I recently found this list in my parenting notes: a list I wrote of life skills for teens to master before they leave home. It seems an appropriate thing for me to be looking at now since our kids are leaving home bit by bit.
But it is too late to do much about these things right now – not when the packing boxes are out and the plane tickets are booked. This list is more helpful to parents of young teens – start teaching these lifeskills to your teens now, so that when they are ready to leave home, they will indeed be ready.
In family life it is easy for nearly every one of these life skils to slip under the radar. As the parent it is easy for us to do these things for our family and forget that our teens need to do these things for themselves. The benefit of family life is that as a teen learns these things, they make mistakes, but we are there to be a safety net; not always rescuing them (but maybe sometimes our love and grace will mean we rescue them) but just as importantly so we can guide them (and love them) through the mistakes and the consequences of their mistakes.
As always there is a four step process to learning:
2–we teach and instruct
3–we stand beside and let them practice (being ready to help)
4–we expect them to do it on their own
Read more about these four training steps
The Most Important Life skills for Teens before they leave home:
1. Manage their time –
Managing our time is pivotal as an adult and teens can take responsibility for what they do in their day – from when they wake up and go to bed, to what they do with their day. The more responsibility they have for their activities the more they will learn to be responsible.
Learn: To use a calendar/diary, to-do list
2. Manage their money –
A teen needs to be able to work for an income which opens the opportunity to learn to manage their money. Each family will handle what a teen has to be responsible to pay for once they start earning but you need to consider things like: Board/food, internet/phone, clothing, entertainment, fuel etc.
Learn: To open a bank account, online payment accounts like paypal, apps to manage their bank account on their phone, budgeting, balancing their books, tax. Understand credit cards, debit cards, bank loans and repayments.
3. Fill out forms –
Filling out forms is overwhelming and though many forms can be filled out online there are still many situations where pen and paper is needed. A teen will be able to fill out forms for joining a club, opening a bank account, collecting the mail, and as they get older car insurance, bank loans and travel papers.
One aspect of this is establishing their personal formal ID by applying for: Bank account, Drivers Licence, Passport etc
Learn: To read the details on a form, follow instructions, have a signature.
4. Make appointments –
Whether you make aapointments via a phone or online, a teen needs to learn to pick up the phone (so many are used to just texting), state what they need and match what appointments are available with times that suit.
Learn: To talk on a telephone (don’t laugh kids aren’t as used to this as we might think), answer questions confidently, conclude a phonecall
5. Go to the Doctor (solo) –
At some point a teen needs to be able to go to a doctor, dentist, physio etc on their own. (This of course also incorporates Making appointments, Filing out Forms, Managing their time)
Learn: To know their body, their health and their needs, answer questions about their health, and ask questions of the health-carer. Buying and managing medication.
6. Organise Important Papers –
At least by the time a teen has their own bank account they should have a organised place to keep their “Important Papers”: Bank Statements, Passport, Receipts for Drivers Licence, etc. These days so much of this is online, so they need to know how to access this information.
Learn: To set up a filing system for important papers. To know how passwords work, and how to access important information online.
7. Go to a Restaurant –
It doesn’t matter what type of restaurant but our teens need to be comfortable to place their order and pay for it. They also need to know how to offer to pay for someone else, and to be thankful for when someone pays for them.
Ordering at a restaurant – and paying – and letting someone else know they are covering the bill, and how to accept graciously when someone pays for them.
Learn: To read a menu, make a decision, speak confidently when placing an order, learn to speak up when a mistake has been made, learn to pay the bill.
8. Travel independently –
Different families will have different experiences but whatever is the context of travel in your family, make sure your teen can do it on their own. Travelling by car, bike, bus, train, air – each aspect of travel have it’s own processes and safety issues. Our teens need to be confident to get around by themselves.
Learn: To look after a vehicle. To plan an outing/trip. To book tickets. To read a map and timetables. Learn to ask for directions and help when needed. Be aware of stranger danger, but not scared of engaging with strangers.
9. Buy clothes and shoes –
Even if you are still paying for your teens clothes they need to learn to be able to make choices, understand the cost of clothing, and know how to pay with both cash, card and credit. Even if you don’t use credit cards, they need the process explained to them. (These skills can be taught buying many items – but I have found it also important for teens to learn to understand their ‘style’ in clothes so there is an added level here.)
Learn: To making choices in a store, learn to stay within a budget. Learn to return items and their rights in doing so.
10. Use Technology –
This might sound obvious but our teens are very comfortanble using technology but do they know the process of buying a phone or computer and then setting it up. Also with technology comes social media with its safety and integrity issues.
Learn: to buy and set up new technology. Learn to set up and protect online accounts/ID. Learn to use email (this is a business skill even though our kids don’t use it that much in their personal lives). Learn how to use social media well.
11. Introduce themselves –
Our teens will start to find themselves in more and more situations where they need to introduce themselves as an individual – seperate to one of the kids of the family. They need to know how to introduce their name, and shake hands. They need to know how to introduce other people to others.
Learn: To shake hands and introduce themselves and others. Learn to talk about themselves in a job interview. Learn to write a resume.
12. Understand Follow up –
So much of what we do as an adult requires that we follow through till the task is done. We ask for a quote, and it doesn’t come – we phone and follow up until the quote is done. This is a big one for taking on responsibility – and a mind set that involves many other life skills. The mind set is: Just because you’ve asked someone to do something for you – it is still your responsibility till it is done.
Learn: When you delegate a task you are not delegating responsibility. Learn to follow up by phoning, emailing or texts if you have not heard back from someone. When someone communicates with you – reply. Learn to send in RSVPs – even for casual invites.
13. Organise a social gathering –
Play dates soon evolve into ‘hanging out’ – and this is a big part of a teens life. It is important for teens to learn how to be social themselves, but also how to create a space where others can be relaxed and social too. They may just initiate a ‘hanging out’ or they may organise a party or outing. They need to understand invitations, preparation of the venue, food, and how to pull it all together.
Learn: To plan different types of social gatherings/events: hanging out, games nights, birthday parties, coffee dates. Learn how to look for the person on the edges – and how to be a friend.
14. Cook –
My goal has been for my kids to know how to cook seven basic meals and 1 dessert (this is simply my goal, no special reason!!). They need to know how to cook healthy meals and work/study.
Learn: To cook.
15. Maintain Possessions –
This is probably the first of all these life skills that a child can learn – but we need to keep increasing their ability to look after a home and any other possessions until they are well and truly able to be completely responsible by themselves.
Learn: To clean house, grocery shop, do the laundry, maintain the yard and car.
10 Tips to Build Relationship with your Teen (and still be the parent): Teenagers are in a season of transition and we need to adjust our parenting so that in the midst of them growing up we are building a relationship with them.
Parenting Teens with Bedtimes and Curfews: Parenting teens with bedtimes and curfews doesn’t actually help us reach our goals. They need to start taking responsibility for their sleep themselves.
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