It’s our responsibility as parents to prepare our teens to make it in the real world independently of us. However, this doesn’t mean independent of God. Christians realize that life without God in the center doesn’t work. Everything we teach our kids must center around Biblical principles. With this in mind, here are 10 basic life skills teens need in order to live independently of their parents as well as productively for Christ’s kingdom. After all, our mission is to raise world changers!
1. Spiritual Skills
It takes more than church attendance to become a strong Christian.
“Going to church doesn’t make you a Christian any more than going to McDonald’s makes you a hamburger!” ~Keith Green
We must demonstrate spiritual skills to our kids as the Bible directs (Deuteronomy 11:19-21)
Do your kids see you reading your Bible?
Do they know you have a daily quiet time?
Does your family do devotions together?
Do you do service projects as a family?
Do you use everyday situations to teach your kids Biblical principles?
2. Compassion/Acts of Service Skills
Our kids learn best when we include them in what we are doing. Demonstrating compassion to others is a way to teach our children that we are the hands and feet of Christ. There are many ways to teach compassion and acts of service.
To start with, our kids must see that we take care of our own family, friends, and church family when someone is in need. Here are some examples:
- Do a sibling’s chores when she has a cold.
- Take a meal to a new mother at church.
- Pull weeds for Grandma.
We should also tell our kids that God loves diversity and teach them to show compassion to those different than ourselves whether racial, cultural, economic or whatever the case might be.
Make it a family event to serve others in the community or elsewhere.
- Serve at a local soup kitchen or homeless shelter
- Sponsor a child through World Vision, Compassion International or another reputable Christian organization.
3. Emotional Control Skills
God gave us each of us the ability to feel as well as to think. All the academic skills in the world will only get us so far in life. We must teach our kids how to manage their emotions.
We must look for opportunities to teach our kids that it is normal to experience an array of emotions, however, we all have a certain amount of control over those emotions. Emotions serve a purpose. If there is a fire in the house, it is normal to be afraid and run out of the house.
But, sometimes we experience fear and anxiety unnecessarily. It is our job to help them understand the difference.
Everyone will have difficult days at one time or another. We can choose how we respond. Give them healthy examples explaining that intense emotions do not justify misbehavior. Look for teachable moments. Be sure and compliment your child for making healthy choices with their emotions.
It’s also important to explain that we are not in control of what others feel and think. Teach your child that he’s responsible for his own behavior and it’s not acceptable to blame others for his feelings.
4. Social/Communication Skills
Young people watch and learn from people they respect and spend the most time with. We must demonstrate good communication which starts within our home and moves outward.
- Initiate conversations around the dinner table. Ask questions that require more than yes or no. Be willing to share and to listen.
- Teach good listening skills such as, not interrupting and giving visual cues like a nod of understanding.
- Demonstrate how to encourage and show empathy.
- Teach basic respect by saying “please” and “thank you”, opening doors etc.
- When in public (and appropriate), include kids in a conversation.
- Allow your child to order or ask for help from a clerk.
- Teach them how to deal appropriately with conflict at home and outside of home.
5. Financial Skills
Our relationship to money is a big deal. Jesus knew it and spoke about money often. One of the most important skills parents will ever teach our kids is how to handle money. Unfortunately, many teens leave the house with no idea how to create a budget or how to balance a checkbook. Unfortunately, many of them get themselves thousands of dollars into debt in no time.
Teaching about money starts at a young age and continues as long as kids live under our roof. It’s important to let kids practice some of the money lessons that you teach. Give age appropriate allowances. I wrote about this in my last article (click here). Allow them to make mistakes by wasting their money. These are teachable moments. However, be ready to step in and help guide them when they need it. As they become older, this might be an opportunity to let them face the consequences to poor decisions without your intervention.
Take everyday opportunities to teach your kids about money. Explain what you are doing when you use your ATM. Talk to them about sales, coupons, bargain shopping, bills, interest rates, checking and savings accounts. Let them see you paying bills. Show them your family budget. Teach them how to create their own budget and set up a checking account once they have a job.
6. Work Skills
In order to have a work ethic, kids must work. The first place they learn to work is at home.
Give kids age-appropriate chores. I did not pay my kids for routine chores such as cleaning their room. They earned an allowance to teach the value of money by doing jobs like cleaning the garage, weeding and yard work. I kept a chore box where daily chores (excluding Sunday) were written on index cards. This way I could mix it up. Even when our kids became teens and young adults, they were expected to contribute to household chores.
As our kids got old enough, we allowed them to do things such as volunteer work, babysitting, yard work etc.
Each of our kids had jobs at sixteen. We taught them how to look for jobs, fill out an application, how to dress for an interview and even did mock interviews.
7. Household Management Skills
Include your child in doing things such as making a grocery list, shopping, planning for and preparing meals, doing laundry (my kids did their own laundry once they were in Junior high), basic repairs to the house (painting, clogged drain), cars (how to change a tire and oil), yard (sprinklers, fences)—and when to call a professional.
8. Goal Setting Skills
This starts at a young age with small things like finishing a book. As kids grow, teach them to aim for larger goals. It helps to write the goal down and show someone else for accountability. List ways to attain the goal and keep track of progress. This comes in very handy when it’s time to plan for college.
9. Crisis/emergency Skills
Public schools have fire, earthquake and tornado drills for a reason. We must do the same at home. Teach them how to deal with things like a grease fire, serious injury, or natural disasters.
We must also teach our children how to handle a crisis such as a death in the family, or a friend whose parents are getting a divorce.
It is important to tell our kids when it is appropriate to speak to us about something they might think is a secret or when to break a confidence. For example, a friend who might be suicidal. Talk to your kids about the signs. Or perhaps someone who is being bullied.
10. Physical Well-being Skills
Teach your kids that our bodies are the temple of the Holy Spirit (1 Cor.6:19). God values our bodies and so should we.
Remember, kids learn best by example. Demonstrate proper eating, rest, and physical activity. Kids should see that our physical health is important to us.
Prepare healthy meals and snacks as well as do family activities that are physical like hiking, walks, sports etc.
One final note, I feel it is important to regularly make our kids aware of our many blessings. Let them know that God blesses us to be a blessing to others.