Adult children are staying home longer these days – some people see that as a problem, I don’t. To me the issue is not where an adult lives, but how they live. We expect our adult children who live at home (three of them at this stage) to be contributors to the household, to carry their share of responsibility and to engage with family. One of the life opportunities that have come our kids’ way that has really been a benefit has been housesitting.
Here are ten life skills that are needed before young adults are able to move out and live on their own –
- Manage their time and commitments
- Look after their physical body – food, sleep, be safe.
- Look after their emotional being – know how to read their emotional needs, and how to make decisions to keep themselves in a happy place
- Be able to get from place to place (car, bike, public transport etc)
- Manage their money – pay their bills (Understand the cost of living and know how they are going to meet those costs)
- Eat well – shop wisely, cook healthy food
- Look after their environment and clothes – housekeeping skills
- Problem solving skills – what if… happens, what are you going to do?
- Maintain their social life (relationships) – being able to be by themselves as happily as being with people
- Remember responsibilities – e.g. looking after pets and any other requests the owners ask of them
Obviously before someone is going to trust your kid with their house and pets they are going to have to have the reputation as being responsible. But that doesn’t mean they are able to live by themselves well. When you live in a family we live as a team – we all have different responsibilities that share the load – so they know the skills of responsibility. When you live by yourself you have to balance it all by yourself.
Each situation that a young adult has to face in a housesitting role will consolidate their abilities. Our kids have had all sorts happen:
- Rabbits gone missing (they were just hiding up one end of the hutch)
- Dog vomit and poo on indoor carpet to clean up
- Street fight carryings on out the front of the house
- Bouts of loneliness
- They’ve had to rearrange their commitments to fit in with the extra responsibilities of feeding animals
- Had to respect someone else’s property – and care for it to someone else’s expectation
- Had to balance work/study with shopping, cooking, cleaning, socialising, etc
- Nearly run late for work, because they slept through the alarm
- Had the smoke billow out from the oven (a part of learning to use different household appliances than we have in our house)
But as they have grown in skill, they have handled these situations with calm and confidence – giving me the confidence that they are able to live by themselves. It also gave my kids a big confidence boost themselves – they now know, for themselves, that they have the skills necessary to live independently, and yet they choose to live at home. It is good to know that about yourself.
The other benefit is that after the first few times, the purpose changes. It is no longer a learning or training opportunity but rather a little step into a bit of freedom, not because they’ve been restrained but because living by yourself gives you different opportunities than living with other people (whether those people are your family or not). When they are housesitting they have the opportunity to try things out for themselves, do things their way. One reason for young adults living at home for longer is the cost of living on your own – housesitting gives the experience without the cost.
Soon one, or more, of my kids are going to leave home. I have always intended for them to have the skills to not only look after themselves, but to care for others as well. I see them doing well as they do their chores, manage their time and money, and volunteer in different aspects of community – but once they’ve done a few housesitting jobs I know they are able to do it on their own –without me as a safety net, without me picking up the bits they forget or get overwhelmed with.
I am sure that each town, or city will present its own set of difficulties and potential risks for housesitting but if you can work around those (as you would have to if your kids moved out permanently) it will be worth it as a training and practice opportunity for your older teens/young adults. I know it has been for our family – we will continue to encourage each of our children to step out and be a housesitter and confirm their independent living skills.
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