We want to raise kids who are equipped to face the harsh realities of the world. We may not be able to control every aspect of our children’s lives and solve every problem for them. And even if we can, it is not recommended.
Instead, we are capable of giving them life skills to cope with the problems that come their way. We can give them the tools, let them do the work.
WHY SHOULD WE TEACH LIFE SKILLS TO CHILDREN?
Many parents, especially helicopter parents, have the tendency to control all the situations and outcomes in their children’s lives. Such children grow up to be less confident about facing the challenges in life.
What we need is to raise independent, confident and self-sufficient kids who have the ability to think for themselves and solve the problems they have to face in life.
And how can you, as a mother, help them?
By teaching them life skills.
How to start teaching kids life skills?
By showing and encouraging.
When you do the chores or do home repairs, ask them for help. While helping, you can teach them one or two things each time. You can turn these helping sessions the opportunity to teach by asking questions.
Like, if you are having a decluttering day, you can ask your kids to join. You can ask questions like,
“How do you think decluttering will help us?”
“What are the benefits of an organized home?”
When they answer the questions, they learn about the benefits of each life skill. It develops an intrinsic motivation in them to learn new skills.
So let’s see what are some basic skills that kids should learn before leaving home.
But before setting out to teach them these skills, please do not introduce the lessons all at once. Our aim is not to make our kids independent by tomorrow, but over the years, by taking their time.
Okay, now you can go read the list of life skills.
1. HOME MANAGEMENT
There are so many aspects of home management that kids should learn. And home management is a skill that you can start teaching from an age as small as two.
When kids learn to pick up their toys after playing and put them in their place, they are learning the first lessons of home organizing. Other skills in home management include making the bed, cleaning, basic repairing like replacing the fuse, unclogging the drain, etc.
The best way to teach home management to kids is by giving them chores from a young age. Get them used to doing chores and they become skilled in it.
They should also be taught using home appliances like washing machine, mixer/juicer, microwave oven, turning the gas on and off, etc.
2. PREPARING BASIC MEALS
They don’t need to be eligible to participate in Masterchef by the age of 18 but it will help kids if they know to sate their appetite if no one is around.
Cooking is a skill that everyone should learn without any gender bias. Home-cooked meals are always healthier and more economical.
I try to train my daughters to eat healthier from a young age. But eating healthy meals means you have to cook at home. Hence, acquiring basic cooking skills become necessary.
Here is a resource to get kids started with cooking. Katie from Kids Cook Real Food offers an online course where kids can master about 30 basic cooking skills and learn to make healthy recipes.
Related: The absolute beginner’s guide to meal planning (for busy moms)
3. TIME MANAGEMENT SKILLS
As an adult, it took me some time to learn to manage my time efficiently, especially after I started working-from-home.
Young kids don’t have a sense of time. Hence, sometimes it’s a struggle to get them ready on time to school or when going out.
My elder daughter is usually slow in finishing her routines in the morning before school, no matter how many times I tell her it’s time to get to the bus stop.
The same thing happens when it comes to bedtime routines too. So to get a sense of time, I started setting timers for her to complete tasks. It has been working and now she is getting a sense of what “five minutes” means.
As children become older, you can help them plan their activities in a day by setting schedules using a planner or a simple notebook.
4. DOING LAUNDRY
Imagine how nice it would be if you have to do fewer loads of laundry because your kids do their own laundry. All moms can dream, right?
Or we can teach them.
Doing own laundry is an important life skill that kids should learn. You can start by making them put the dirty clothes in the hamper, from when they are about 3-4 years old. Around the same age, you can teach them to fold their clothes, especially small items like socks, underwear, etc.
Between the age of 7-10, you can start teaching them how to operate a washing machine, sort clothes, and do laundry by themselves.
Learning to eat by themselves, wash hands and mouth before and after eating, brush their teeth, put on clothes, etc, are some life skills you can teach kids in the toddler-preschool years.
As they grow older, you can teach them all about personal hygiene including maintaining cleanliness, washing hair by themselves, trimming nails, treating a wound, taking care of their diet and medication when they are ill, etc.
Self-care includes everything related to body, mind, and surroundings.
Usually, we teach children to take care of their bodies but we do not teach them to take care of their mental health.
Which takes me to the next point.
6. ASKING FOR HELP
Statistics show that the rates of suicide are rising among teenagers. It is increasing because of several factors like stress, difficulty in controlling emotions, inability to deal with challenges, etc.
Kids should be taught about the effectiveness of open communication and asking for help if they can’t cope with any problem they have. They should be taught, not only bodies but our minds can also get sick. They should know that it’s not something to feel shameful about. And there is help available if they ask.
How can we teach them about facing possible mental health issues?
From a young age, never dismiss their emotions as “stubbornness or bad behavior”. Always listen to them, try to acknowledge their feelings and empathize.
This will lead them to build trust in you. They will consider you as their safety net with whom they can open up when they have troubling emotions later in life.
Teach them to observe their feelings and talk about it, no matter how silly they think their problems are. Let them know that they can consult a therapist to treat the difficult emotions if they feel they can’t handle it themselves.
Kids should be taught to identify the symptoms that tell them they are not feeling well and to seek help.
Focusing on making kids independent is good, but at the same time, they must know that there is no shame in asking for help too.
7. HOW TO SAY “NO”
Ha! I wish I learned the basic skill of saying NO to things I didn’t want to do, earlier in my life.
When you are afraid to say NO to people because of the fear of disappointing them, you become a people pleaser.
It can lead us (or kids) to take on too much stress than we can handle. Learning to say NO and teaching it to kids help them learn how to set priorities in life and guard their time.
Young kids should be taught about “good touch” and “bad touch” too. They must know that there are people with “wrong intentions” in the world. And should be taught the tactics to keep themselves safe if they have to deal with such people.
8. COPING WITH FAILURE
When I look around, I see parents who encourage kids to race with their peers. The intention may be to encourage kids to achieve a result that parents want, but it builds an unnecessary competitive spirit in them.
It makes them feel bad when they are not able to win. Coping with failure is an important skill that kids and adults should learn.
I believe there is nothing called failure in life, but only lessons. When they become disappointed about a goal that they couldn’t achieve, sit with them and help them understand what went wrong. They should know that it’s not the end of the world and they could approach the problem in a different way.
9. MONEY MANAGEMENT
Teach children how to handle money wisely so that they learn good money habits that will serve them well into adulthood.
The basics like saving money, budgeting and good spending habits will make them adults who are responsible with money.
Parents can utilize every opportunity to teach kids about money. Let them know about how hard you work to earn money and how you have to keep expenses below your income so that you can stick to your budget.
Let them know that everything costs money to buy and we should spend money carefully and save the rest so that we can live without debt.
10. ORGANIZATIONAL SKILLS
Teaching kids about organizing their belongings is a must.
You don’t want an avalanche of clothes to fall upon you when you open your kid’s wardrobe. And worse, is the call for help. “Mom, did you see my book? Or “Mom, I can’t find the other sock”.
Children seem to firmly believe that moms know where their stuff goes into hiding.
Face the craziness or teach them the basic organizational skills for which they will thank you later in life.
Teach them how having a fixed space for each of their belongings and how putting everything in its place make their life easier. Buy them organizational shelves and bins in their room and teach them to put everything in its place.
11. GOAL SETTING
School taught us so many things, but I never learned the basic life skill to succeed in life from formal education: which is, setting goals.
Why is teaching goal-setting important?
Goal setting helps kids to gain clarity on the exact steps they need to take to achieve their dreams.
They learn how to work for their goals step-by-step by prioritizing their time and exploiting their skills. They don’t need to waste years trying to figure out how to reach where they want to go.
You can start teaching them to set small goals from a young age. And teach them how to go about achieving them. Help them set goals to master the sports skills they want or the goal to get a scholarship for the course they want, etc.
Self-discipline is the key to achieve goals in life. The amount of self-discipline your child has will have an impact on their success in life.
Self-discipline includes doing their tasks without constant reminders. And also to be disciplined about balance and moderation in life. They should be taught to have a balance between study, work, play and other responsibilities in life.
You can teach them this important skill by helping them to form good habits early on. Try to create a structure in their day by helping them develop routines.
From my experience, routines automatically help kids to develop habits and after a certain age, you don’t have to remind them to do their tasks.
Self-discipline should be developed in their behavior also, like, to control anger and laziness.
Related: 8 tips to control anger with kids and be a calm mom
13. SAFETY SKILLS
When they start going out alone, they should know how to stay safe.
Swimming is one safety skill kids should know. Young kids should be taught important phone numbers and they should be given directions on what to do if they ever get lost in a public place.
When kids get older, you can teach them about road safety, be it a bike or a car, whatever they are riding. And the basics of using an automobile like changing flat tires, changing oil, checking air pressure, etc.
Learning a martial art can also help them to protect themselves from undesirable events. Kids should also know the emergency numbers in your country and be aware of how to handle medical emergencies.
14. NAVIGATIONAL SKILLS
Help kids learn about various public transportation systems in your place. And let them have an idea about navigating places using a map or a GPS system.
This will help them to develop the confidence to go to any place in the world on their own.
When you travel with kids, teach them how to read the names and schedules of trains, flights, buses, etc, and which one to take depending on your route. You can tell them “We are taking this bus because that’s gonna take us from point A to point B”.
15. BASIC SEWING
Learning basic sewing skills like stitching a button back when it pops off or sewing a torn seam can help kids to do it on their own.
They can also learn to use a sewing machine to sew simple designs.
16. SOCIAL ETIQUETTE
Kids must know the basic etiquettes of living in a society which includes,
- Showing respect and kindness to others
- Having basic dining etiquette
- Speaking politely to other people which includes saying “sorry” and “thank you” when needed
- Learning effective communication skills
- Knocking on a door before opening it
- Maintaining a non-judgmental attitude to other people’s decisions and choices of living and learning to accept differences when it comes to religion or cultural backgrounds.
- Cleaning up after themselves and doing their part in cleaning their bedroom, bathroom, etc.
- Not going through the private stuff of others
- Not looking at their mobile phones in social settings and when others are speaking to them.
Related: 20 basic social skills all kids need to learn (and how to teach them)
17. RESPONSIBLE INTERNET USE
Smartphones and tablets are not going anywhere. So it makes sense to teach them how to use the internet responsibly.
Kids should be warned about the dangers of games like Blue Whale, Cinnamon Challenge, etc. And also the side effects of porn addiction and too much use of social media.
They should be taught about moderation in using the internet. Let them know all about the good and bad effects of technology. And as said above, kids should be taught to put their devices away when interacting with people and look eye-to-eye while talking.
Related: How to limit screen time for kids ( 8 practical tips)
Thus we come to the end of the list of life skills that kids need to learn. Let me know if you have any suggestion so that I can add to the list.
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