Tour of Duty: Housework!


How do you prepare your children to face the responsibilities of being on their own in college?

When our first child left for college, I was in a panic wondering if he really, really was prepared to live on his own. I started rehearsing a list of house chores he was taught: cleaning a kitchen, grocery shopping, cooking, keeping a budget, scrubbing the bathroom, laundry and ironing, and sewing on a button. It seemed that his “tour of duty” around the home made him ready.

As toddlers our children always helped pick up toys, removed their plates from the table, “cleaned” their rooms, tossed dirty clothes in the laundry basket—you know, age-appropriate chores! However, as they got older I used the slower pace of summer to add one or two house responsibilities to their routines. Let me share a bit of the plan and a few duties.  

When a child reached the age of 11 years and was tall enough to stand over a stove and clearly reach to the back, they were ready to cook meals and grocery shop. It began with having each child tag along during the grocery shopping day. They were included in on how to plan a menu for the week, make a grocery list with approximate prices, read food labels, and do comparative pricing of foods.

After a few weeks observing the process, they were ready to go. They were driven to the store armed with the grocery list, cash, and a surprise from me… if they came under budget, the remaining cash was theirs. Oh, this made for some unique meals for the family! We ate some off-off brands of food, mystery hot dog meat, and cereal that tasted strangely like sugar-coated Styrofoam. Incredible!

With regard to laundry and ironing, during the week each child observed me sorting, loading, and washing the laundry. Later, ironing was introduced. They were taught the value of caring for their own clothing. Because the teaching process of this chore took awhile, I would usually save this one for when the children were not in school, but by the end of the summer they were on their own to care for their laundry and clothing.

Our four adult children managed college life and apartment living. Their tours of duty served them well.


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