Basic Life Skills to Teach Children and Teens

Your child may be years away from leaving home, but the time to start teaching grown-up life skills is now. From how to keep house to how to manage money, these life lessons will help your children and teens become functioning adults later.

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Life Tip 1: How to Keep House

When to teach: Ages 5-7

Key teaching tool: Basic chores

Life lesson plan: Establish two specific, daily chores. For example, at 5, kids can put toys away or help set the table.

Key teaching tool: Chores with consequences

Life lesson plan: Let them watch and help you. Then let them complete tasks on their own. Praise a job well done. If a chore is done incorrectly, suggest a trick that will help correct the problem for next time.

Helpful parenting tip: Set up a "star chart" reward system, awarding a star for a week's worth of successfully completed chores. Stars are redeemed for money, privileges, or other rewards. Apply previously agreed-upon consequences if chores aren't done.

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Life Tip 2: How to Manage Health Care

When to teach: Ages 16-17

Key teaching tool: A pre-college visit to the doctor explaining routine concerns

Life lesson plan:

  • Arrange for him to talk with your family doctor in private.
  • Teach him how to get a prescription filled.
  • Explain how to use health insurance.
  • Make sure your child knows how to use the college's health facility to find a doctor.

Life Tip 3: How to Avoid Risky Behavior

When to teach: Ages 10-17

Key teaching tool: Role playing

Life lesson plan: Help your child brainstorm options for getting herself out of scary situations safely. Don't stop until you're satisfied she knows what to do, and work in brush-up sessions on occasion and before events.

Have her act out these situations:

  • You're being bullied at school. What do you do?
  • You're at a party and one of your friends is getting drunk. What do you do if someone starts taking advantage of her?
  • You're in the backseat of a car. The driver acts impaired and the car is weaving around.

Life Tip 4: How to Manage Money

When to teach: Ages 5-10

Key teaching tool: Allowance

Life lesson plan:

  • Choose between a chore-based, no-strings-attached allowance, or one that combines a base amount plus bonuses for chores.
  • Let your child know the conditions for getting the allowance.
  • Set the amount. one rule of thumb: 50 cents to a dollar per year of age.
  • Define spending guidelines.
  • Establish amount to be saved. (Hint: Present her with a fun piggy bank).
  • Be consistent. Give the allowance on the same day every week.

When to teach: Ages 11-13

Key teaching tool: A savings account

Life lesson plan: Set up a meeting with your child and a bank manager to discuss the difference between savings and checking accounts, monthly charges, fines, and interest rates.

When to teach: Ages 14 and up

Key teaching tool: A part-time job (including babysitting, dog walking, or other odd jobs)

Life lesson plan:

  • Have him open a checking account.
  • Agree on how pay should be used: Will some be eamarked for a car or college?
  • Discuss taxes, and show how FICA and income taxes are deducted.
  • Introduce the "paying yourself first" concept. Encourage your child to
  • Deposit some money in a savings account before spending any of it.

Life Tip 5: How to Ask for Help

When to teach: Age 12

Key teaching tool: Open, honest, ongoing communication

Life lesson plan: Provide phone numbers and access to her pediatrician. Make sure she knows the school nurse, guidance counselor, or other appropriate heath professionals.

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