As you know, teaching life skills to teens is an important part of our job as parents. It’s up to us to make sure they have the skills that they will need to be successful before they head out on their own.
How do you know what skills you need to work on? As you know, there are a wide variety of life skills for teens that you can teach your older kids.
What I’ve done over the years is to make a plan for life skills, just like I do for school subjects. I figure out what specific skills my girls need or and I choose the best way to teach them what they need to know. I create a list and make it a part of our homeschool lesson plans.
So, once you know what skills you want your kids to master, how do you teach them the information?
It really depends on the life skill. Some are easy to teach through conversation, while others require a lot of coaching and practice before kids really grasp what you’re trying to teach them.
Here are specific ways you can work on life skills in your house.
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Being Purposeful in Teaching Life Skills to Teens
The most straightforward way to teach your teen life skills is to treat it like any other school subject.
One specific skill that works well with this method of teaching is cooking.
First, decide what cooking skills you want your teens to learn and then map out a plan. Then, each week, spend time together working on a specific skill.
For example, spend a couple of hours one week teaching your older kids proper knife skills. Then the following week work on basic food safety, while they continue practicing their knife skills. Keep going until you work through the list of cooking skills you wanted your middle schooler to learn.
If you prefer to use a book or formal curriculum for your life skills lessons instead of planning everything yourself, go for it. This study skills course from Mr. D Math is an excellent example.
Over the years, I’ve used tools from the Etiquette Factory to teach etiquette for teenagers and Lemonade to Leadership to work on business practices such as critical thinking and working with people.
My teens have also taken quite a few outside classes to learn specific skills like cake decorating, career exploration, and even a general life skills class at our homeschool co-op.
Regardless of the tools you use, set goals, know what you want your kids to learn, and work together with purpose.
Being the Example for Your Teens to Follow
Kids learn by watching you. Every day, you show them how to be an adult. They see what’s important, various tasks that need to be done, as well as what skill success, looks like.
Let’s look at health and wellness. If you want your kids to live a healthy life, you need to show them by taking care of yourself. Every time they see you exercising or choosing a sensible meal over greasy fast food, they see what choices go into being a healthy person.
Every time I do something to keep our house neat, clean, and tidy, I’m showing my kids how to maintain a nice home.
This doesn’t mean that they get to sit on the sidelines watching while you do everything. Now is the time to bring them alongside of you. Talk to them and tell them what you’re doing and why it’s important.
Teach Teens Life Skills When You See a Need
When you’re with your kids and you find yourself thinking, “I need to talk to them about this” or “that’s something we should work on,” take a moment right then to teach them what you want them to know.
Once, I had my daughter run in to grab a pizza and I gave her my debit card. When she came out, she asked about the tip line and told me what she had put there. I realized that I hadn’t really covered tipping with her, so I took the opportunity to teach her the practice of tipping. I reinforce this lesson every time she goes out for a meal with her friends by asking if she has enough money for a tip on top of the food.
Here’s another scenario. A while ago, I was driving my daughters’ friends to meet up with their parents. One teen knew where his dad was parked in the lot, but instead of telling me, he let me drive around trying to find their car. As we were leaving, I spent a moment talking to my teens about courtesy and letting them know what I expect them to do if they find themselves in that situation.
It also relates to school. In order to prepare our middle schoolers for high school, they need to know time management, an important life skills.
This way of teaching your kids works well on things like communication skills, handling disappointment, and study skills.
Teaching Life Skills to Teens When They Ask to Learn
Sometimes a life skill isn’t on my radar until my teens ask to learn something. Perhaps I was thinking it wasn’t the right time or they weren’t interested. Either way, once they ask, I usually try to find a way to teach them.
For example, last year, Abigail wanted to give presentations to both a local coin club and our homeschool co-op. While she had given speeches and book club reports throughout the years, there were still things she needed to learn before speaking in front of larger groups. So we added it to her lesson plans and worked together to build her presentations.
Learning how to tie a tie is a perfect example of this way of teaching.
Working on a Life Skill in Many Ways
Keep in mind that when teaching life skills to teens, there’s more than one way to accomplish the same task. In fact, for many life skills, a combination approach works best.
Think about getting your daughter to the point where she’s proficient in doing her own laundry.
- You probably saw a need when you realized that your daughter didn’t know how to do her laundry, even though she saw you do it countless times.
- So, you took the time to formally teach her the proper way to do laundry.
- Now you continue to walk alongside of her as she does her laundry, stepping in to help as needed.
As you can see in the example, it’s common to use many of the teaching scenarios from above to work on a skill with your teen. Sometimes that’s what it takes.
Rarely are life skills something that are learned once and you’re done. It’s a process and takes practice.
I suggest that you use as many avenues as you need to make sure your teens understand the skills you want them to master. Remember, the end goal is to give them the skills and confidence they’ll need to successfully go out on their own.
Recommended Resources for Teaching Life Skills to Teens
I would love to hear your favorite way to teach life skills to teens.