Practical Living Skills: Guiding Your Teen Toward Independence-How to do Laundry
Why you should teach your teen how to do laundry:
Do you remember when you first lived on your own? One of the first things you most likely faced was doing laundry. It was confusing, wasn’t it? Unless you grew up with a mother who encouraged you to learn this task while at home you were on your own to figure it out.
In my home my mother did not want any of her children to do their own laundry. It wasn’t so much the idea that she was devoted to her six kids, as it was the fear that we would break her washer and that would have been a greater inconvenience for her than to teach us how to do it.
I’m now raising my teen nephew and it occurred to me early on that he will need to learn many things before he is ready to be on his own. As his ‘parent’, my job is to teach him these skills so he is prepared before he graduates from school. Unlike my own mother, I am unafraid of what he could possibly do to my washer or his clothes in the learning process.
Parents, my plea to you is to allow your child to transition into the role of the young adult through measures of success in the home. Letting go is an act of love, and independence a sign of good parenting.
Important Points to Keep in Mind
First, know that your child will make mistakes in the process of learning. Some of those mistakes may seem like they are great blunders. But, remember that we all had to start somewhere and we all made similar mistakes. Having a good memory in times of ruined clothing is a gift of kindness you can give to your teen.
Second, know that your child will need to practice that skill so don’t expect to teach and then take it away. Also, don’t allow your resistant child to manipulate into you taking over for him. If he does not get the clean under wear washed don’t make it easy on him and run out to buy him new ones. Rescuing a child from the discomfort of their poor planning does them a disservice.
Third, be clear about your expectations, both for your own peace of mind and for the consistency of your child’s routine. If you state to your daughter that she will be responsible for her laundry, but you will continue to wash her sheets and towels used, then stick to that agreement. Set a day of the week aside in which the machines are hers to use without you interfering; give clear consequences if the laundry is not completed.
Fourth, trust your child with your appliances. There is a different learning curve for everyone, and what one child picks up quickly, another may struggle with. But, trusting your teen to get the job done properly is an important step in easing them into the role of the adult.
How to do laundry in 10 easy steps
1. Sort clothes: dark colors; whites; permanent press; delicates; jeans; etc.
2. Check labels for special washing instructions; if in doubt wash in cold water.
3. Check all pockets for items left; check a second time as they go into the washer.
4. Load washer in a manner to allow proper balance alignment when on the spin cycle.
5. Select proper water temperature and level and start the machine.
6. Add the right amount of detergent for the level.
7. Add softner as needed, if desired.
8. When wash cycle has ended check labels for proper drying instructions
9. Place clothes in dryer or hang up to dry.
10. Select temperature control; check and empty the lint collector; start the machine.
Common laundry mistakes
Not checking the pockets is probably the number one mistake when doing laundry. I still remember the time my youngest daughter left a tube of her favorite Raven Red lipstick in the pocket of her beige shorts. Everything and I emphasize everything, in that load came out with splotches of red here and there. It was all damaged and a difficult lesson learned.
Second to the pocket problem is not checking labels. It is a common problem that still happens to me on occasion. My favorite memory of the shrinkage dilemma occurred shortly after I was remarried. My husband, a big bear of a guy, had a favorite wool sweater he loved. One afternoon, I pulled out the laundry and to my chagrin, discovered I had inadvertently washed it with the other clothes. It was the size that would fit a stuffed bear, which is exactly what the girls used it for afterwards.
What is the 'right' age?
One of the questions that parents frequently have is: what is the right age for a child to learn to do laundry? The answer is that each child is an individual and their readiness and interest will depend on that. Our task as parents isn’t to burden our child with jobs we don’t want to do; pushing them into a role before they are ready. Our job is to teach and guide.
My children began to do their own laundry when I returned to work full time. It was a choice for them in exchange for the extra income, to help out by doing their own clothes. They were ten and twelve. That may seem far too young to many readers, but it worked for our family, and that is what you have to take into consideration.
Good luck and happy parenting. It is a wonderful learning experience that can build the confidence of your teen.
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