How Do I Teach My Teen Life Skills Before He Leaves for College?

"My son makes good grades in high school, but he is messy and disorganized at home. How can I improve his life skills before he goes off to college?"
The Experts | posted by Patricia Quinn, M.D.

Your son is not alone. Many teens go to college without acquiring life skills. Because they are bright, and have had structure and support in high school, many college-bound teens with ADHD have had a relatively smooth path. Few parents see how their efforts to manage, support, and fix problems for their teen can delay him from mastering skills he'll need in college.

Strong daily living skills -- getting up on his own in the morning, staying organized, doing laundry, making appointments, refilling prescriptions -- are crucial to a teen's success at college. In our two latest books, Ready for Take-Off: Preparing Your Teen with ADHD or LD for College and On Your Own: A College Readiness Guide for Teens with ADHD/LD, Theresa Maitland, Ph.D., and I developed a checklist to enable teens and parents to evaluate and modify their living skills to prepare for college. Here's how it works:

> Identify and agree on areas that need improvement.

> Determine the strategies or discuss the rules your teen can follow to address these challenges. Be specific.

> Observe your teen as he practices the strategies and see what works.

> Talk with your teen about how to slowly reduce your involvement and observe how your teen does. Identify the things he needs help with. Expect to repeat this step many times until your teen has mastered a particular skill.

> Have your teen practice the skill without your supervision and see how he does on his own. Keep doing this until he is confident he can do it by himself.

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