What Every Teenager Needs To Know

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Article by Wendy McCance

When I was a kid, I used to get frustrated with my parents.  I wanted to know what it was like to be a grown-up.  I mean the actual nuts and bolts of being an adult, such as how much groceries cost, how to maintain a bank account and how to know which products to buy and which ones were crap.

My mom ran the household and my dad never had much advice to hand out, so my mom was the parent I ran to most often with my questions.  There was just one problem, she believed that it was no ones business how much income we had, how much we paid for our bills, what bills we paid etc…  That level of privacy made learning how to start out on my own extremely difficult.

Back when I was a teenager, there wasn’t an internet.  There was no fast and easy way to get my questions answered.  I asked many people all sorts of questions and looked for books that would give me a clue, but I left my home less than a year after graduating high school with no concept of what I would need to survive.

My home life was not pleasant and I almost left home my junior year.  I had an invitation from a friends family offering for me  to stay with them.  When my own family found out, it caused a lot of drama and I decided to just get through my senior year at home and then move out for good.

When I left my parents home, I was eighteen years old.  I was working at a Coney Island making about $600.00 per month.  I had also started going to school at the local community college part-time.  I paid for school myself with money I had received from an inheritance.  Enough money to get through the two-years at school and graduate with an Associate Degree.

I moved in to an apartment with a girl from the restaurant I barely knew.  She wasn’t a good person and the staff warned me not to do it.  I felt anything was better than living at home, and anyways, she had furniture.  I had nothing, so it was a big deal to know there would be a sofa to sit on and a table to eat at.

When I moved out, I had no car.  There was a bus stop right outside the apartment and I was going to use it.  Where I live, I have never known one person who ever stepped on the bus.  The area we lived in was not really an area where people rode the bus unless they lived downtown in Detroit and were barely scrapping by.

My parents found out I had signed a lease and had plans to ride the bus, and they begged me to come home.  I was offered a car if I would come back.  Once they realized I had really signed the lease and would not be moving back home they found and gave me an old junker of a car because they were so worried about me riding the bus.  I was shocked that they got me a car, it was out of character for them, but I was more than happy to have a better form of transportation than the bus.

During that first year out of the house, I learned how to use the write checks, grocery shop, use coupons, set up utilities, pay bills and budget the $600.00 I made at Coney Island waitressing so that I had $35.00 of extra money each month to do with as I pleased.

I found out how expensive it really was to set up a home.  All those little pesky extra items needed for a kitchen like a potato peeler and measuring cups add up quickly.  I had to start buying everything needed for a kitchen and bathroom.  I also needed towels and sheets and furniture and lamps.  It was incredibly overwhelming.  Having a roommate who already had what was needed helped tremendously as I was able to slowly buy all the items I would need once I was in an apartment without a roommate (my goal).

Now I have kids of my own.  My oldest daughter is out of high school.  She is living at home while she studies for her own career.  Although I thought I had been giving her the knowledge she needs, I had forgotten how quickly all of the information can overwhelm.  There is just so much to learn that you could have a panic attack trying to remember it all while making a life for yourself.

I’ve decided that I will put together a booklet for her.  A how-to type book with pages describing what to know before renting an apartment or what you should always carry with you for a job interview.  Each page will have step-by step instructions for a particular question.  I figure with two more kids who will be graduating high school within five years, they would benefit from this information as well.

Maybe it sounds tedious to write it all down, but I love the idea that my daughter could be sitting in her first apartment and flip through the book to find a chart showing how to budget her bills or what maintenance she needs to keep up on with her car.

I figure that by the time my kids are grown with teenagers of their own, they can look back on the book with amusement about how much has changed and what they needed to know that their kids will never have to worry about.

What about you?  Did you feel prepared when you left home?  What didn’t you know that caught you off guard?  Let me know in the comments below.  Who knows, maybe you will jog my memory and I’ll be able to put additional information into the book that I hadn’t even thought of.

Wendy McCance

Wendy McCance is a Michigan based freelance writer and social media consultant. Wendy has gained attention as the founder of the popular blog Searching for the Happiness which can be viewed in 9 local papers online, including the Oakland Press. The combination of writing skills and social media knowledge is what makes Wendy such a powerhouse to work with. Stay tuned for opportunities to advertise, guest post and as always, have your questions answered.

To contact Wendy McCance about a writing or social media assignment, interview or speaking engagement, please email her at: [email protected]

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4 thoughts on “What Every Teenager Needs To Know

  1. I love your entire idea. I fear that GREED or maybe it’s FEAR that could prevent talented individuals from sharing their intellectual property, holding back for their own WEBSITE, BLOG, or even the newest app that will bring them fortune and fame. My father taught so many young men, disabled by the Vietnam war, or disabled by the barriers of the lives they were born into, before communication was as instantaneous as today. He never held back, and when robotics began to take the place of those whom he had taught, well, he accepted the world was about to change. . He taught them a skill/trade, so they could support themselves and their families. He was, my hero. He never once, tried to KEEP what he had. He always gave it away, I suspect knowing, that someday it would come back to him 100 times over. Unfortunately, he died before he received that information. Upon his demise, he was awarded a great honor in Education posthumously and I remember the long line of admirers outside the icy funeral parlor where his services were held. What I recall most though, was the man who limped all the way up the rickety stairs of DAD;s old office building to tell my MOM and I what my Father had given him. A skill, a trade, that even a disabled veteran could do well. This man built his own business from that skill, and sent all his children onto college. His life was full because of what my DAD did for him. I would never have known how many people my DAD helped, if he had not passed away so tragically young.
    I guess what he has given out so freely is yet to be seen. Sometimes I catch a glimpse of it in my talented daugher and son’s writing, or feel the beating of it, in my heart when I find the courage to share with others,accepting rejection, but most importantly excpecting nothing in return.

    • Hi Cara, that was the most beautiful story. I feel truly honored that you took the time to share it with me. Your dad sounds like he was an incredible, compassionate and very wise person. What he taught his family will be an amazing legacy that will pass down through generations through the retelling of his life and the way it positively affects your family. I hope you continue to find the courage to share. You are a good writer and you can hear the passion in your words.

  2. I knew nothing about paying bills and living on a budget when I got married I figured it out pretty quick though and now I am the mum of adult children I can tell you I was always there to offer advice and show them my way of doing things but also told them they had to find the right way for for them which they have. I think the idea of a booklet is a great one there are so many things we don’t think we need to know till we need to know them

    • Maybe things were just different when we were growing up, but I definitely want to share as much information as I can with my kids. I agree though that some of the growing up process is just finding your own way (even though as a parent it’s hard to step back and let the kids just figure it out).

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