Basic Life Skills to Teach Children, Tweens, 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 best practices for managing money, these life lessons will help your tweens and teens become successful (and happy!) functioning adults later in life.

The secrets to a successful life don’t always come exclusively from a school classroom. Some of the most important life lessons are passed down from parent to child. Use our guide to help enable and empower your children with the information and resources they need to graduate to adulthood with confidence.

Life Tip 1: How to Keep House

When to teach: Ages 5-7

Key teaching tool 1: Tackling basic chores.

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

 

Key teaching tool 2: Understanding that doing chores come with positive results.

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.

 

Life Tip 2: Maintaining Good Health

When to teach: Ages 10-17

Key teaching tool: Set a good example for your child and provide opportunities for him or her to start taking an active role in their health and fitness.

Life lesson plan:

  • Provide balanced meals at home (and invite your child to help you shop and cook nutritious meals, too).  Also, keep healthy (and handy) snacks on hand for your children to stock up on when cravings strike.
  • Encourage kids to be active every day.
  • Share preventative ideas for your child to head off injuries and illness (things as simple as washing hands or always wearing a bike helmet when cycling are key learnings to teach).
  • Connect with your child’s pediatrician to learn more about what you can do now to head off diabetes, heart disease, human papillomavirus virus (HPV), and other health issues that can surface later in life.
     

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 or someone you know is being bullied at school. What do you do?
  • You're struggling with homework or a school assignment, and just don't want to (or don't know how to) do it. What should you do?
  • You've received an inappropriate text or message from someone. What's the best way to handle the situation?
  • A friend confides in you that they have been physically assaulted by another friend, parent, or teacher. What should you do?
  • You're at a party and one of your friends is drinking alcohol. What should you do?
  • You're in the backseat of a car with someone who appears to be impaired. What should you do?

Life Tip 4: How to Manage Money

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 earmarked 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 save birthday and holiday cash gifts and allocate funds for future educational and life needs.
  • 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:

  • Empower your child to reach out to teachers and educators if she's feeling lost or confused about school assignments or educational expectations.
  • Encourage your older children to look to each other for support and advice (teens can be great sources of information for younger children wondering what to expect from school).
  • Make sure your child knows the school nurse, guidance counselor, or other appropriate health professionals at her school.
  • Ensure your child knows she can come to you when she has questions, is scared, or feels anxious about something.

 

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