Not being funny, but being dumped on like you say is the same as an adolescent girl having her first period without being told it was coming. It's a jarring shock that you have to deal with forevermore without having any clue that it was coming.
I'm a firm believer that there should be parenting licenses. Have a baby sure, but you're not allowed to be a parent until you pass the test. (Yes, I know it will never happen.) Your parents would have failed that test.
Here's how a child should be prepared for adulthood. It is my answer and it is absolutely how. All other how's are not how.
Well, maybe not. Because my method is similar to what other people have said here: serial preparation. I think the difference tho is that I have absolute confirmation that my method works . . . i have a 20 yo that has successfully made the transition, and i have school-agers that are experiencing what i told him when he was their age.
For lack of a better phrase, it's the "frog on a hotplate" method. You've essentially got from age 4-18 to prepare them for it. Spread it out and there's no culture shock at the end. Additionally, they'll be happy about it because they will have seen years of work on a number of goals finally come together. After 18 yrs of slowly turning up the heat, they're cooked.
As the parent, you have to have a long term mentality. Yes there are day to day and week to week things, but you have to be prepared, over the years, to advance the kid from one thing to the next based on who they are.
Now that one of my daughters is 10, i'm starting to explain the series of events in young life and where they lead... lets take homework for example...
- in 1st grade, homework is not about the lesson, it's about tangible responsibility. keeping the folder in the backpack and getting it to and from home.
- in 3rd grade, it's not about the lesson, it's about the work responsibility. It's more about getting the work done than learning the lesson.
- in middle school, it's not about the lesson, it's about the personal responsibility. Taking it upon yourself to do the work and turn it in.
- in high school, it's about the lesson . . . but it's the culmination of years of conditioning to develop study habits. in earlier grades, you always had 2nd, 3rd, 4th chances to do the homework. In HS, if you don't turn it in, the teacher doesn't care. they have 300 students a day. You're a number. If you come up to them "what can i do to get my grade up" they'll look you up on the database and say "turn your homework in."
- in college, it's about the lesson. without the previous 10-12 years establishing study habits, you won't be able to learn the material.
- in the workplace . . . Homework -> Study Habits -> Work Ethic.
Childhood is rife with these kinds of series. up to a certain age, they don't need to know about it. but at the point where they can comprehend such a grand plan, they need to be told and they need to understand that at some point it's on them to make decisions. at 6, their homework is my problem. at 16 it's their problem. Why? "Because if you'd been doing your homework from the beginning, instead of lying about doing it so you could do whatever else, you wouldnt be having such a motivation problem doing it now." (Sound like the voice of experience? LOL)
Nobody ever said jacks**t to me about post-hs life until I was a Jr in hs. I hadn't been thinking about it and I certainly hadn't planned for it. That sucked. But my kids are different, at 4-5 we start working on age-appropriate tasks that lead to other things down the line. At 10-12, I started mentioning graduation because like it or not, for a 10yo it's a goal. It's inevitable. at 13-14, we're spending HS honing those skills and learning about the real world . . . ex: first job, save money, get a car, party in your car as a hs senior, drive to uni, upgrade job, upgrade car, graduate uni, drive 2nd car to first day at work. of course that's the perfect world, but whos to say you shouldn't try?
Bottom line: the kid needs to be told, in chunks, as appropriate, over the span of years, the things that will be expected of them when they are to enter the real world.