Developing Life Skills in Teens
The ultimate goal of parenting is for your child to develop into a responsible adult who will live independently. All parents want their children to feel confident out in the world and to become successful, but it’s not something that will ‘just happen.’ There are certain life skills that every adult must have to be independent, but those skills are not something that people just know as they mature. The skills must be learned. Parents may forget that, at one time, they did not know how to fill out of a job application, get a driver’s license, clean a bathroom or do the laundry. Some parents might even think that public schools teach some of these skills to children. The sad truth is that many young adults enter the world with no idea of how to navigate it, lose their confidence, and then either move back home or struggle unnecessarily.
As our children become teenagers, parents must make efforts to encourage good habits and teach certain basic life skills or find a program, such as Middle Earth, that offers these lessons. Following is a description of the skills a young adult must have to be successful in the world at large:
Problem Solving Skills
When faced with a problem, there are people who ignore them, people who fall apart, and there are people who look for and find solutions. This skill will help your child be successful in a wide range of situations, including school and the workplace. When teaching problem solving, parents should begin by working with the child through the steps, but then allow the child to work through the steps on their own with just reminders of the steps from parents. Following are the steps:
- Properly identify the problem. Teach youth to clearly understand their difficulty and what specifically is distressing them. Ask them: “How is your current situation different from how you would like it to be?” Encourage them to approach the process with a positive attitude, viewing the situation as an opportunity to improve things.
- Generate several alternative solutions. Try sitting down with the teenager and brainstorming a list of possible solutions to the given situation. Ask the child what they have tried before in similar situations, and what outcomes they experienced. Ask them to predict likely consequences, both positive and negative, for each possibility. Encourage the teen to not limit themselves, but to come up with as many options as possible even if they are unrealistic, because this type of creative process may help generate even better solutions.
- Make a decision. Once you have made a list of options together, help the teen narrow them down. For each option, consider how realistic it is, how likely the teen would be to implement it, and the potential obstacles. Ask the child, “Which option accomplishes your goals and has the fewest drawbacks?” Then let the teen choose the option they would like to try.
- Implement and verify your solution. Encourage the teen to implement their solution, give it their best effort and see how it works. Check back frequently to process how the solution is or isn’t working, and help them modify it as necessary. The goal here is for kids to learn to feel confident about solving their own problems.
Finding and Keeping a Job
In order to live independently, your child will need to have a job. That means they must know how to fill out an application, write a resume, and interview. To teach these skills, we recommend that you print out our previous blog “How Teens Can Get That First Job,” and go over it with your teen. Just as important as finding a job is being able to keep the job you get. Fostering basic values – such as being respectful towards others, being on time, following through with what you say you will do, and finishing what you started – will help your child be a dream employee. Read our previous blog “Teaching Values to Teens” for tips on how to instill your morals.
Budgeting, saving, balancing a check book, setting monetary goals, and understanding credit and debt are all crucial lessons if you want your child to be a responsible adult. Visit our previous blog “Money Management for Teens” to obtain tips for teaching this skill.
Getting from point A to point B is a necessary process to be able to do anything, but teens often leave this activity to their parents. Children must learn how to drive a car, get a driver’s license, and how to read a map. Even if you feel certain that they will have a car, every independent person should still learn how to navigate public transportation. That means parents should teach a teen how to take a bus, how to decipher bus schedules, how to take the subway and understand subway maps, how to call a cab, how to purchase a plane or train ticket, and, perhaps most important, how to estimate transportation costs.
Health and Hygiene
Parents must teach and encourage good health habits now, such as brushing your teeth twice a day and visiting the dentist twice a year, seeing a doctor annually, washing hands frequently, making appointments for hair cuts, and other general caretaking responsibilities. Parents also must inform children how to respond in an emergency and how to properly medicate themselves for colds and other illnesses. If parents take care of all these responsibilities when they are a teen, then the child will take it all for granted and never learn how to care for themselves.
To live independently, a young adult must know how to find shelter. Finding possible apartments, calculating living costs such as utilities, and weighing the pros and cons of different locations are all skills a child must learn to effectively manage their world.
Chores at home not only increase your child’s responsibility and free up your time, they also teach your child valuable abilities, such as how to shop for groceries, cook, clean and do laundry. How many college kids ruin half their clothes when they go to school because their parents never had them run a load of laundry before? A child must have experience in comparing prices at the grocery store, following a recipe, using different cleaners for different household items and how often to clean, and separating whites from darks before they leave home so that they can be successful and confident after they leave home.
Being a good communicator is essential to becoming successful as an adult. It’s helpful in a wide range of situations, including at school, in the workplace, with friends, and at home. Falling under this same skill set is learning how to resolve conflicts. For tips on how to teach these important skills, read our previous blogs: “The Right Way to Argue” and “Effectively Communicating with Teens”.
Stress Management Skills
Adults who don’t have effective ways of dealing with stress inevitably find destructive ways of managing their lives. Teaching our children positive techniques for coping with stress will ensure their resiliency and success. For tips on instilling this important skill in your child, visit our previous blog “Developing Coping Skills in Teens”.
Sometimes it’s hard to realize all the tasks that adults take for granted are not something that teens will just inherently know. Teaching these important life skills now will improve the likelihood of having a well-rounded, responsible, productive child in their adulthood.