I see funny posts about all the things parents realize their kids don’t know how to do once they are newly on their own. While I’m sure that we will have our own funny realizations when that time comes, we are also doing our best to equip our kids with as many life skills as possible before they leave our nest. 

There are clear-cut life skills like cooking, cleaning, laundry, and finances that often come to mind when we talk about “adulting” and then there are more nuanced skills.  

Now that our kids are in high school, we are working on some of the more nuanced life skills.

The skill we are currently working on is keeping life balanced during a busy season.

We are in high school football season. Both my boys play on the high school team. We have a senior and a sophomore. What this means is that we have a player on JV and one in his senior year of varsity. That’s a lot. My senior will have twelve-hour days, five days a week and then work on the weekend. My sophomore will have twelve-hour days 5 days a week and will teach private lessons occasionally on the weekends. This is all in addition to schoolwork. 

This is not the pace of life that our family strives for.

We welcome it as the exception but try to avoid it as a year-round reality. My chronic illness heavily plays into this decision as well as it has worked out until now that the activities/sports the boys have chosen to play do not have back-to-back seasons. 

They are both considering a winter sport so if that happens, we repeat the process laid out below and see what will work for everyone in that season.

Thriving During A Busy Season of Life:

I have noticed there are usually three main seasons of life. You can read about them here. 

Football season is a planned, temporary busy time for our family. We know when it’s coming and when it will end. We know the off-season flow of workouts and what is expected. Some weeks will be busier than others, but we can do our best to set up each other and the family as a whole up for success. 

What our family rhythm looks like out of football season:

Our parenting style has always been heavily focused on independence and responsibility. We find value in teaching our kids to have ownership of their spaces and lives.

When I thought about how I wanted to approach life skills/responsibilities, my main goal was for the boys to just fold whatever had to be done into their day without it mentally becoming a burden. No “woe is me” attitude because you have to do dirty dishes for ten minutes. So we incorporated life skills and chores as the boys grew up.

Our kids were packing their own lunches in Kindergarten and doing their own laundry at 7 years old. The kids were completely in charge of our two dogs and cat when they were alive. Changing cat litter, giving supplements and medication, and keeping the backyard clean. Now they take on much bigger projects like, grocery shopping, mowing the lawn, and doing light car maintenance like changing out air filters and learning how to take the car in for an oil change.

Outside of football season, they get themselves up for school, have breakfast, make their own lunches, and are on time daily. None of this is a big deal to them and it’s just a part of life.

What our family rhythm looks like during football season:

A week before school starts, we will have a family chat and talk about the upcoming few months. I will go over their schedule and their responsibilities. We go through daily chores, weekly chores, and what makes everyone feel overwhelmed. We then consider how we can alleviate that stress and re-assign the house chores. 

We are very clear about everyone’s new responsibilities. We talk about their schedules and what timing is helpful to them.

I created a conversation guide for you to use as a jumping-off point. It’s really helpful to have a place to write everything out. Once you list the new responsibilities, hang it on your fridge so everyone can refer to it and you don’t have to keep all of those changes in your brain!

For example, we talk about planning a complete day off one day a week. That may look like getting up early to do your weekly chores, and going to work on the same day so that you can watch football with friends on Sunday.

During the week that looks like them having breakfast at 6:45 am and lunches ready by 7 am so they can leave for school on time. That means I need to plan and ensure my part happens for them as requested. I find it so valuable for the boys to learn to have these conversations. Planning as much as you can for a busy season helps you thrive. Defining everyone’s jobs and expectations helps avoid the frustration that usually comes from people thinking “someone else” will do that. 

My husband and I are more intentional about planning meals and batch cooking while also leaving room for a little more flexibility for eating out on game days. Side note: Football season is when we eat out the most out of the whole year. 

We adjust kitchen duties, weekly house chores, and what our mornings look like.

Here is an example of some of our main shifts in responsibilities. 

House Chores:

During the year: The house cleaning is usually split upstairs/downstairs between the boys.

In season: my husband and I step in and split up some of the cleaning duties to lighten the load on the kids.

Dishes:

During the year: The kids are assigned clean/dirty dishes and to tidy up the kitchen.

In season: My husband and I take care of the dishes and kitchen. The boys may help with putting clean dishes away when the energy of the family feels relaxed.

Laundry:

During the year: The boys are in charge of all their laundry.

In season: They have the choice of me doing their laundry once a week and putting it away for them. (One child actually did not choose to have me do this for them because he said, doing laundry is not a big deal.)

Breakfast on school days:

During the year: They have cereal or another breakfast item that is easy to make.

In season: I or both my husband and I will get up and make them eggs, turkey sausage from scratch and breakfast potatoes from scratch. (It’s way easier than it sounds! It’s all in the prep work.)

Packing Lunches:

During the year: The boys are responsible for packing their own lunches.

In season: We make the boys a hearty lunch with fresh wraps, fruit, homemade trail mix and snack bars.

This way, the boys get the nutrition they need for the twelve hour days they have and we get to show them what stepping in and helping out during someone’s busy season of life can look like.

Once football season is over, we move back into our main responsibilities and rhythms. 

By having the boys work on building responsibility and independence over the years, we are now in a place to teach them, how to manage different seasons of their lives and still thrive. 

We are teaching them that a family is a true team and that can (and needs to) look different at different times of life. To look at their current season of life and assess if they need help, what help is best for them and how to communicate those needs.

As a helper, we are teaching them to consider what bandwidth they have and how can they help and support those in their lives while also keeping boundaries to protect their life balance.

This works for us. It gives us the peace of mind that we are teaching them how to “adult” and also showing them how to care for others.

I would love to hear from you in the comments and let me know what type of nuanced life lessons are you teaching your kids. I know we can’t teach them absolutely everything before they leave the nest, but we are trying!