As parents, your primary wish in life is that you raise happy, healthy, productive, self-sufficient children, who won’t call you when they’re 25 to make their dentist appointments, do their laundry, or make them a sandwich. No, really. There are young adults who have graduated college or moved out of the house who still can’t pay bills, do laundry, write a check or parallel park.
Alright, so maybe not knowing how to parallel park isn’t that bad. You can just keep driving around until you find a parking space. Or better yet buy a fancy car that does it for you. But, you get my point. Your child might be brilliant but without life skills, they are at a clear disadvantage in life personally and professionally.
Keep reading for the importance of teaching life skills and the life skills that your kids and teens should absolutely learn!
What are life skills?
I would hope you know that I mean when I talk about life skills, but there is that saying about assuming. Something about a donkey, you, and me. Life skills simply put is the knowledge that individuals must be equipped with to be successful and effectively deal with the demands and challenges one can face in their everyday life.
They’re not technical skills that you can put on a resume, but they’re crucial to functioning as a human being. The skills they don’t always teach you in school.
Valuable skills they will use throughout their lives like:
- Self-Care Skills
- Home Management Skills
- Interpersonal Skills
- Money Management Skills
- Decision-Making Skills
- Time Management Skills
Just to name a few.
Importance of life skills For Kids & Teens
Let’s face it; we would rather our kids not live at home forever. At some point we want them to take care of themselves. We want them to grow into human beings who contribute to society. While kids might learn some life skills in school it is never too early to start teaching your children at home.
You can begin with age-appropriate life skills with your toddler and continue through their teens. As a homeschooler, I make it a point to include life-skills lessons routinely. But you don’t have to be a homeschooler to teach life skills to your kids.
RELATED: The Beginners Guide To Homeschooling
life skills your kids and teens should know
As you’re reading this, you’re probably thinking, “Oh shoot! What should I be teaching my kid or teen that I haven’t already? Is there anything that I’ve already checked off the list?” Stay calm mama; it’s not too late.
Well, unless you are like me and your oldest will be headed off to college in a few months time and you are hoping he won’t live off of ramen and fast food despite having him assist in meal prep at an early age. For some kids, you can lead a horse to water…
Teaching your kids life skills will only make them more productive adults. To keep you from getting overwhelmed, start with a few of the basic so you can work on each in a group setting with your kids if that makes more sense for your family.
Self- Care Skills – Health & Hygiene
When kids are young parents make sure bath time is done, teeth are brushed, and clothes are clean. But as kids get older, it is important for us to explain why things like body odor, knots in hair, and stained clothes aren’t very appealing to others.
You can’t assume that your pre-teen or teen will naturally learn what they need to know about good hygiene. Someone needs to teach them. You don’t want your kid(s) to wind up with medical or dental issues because of poor hygiene. Or worse, deal with some jerky bullies at school.
It’s your job as a parent to have that discussion with them and its best to do it way before puberty ever comes knocking. But where do you start?
While kids are young talk to them about the importance of bathing so when they hit puberty (or perhaps before), they can transition to daily showers. Explain the process of washing their hair, body, and face. As you are doing it for them, show them each step.
Walk them through it step by step. Explain when clothes should be changed and that it isn’t a good idea to grab dirty clothes from the laundry basket to wear for the day.
Always wear CLEAN underwear. Seems simple but I am sure there is one mom who didn’t think this conversation was necessary, but it was.
Deodorant. When your kid hits puberty, those sweat glands go into overdrive. When you or your kiddo notice a smell, it is time to talk to them about making deodorant and/or antiperspirant a part of their daily routine.
Home Management Skills
Managing a household is no easy task. It is even harder if you are learning as you go. Take it from someone who knows. As a kid, I wasn’t required to do chores around the house, so learning to manage my house instead of it managing me has always been a struggle.
It doesn’t matter what path your children take in life; they will need to know how to do their laundry and prepare a meal for themselves at some point.
My dad always said he had children so he didn’t have to do things around the house. He, of course, was kidding. But let’s be real here. Parents shouldn’t have the sole responsibility of keeping a house cleaned and organized.
Starting with age-appropriate chores and tasks is the perfect way to begin transferring some responsibility to the younger members of the house.
Unless you want to clean up after your child for the rest of your life, this should be a priority on the life skills list. Knowing how to clean up, do laundry, and handle household duties are essential to being an adult. Don’t raise the son or daughter that calls a plumber to unclog a toilet.
Now this one can be tough, especially if you’re not a cook yourself. But with the amount of cooking shows on the TV or internet, or the monthly subscription boxes like Raddish there are plenty of opportunities to teach your children how to make simple meals so when the time comes your teen shouldn’t leave the house for college or to go adulting without knowing how to cook some well-rounded and healthy meals.
Eating ramen throughout college may be economical and build character but isn’t the most nutritious.
Teaching cooking at a young age will get kids comfortable in the kitchen while building confidence and independence. They can help pour or stir ingredients. With safe knives, they can help you prep too! Or keep it simple and teach them how to make a sandwich. They don’t need to know how to cook a 5-course meal.
Plus, you are not only teaching them to save money by making home- cooked meals instead of eating out all the time, but you are teaching them to eat healthier well-balanced meals.
Interpersonal skills begin at infancy. As kids begin to grow and develop so do their interpersonal and social skills. They learn from mom, dad, their siblings, grandparents, teachers, and peers.
Having good interpersonal skills will help kids make and keep friends. Later in life, it will help them be successful in the workplace.
But so many kids these days just don’t have good interpersonal or social skills.
Common phrases that should be instilled in kids like “Please” and “Thank you” seem to be missing from their vocabulary.
Begin with putting the electronics DOWN when speaking to someone. Make eye contact. Hold the door for the person behind you. Offer to help when you see someone needs assistance. To some these seem like common sense but the sad thing is that too many people don’t possess these life skills.
Teach them to say hello, greet people with a smile, be polite to waiters and waitresses, tip well, and have respect for everyone.
Helping your child build the skills that they need for healthy relationships (both friendly and romantic) will be a life skill that carries them far. Relationships are integral to every interaction they have.
Some of the very best life skills include mutual respect, conflict resolution, and knowing the difference in meaningful relationships. You can teach these life skills in a variety of ways, but some of the best are through candid conversations and modeling behavior.
Money Management Skills
Finances are perhaps the biggest and scariest life skill that both kids and teens must know in order to become successful adults. Yes, not only should your 18-year-old know how to manage money, but your 8-year-old should as well. Start with age-appropriate financial knowledge.
Knowing how bank accounts work, how credit cards and loans work, how not to overspend, how taxes work, how to complete a W-4 for employment, what a credit score is, how to buy groceries on a budget, and more are all great starting points. If you, yourself, don’t understand some of these ideas it’s also an awesome learning opportunity for you.
If your kids are younger, one course I recommend for learning money management is Family Money School. The creator, Matt, is a father of two, personal finance blogger and assistant principal with 15 years of teaching experience. He is passionate about raising money rockstars, and his course has 8 modules, 17 videos, and 10+ PDFs that accompany the course.
Decision Making Skills
Decision making is an everyday part of life. Decisions such as what toys to play with, what clothes to wear, or what to eat for lunch, to the major life decisions of getting married and having children.
As kids get older decision making becomes harder. The consequences that accompany some decisions have a much higher risk. That is why it’s so important to equip them with sound decision-making skills that will last them throughout life.
As children begin making more important decisions, parental guidance will be necessary. Teaching children to make decisions based on their values and evaluating the pros and cons of a decision is important. As children get older, it is equally important to allow kids to make decisions for themselves.
When kids are given the opportunity to make decisions, it helps them to become more independent and responsible. They develop confidence in their decision-making skills and learn to trust their instincts and ultimately their choices.
Time Management Skills
Why is time management an important skill to teach kids? Because you don’t want to be that parent who is constantly nagging for your child about things like arriving on time, completing assignments by due dates, or spending too much time on electronics.
Kids have just as many distractions to contend with. Electronics is one of the biggest time sucks for kids and teens these days. Which is why teaching them how to manage their time is crucial.
Timers are a great place to start when teaching kids time management skills. This allows them to become responsible for their own time and will hopefully keep you from having to nag them.
Timers like the Disney Circle work great for limiting time on gadgets.
For homework, projects, or household tasks I love a simple kitchen timer like this one by Wrenwan. If you have a kiddo like mine, who watches the time left on the clock and gets stressed, I found putting it out of her line of vision works best.
Using color-coded calendars can teach kids how to prioritize the events in their lives. It is that visual tool we all need so we don’t wind up overscheduled. We all know it isn’t possible to be in two places at once. Having a family calendar in a common area to serve as your monthly roadmap of commitments is a great start.
If you have an older child or teen, they can also have their own calendar that is hanging in their room. Have your child or teen add all of their daily, weekly, monthly tasks and events on a calendar. Encourage your kids to add to it as things arise and to mark off tasks or events completed.
The goal is not to schedule every moment of our time. But to teach children that there are “have tos” and “want tos” in life. It is not enough to just explain priorities and time management to your kids. You should be leading by example. If you are constantly late for everything kids will get the message that this behavior is acceptable.
Final Thoughts On The Importance of Teaching Life Skills
As a parent, you think about when your kids and teens will learn to read and write or graduate from school, but the life skills listed above are just as crucial to ensuring that they are functional adults.
Start slow and remember that every child develops at a different pace. Just like any skill, life skills take time and practice. Help give them the tools that they need by weaving life skills into your home and family life early and daily.
You’ll empower them to be who they’re meant to be!
Have you started teaching your children essential life skills? What age did you start? I would love it if you comment below and share your experience.