When I taught Child Development in a Learning Community with an English teacher, all the reading was based on child development content. The fiction book we selected was My Sister’s Keeper.
The story begins with a couple’s decision to genetically engineer a baby to become a bone marrow match for the two-year-old sister Kate’s leukemia. Although the book actually covers two weeks, with flashbacks, the reader gains a fuller picture of the three siblings’ child and adolescent years.
Author Jodi Picoult is known for taking real life controversial issues and presenting multiple views from various characters. How far would you go to save your child’s life? Picoult weaves the view of the father, mother, oldest brother, sister Anna, sister Kate, Cambell (Anna’s pro bono attorney), and Julia (Anna’s guardian ad item) in this emotionally riveting book.
Life as a “Designer Baby”
Since Anna’s arrival as a “designer baby,” she’s had countless medical procedures to save her sister’s life. At thirteen, when Anna’s parents plan for her kidney donation, Anna makes a decision to sue her parents for the rights to her own body.
Movie Not the Same
If you’ve seen the movie released in June 2009 and haven’t read the book, be prepared. The movie doesn’t entirely follow the book. The 423 page book is far more emotionally gripping. The author takes readers on a distressing roller coaster ride. As with all good roller coaster rides, there’s an unexpected twist at the end.
Food for Thought
This book is a tear jerker but gives such a concise picture of the struggles each family member deals with when a child is seriously ill. This book raises questions about medical ethics, family conflict, and the power of love. The book includes a Q & A section with the author and questions for discussion. When you read the book, you’ll want to discuss it with someone.
Book Information: My Sister’s Keeper, Jodi Picoult, Washington Square Press, 2004. This book is available through Amazon.com. Paperback $12.67; Kindle $10.38; Hardcover $19.48; Audio CD $25.64.
When Parents Pay
As a college professor I’ve witnessed the results of parents paying for their kid’s entire expenses. These students are less responsible for their education because they have no vested interest. I hear students flippantly comment, “So what if lost my textbook. Too bad I failed that class. I can just take it again. My parents will pay for…”.
Your Student’s Share
Consider allowing your student to pay for certain expenses, such as their clothing, entertainment, car payments and insurance, textbooks, course materials, or even several of these categories. It will pay off in dividends. They will become more conscientious students which ultimately results in less overall expenses. When students are vested in their education, they’re more likely to attain their goals in a timely manner.
College and Car Insurance
If your son or daughter is attending college so their car insurance is covered under your policy, within six weeks, most of them won’t be attending classes. When I meet students each semester I share, “Your parents’ car insurance won’t motivate you to arrive twice a week for an 8:00 A.M. class. You must have your own personal reasons for obtaining a college education or you’ll drop out.”
College Drop Outs
Unfortunately many young people drop out of college. A new study by Harvard University reports that, “Only 56 percent of the students who enter America’s colleges and universities graduate within six years, while only 29 percent of students who enter two-year programs complete their degrees within three years, the study found.”1
Raising financially responsible young people is possible, but requires advanced planning. In order to train your son or daughter, you need to know what your financial expectations are for your family. Then together with your young person, you can create a financial plan that works for everyone.
1. Study: Nearly Half Of America’s College Students Drop Out Before Receiving A Degree, Travis Waldron on Mar 28, 2012, thinkprogress.org/education/2012/03. Accessed 6/10/2013.
Maybe you’ve asked yourself, should my teenager get a job? If and when your teenager gets a job is a controversial decision.
Many parents don’t want their young person to work and focus only on school. Others expect their teens to work and contribute to the family’s income. This has become more of a reality for many families due to the economy.
Benefits of Working
A young person working has many benefits. First, they become more financially responsible when it comes to spending “their” money. They can purchase things that are beyond the family budget, such as a car or a stereo system. Second, they can save for long-term expenses, such as college or a down payment on a car. Third, they learn how to set priorities, and manage both their money and time more effectively.
Number of Hours
A longitudinal study showed that the number of hours 10th grade and 12th grade high school students work is correlated to their grade point averages. “The determining factors seem to be the number of hours worked during a week. Students who work less than 13 hours a week in the 10th grade and less than 11 hours a week in the 12th grade perform better than students who do not work but once students exceed the number of hours per week there is a significant drop in their GPA’s compared to non-working students.” 1
Teens also gain valuable work experience especially if they can find work related to their interests. Many colleges ask applicants to list work experience or volunteering related to the school they’re applying to. For example, if your child wants to become a veterinarian, help them locate work with animals. If they’re headed towards a medical career, find work in a doctor’s office or hospital.
There’s a hidden cost of your son or daughter not liking their future career upon graduation. It is cost effective to insure your kids like the field they are studying. I can’t tell you how many teachers I know who earned a teaching credential, only to find out within five years of employment, they don’t really like kids. What if they found that out in advance by working in your city’s recreation department or in a children’s Sunday School class? Getting a job after a college degree and finding out they don’t like this work is extremely expensive not only financially, but in time and energy as well.
A final benefit of teens working is that they gain work experiences that will assist them upon college graduation. Since there’s so much competition for jobs amongst college graduates, related work experience and volunteering adds to their potential employability. Yes, there are a few disadvantages of teens working, but what they gain towards becoming a responsible adult far outweighs the cons.
- Quirk, Kimberly J., Timothy Z. Keith, and Jeffery T. Quirk. “Employment During High School and Student Achievement: Longitudinal Analysis of National Data.” Journal of Educational Research, 95 (2001).
As I research for my book series, From Diapers to Diamonds: Raising Responsible Adults, I discover a book that raises many of the issues I’m answering in this parenting series. Slouching Toward Adulthood: Observations from the Not-So-Empty Nest written by Sally Koslow documents why a generation of carefully nurtured young adults is delaying adulthood.
Though she offers no solutions except during a brief last chapter, she simply reports what she discovered from research and interviewing parents and what she calls “adultescents” during 2010 and 2011.
“Twenty-eight is the new nineteen”
This thirteen chapter book provides a picture of college graduates returning home and living with their parents another decade or so. In the first chapter, A Public Display of Reflection, she explains how she learned that “twenty-eight is the new nineteen,” and included a new decade, the “odyssey, the decade of wandering that frequently occurs between adolescence and adulthood,” (p. 11) and she panicked. This information triggered the impetus for her book.
I found this book so engaging. It’s flagged with countless post it notes and comments written throughout the book. She examines young adults’ relationships to work or not to work, money, and their social lives. In chapter three: Choose Your Own Adventure, she addresses the challenges with decision making. “Forget Plan B. There isn’t a Plan A,” (p. 24).
There’s No Place Like Home
This entitled generation comes home after college because “…there’s nowhere else they could live better,” (p. 68). Two of my favorite chapters include chapter five: The U-Haul as Umbilical Cord and chapter six: Adultesents Without Borders. If your children have returned home or you hope they don’t return home, read this book. It gives a solid picture of what’s going on with the current generation of “adultescents.”
Slouching Toward Adulthood: Observations from the Not-So-Empty Nest, Sally Koslow, Viking Penguin Group, 2012. Available at Penguin.com. Hardcover $25.95; paperback $16.00; eBook $9.99. Paperback, 2013 with a new introduction.
Your adolescents are growing so fast you can hardly keep up. Have you noticed how much more money you’re spending on them? Every time you turn around, they need money for something…new clothes, a school club activity, basketball shoes, a movie with friends, and the list goes on and on.
Add to these increasing costs, in a few short years your teenager will become an adult and live independently. What money management skills will they need?
Planning the Family’s Vacation
One way to begin giving your adolescents real life experience is to ask them to plan your next family vacation based on the family’s budget. You will need to walk alongside and help them create various categories, such as: gas and mileage, plane tickets, camping site or hotel costs per night, food for 3 meals a day and snacks, costs for entertainment, and souvenirs. This is an excellent strategy for teaching money management and how much things really cost. We found that our daughters really enjoyed planning our family vacation.
Savings and Checking Accounts
Hopefully, you opened a joint savings account in your children’s names when they were in preschool or elementary school. If not, make sure your teens create a savings account now. When your teenagers reach age sixteen, help them obtain a checking account. Do this earlier if they already are earning income from assorted jobs.
Many banks offer special accounts for students. It is important for young people to understand simple banking procedures. Even with ATMs, it is ideal if your son or daughter knows how to write checks and balance a checkbook before they venture into the world on their own. The saying, “How can I be out of money, I still have checks,” is a reality for many.
Credit Cards for Teens?
At the beginning of your son or daughter’s senior year in high school, consider applying for a credit card in their name with you as a co-signer. You can create a very low maximum amount on the card. Our daughters’ credit card limit was $250.00. We chose that amount because it would cover many emergency situations. It is way better to teach your young person about credit cards while still under your roof.
Unfortunately, banks appear in mass on college campuses every fall practically handing out credit cards to 18-year-olds. When these students max out their credit cards and don’t make payments, the banks go after their parents. Legally, their parents aren’t responsible, but many will pay for their child’s “mistakes.” It has become such a problem nationwide, that many colleges are not allowing banks to access their students on campus.
Now or later?
When would you like your teenager to learn about budgeting, savings, checking accounts, and credit cards? When the stakes are low and the kids are close to home or after they leave your nest with the possibility of costly lessons?
“Can I get a candy bar?”
“Can I have some money to buy a hot dog at the baseball snack shack?”
“Can you buy me …..?”
Things Cost Money
Do you recognize these pleas for spending your money? In thinking about what money skills young people will need to live independently, the school age years are ideal for teaching about money management.
At an early age, children learn that things they want cost money. They know what dollar bills in a birthday card are for. In elementary school, usually during second grade, children learn the different types of money and how to make change. Some children spend their money immediately, while others save it for something they really want.
Share, Save, Spend
To encourage money management, saving, and giving, we gave each child three baby food jars marked with the words Share, Save, and Spend. Our daughters received a small allowance every Friday that they could spend on whatever they wanted after they put a dime for each dollar in the save jar, and a dime for each dollar in the share jar.
Ways to Share
As church attendees we wanted our daughters to learn about sharing with others. Sometimes they gave their “Share” money during a Sunday school class or to a special project, like the Angel Tree project for Christmas gifts for children with incarcerated parents.
Another way we taught our girls about money was on family vacations. We provided meals for them, but we gave them a specific amount of money in an envelope for each day. The money was to cover the cost of snacks and souvenirs. This truly saved us money instead of paying for a snack, then another snack, then a souvenir, then another souvenir, etc.
Sometimes they saved up several days to buy something they really wanted. We also discovered that there were happier to eat snacks we’d brought along instead of using “their money” to buy snacks.
Modeling Money Choices
Most importantly, money management needs to be modeled by you. If you want your children to save and share with others, they need to see you doing likewise. If you want them spending money responsibly on vacation, let them watch you doing the same. With money matters, much is “caught.” Let your children catch you being a wise steward of the finances entrusted to you.
“But we’ve always snapped photos in front of the tree on Christmas morning in your P.J.s. Remember, just before we open our stockings from Santa. You do want your stockings, right?” My guilt trips aren’t working, not even on the first day of advent. I pour it on. “You have limited Christmases at home before you graduate. You’ll be sorry some day that you didn’t let me buy you Christmas P.J.s,” I sniffle with a single tear rolling down my cheek.
“Mom, get a grip. We were in grade school when we wore Christmas pajamas. Need I remind you, I don’t wear pajamas anymore?”
Cringing at the thought of my thirteen-year-old son in, well…. I can’t go there. Why won’t they cooperate like when they were younger? “You know how important Christmas traditions are to this family.” Another sniffle and a second tear for affect.
“I’m too old for cutesy reindeer pajamas,” adds my twelve-year-old daughter. “Plus, I don’t let anyone take pictures unless my hair is done. And it better be a good hair day.”
“Just for this year,” I beg to no avail.
I’m about to run towards the mall bathroom for a pity party where surely there are other mothers of adolescents when my son admonishes me. “Lighten up, Mom. It’s not that we don’t like celebrating traditions. It’s just that we’re almost adults. Remember, we convinced you a few years ago we were too old for photos on Santa’s lap?”
I painfully recall that year. “It was hard, but I survived…somehow.”
“Mama, we loved all the traditions when we were younger. We don’t want to give them up, just adapt them so we’re not embarrassed,” my daughter adds. “Oh, and we want to include our friends just like we do the rest of the year.”
I’ve already been forced to give up some traditions. Now they want to change traditions, AND include other hormone-laced adolescents? What will it be next? The two of them insisting on an artificial tree to help save the environment?
Disturbed by these new fangled notions, I consider my options.
I can force them to celebrate and they’ll resent me and the reason we celebrate Christmas, to wish Jesus a Happy Birthday! Oh, I remember the Jesus Birthday parties we celebrated. The neighborhood kids brought canned food for the Angel Tree Project, listened to the Christmas story, and played fun holiday games. We already gave that up.
“Lord, why is changing Christmas traditions so hard for me? I’m letting them grow-up in other areas.”
The answer arrives in my own question. The meaning of traditions: handing down beliefs and customs, from generation to generation, especially by practice. It isn’t so much the specific way we express the traditions, but our beliefs behind the traditions.
I recount Luke 2:11: “Today in the town of David a Savior has been born to you; he is Christ the Lord.” (NIV). Then it dawns on me. Maybe it’s past time my kids learn the deeper meaning of Christmas and get involved serving others.
Looking at my two children, I mean, adolescents, I begin, “Never mind new pajamas. You’re not kids anymore. You’ve reminded me how important keeping our beliefs are, but how we practice our traditions can be modified. You’re becoming young adults who need to adapt expressing traditions that help you demonstrate that Christ is Lord of your life. You can tell me all about your ideas on the way home.”
P.S. Stay tuned for Part 2