the ability to create a budget and save? A weekly allowance is a great way to start effective hands-on money management at this age.

4. Household chores. As kids transition to young adulthood, make sure they are capable of setting and clearing a table, washing and folding a load of laundry and cleaning their bathroom.

5. Basic repairs. This includes basic repairs for cars, homes and clothing. Can they change a tire, hammer a nail and sew a button?

6. Communication. Help your teens understand how to respectfully communicate with both adults and peers. Make sure they can communicate verbally as well as craft a well written email and letter.

7. Time management and scheduling. As your child enters middle school, have them start taking accountability for their schedule. Up until this point, you’ve probably made sure they are up, dressed and off to school on time. Or that TV and electronics are turned off and they are studying at a reasonable hour. Try and help instill good time management habits early.

8. Real-world consequences. I know as a parent sometimes I’m guilty of not letting my children suffer from real-world consequences. I swoop in and stop the hurt before it can happen. But if they don’t turn in a paper, it’s a zero. If they oversleep, they miss class. If they don’t practice, they could be removed from the activity or team. There are very real consequences to actions. It is important they learn and practice this now while the stakes aren’t as high.

9. Healthy relationships and dating. Hormones run rampant in the halls of junior high schools. For this reason, it’s important to talk with your kids about healthy relationships. Educate your kids how to respect themselves and others. Do they know what a healthy relationship looks like? Do they have questions? It’s better the answers come from you than a peer.

10. Manners and respect. As kids enter middle school, they will find themselves as part of car pools, groups for activities and sports and overnight guests at friends’ houses. Make sure they understand teamwork, sportsmanship and common courtesy.

11. Think critically. By having and utilizing critical thinking skills, kids learn to solve their own problems and discover answers to their questions.

12. Navigate and read maps. It may seem like a dying art form, but teach your kids how to navigate, read a map and understand road signs. This will be imperative as they start driving.

13. Medical emergencies and basic first aid. Teach your teens basic first-aid skills. Also, how to handle medical (or non-medical) emergencies and crises, and how to get a hold of the proper authorities.


Shea Saladee lives in Papillion with her husband, Brent, and their three children. She works as an instructor at the University of Nebraska Omaha.

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