What life skill did you fail to learn before moving away from home?
The launching years are a perfect time to teach your teens the life skills they need to cope with the challenges in the world around them so that they can feel confident and prepared. So many of these skills can be learned alongside parents and adults as they go about their everyday life. Do not wait until your kids are grown to start this! We started earlier than most, but the rewards have been great. Here’s 10 basic life skill categories you use to think about what your teens already know and what you can teach them during the launching years.
1. Meal Prep
Teach your kids what makes a nutritious balanced meal and how to cook 5 or 6 simple ones. Show them cooking basics. As their confidence grows, expand their recipes and teach them meal planning and grocery shopping. Assign them a night to cook each week. Teach them to grill and how to brew good coffee.
2. Home Management
Teaching cleaning chores and laundry should not wait until the launching years! Now teach kids how to use household appliances, unclog a drain, sew on a button, use a drill, how to do yard work, and how to shut off the gas/water/electricity. Talk about weekly chores, monthly chores, and yearly chores. Talk about organization of clothes and belongings and a place for everything. Teach them to read and complete official documents and applications and how to organize their paperwork. Teach them to take care of a pet, plant, or person.
3. Time Management
This skill goes from learning to get up on time to using an agenda or calendar to figuring out how long it takes to complete a task. Teach kids to set and use alarms and to arrive on time to appointments and events. Time management also includes getting enough sleep and learning how to say “no” to guard their priorities and time. Teach them to set goals and use self discipline. Teach them responsible time management for entertainment and internet use.
4. Self Care
By the teen years, they should know that personal hygiene means more than a weekly shower! Teach them when to trim their nails and hair, to take medication when needed, to seek help for mental health, to make their own doctor and dentist appointment, and some basic first aid. Travel first aid kits make great gifts.
5. Money Management
Whether or not you give allowance, kids should be taught the basics of handling money wisely, budgeting, and saving money. Begin to build budgets for their clothes, toiletries, entertainment, etc. and help them stick to a budget no matter whose money it is that they are spending. Begin talking through the financial aspects of bill paying, living within your means, tipping, and school tuition. Teach them to budget money to be able to help those in need and to take a friend to coffee. Teach them how to negotiate a bill.
6. Navigation and Transportation
Whether they drive a car or take public transportation, knowing how to read and use a map is a life skill. Whether it’s a paper map or a GPS system, it’s still a necessary skill. Teach them to drive a car and to navigate the town. Teach kids to read schedules for public transportation and plan trips locally and beyond. Teach them how to pick up guests from the airport or bus station. Teach them how to change a tire, jump start a car, pump gas, and check the oil in a car.
7. Social Skills
Hopefully your kids learned the golden rule before school, but expand that to basic social etiquette and citizenship. Teach them communication skills, conflict resolution, and how to disagree. Teach them to clean up after themselves and respect boundaries. Model respect, kindness, generosity, and helping others regardless of differences or backgrounds. Writing thank you notes is still a life skill so teach it and model it. Teach kids to keep social commitments and how to plan them.
8. How to Ask for Help
Even with the most thorough life skill training, everyone needs help now and then. Teach your kids how and when to ask for help. Help them build a support system of trusted adults. Teach kids how to research repair services and how to apply critical thinking skills to life problems. Allow them to make some decisions by themselves before they leave home and guide them through it. Let them make mistakes as long as they are not life endangering ones. Teach them how to cope with failure, disappointment and consequences.
9. Work Ethic
Work ethic involves diligence, attendance, character, communication, work life balance, productivity, and teamwork. Teach your kids to work hard and to take pride in their work. Teach them how to fill out job applications, write a resume, and be confident in a job interview. Teach them how to make eye contact and maintain a conversation. Teach them the value of volunteer work.
Healthy families model that home is a safe place where you are offered encouragement, love, intervention, help, and forgiveness. Living out these life skills at home helps make it a natural transition to being there for others at school, work, and in the community. Model hospitality. Teach your kids to make a meal for a family in need, write a note of encouragement, house a guest, or help someone complete a project.
Want more family and parenting tips? Check out my blog post on calming the chaos of the middle years or my family rules printable sign.
Table Talk: What life skill are you confident in teaching others? What life skill was missing from this list? What life skill do you wish you learned growing up?