Life Skills for Teens

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By Kim Jaworski, Homeschool Resource Specialist

If you have teens (and if you don’t yet, you soon will – it seems to happen overnight), you will want to be sure to include life skills in their learning line up. Some of this used to be called Home Ec or Shop class, but those never seemed to really cover the skills in a real life way.

Cooking- how to follow a recipe, not just directions on a box, and the lingo that goes with it. The Cooking shows on TV help with learning the difference between chopped, grated or minced. It’s a good idea to also point out how to know if fruits or veggies are ripe or damaged. The first section of the Betty Crocker cookbook covers a lot of basic food prep skills and is a nice starting point. Also talk about how to know if food has gone bad. WHat needs refrigeration and what can be safely stored on a shelf in the pantry, and for how long. The life you save could be your own, if your child one day invites you to dinner at their place. Community Ed programs often have cooking classes, and they can be a fun way to pick up some new skills and recipes. 

Cleaning- the basics for cleaning dishes, the house, rugs, appliances, THE BATHROOM, and how to disinfect something, or remove lime deposits. Also talk about what cleaning chemicals should not be mixed. 

Laundry- talk about the different settings on both machines. Talk about what happens if you use too much soap or softener, as well as how to treat stains. 

You’ll also want to have some rather in depth conversations on things like banking, credit cards and budgeting for a household. But I think it's also important to cover basic plumbing and electrical systems and what to do in an emergency (how to shut off the water to the whole house or just one fixture, or how to shut off power to the whole house or just one room). A bit of car maintenance is a good idea, too, and hashing over car insurance and the different kinds and coverages. And talk about how to hire a repair person when you need one—for cars, appliances or anything else.  There are great books on how appliances work. It doesn’t hurt to have your teen understand the basics of each appliance including the furnace and air conditioner. If nothing else, it helps you communicate with the repair person in a meaningful way.

I also had each of my sons do a mock apartment hunt. We looked through apartment listings and compared amenities and what utilities and services were included or not. We talked about what to consider about location (safety, parking, public transportation, bike paths, convenience to job, shopping, church and parks). We talked about the differences between having an apartment in a larger complex, vs renting a house with others, or an upstairs apartment from the home owner. This included talking about the Renter’s credit, and how property taxes are part of any rent payment. And you’ll want to talk about renter’s insurance and the ins and outs of leases. You can find boiler plate leases online- so read through one with your teen. Talk about deposits and what makes them refundable or non-refundable. 

In your coverage of Health/Wellness, be sure to cover nutrition, healthy lifestyle choices, when to see a doctor, when to get to the Emergency room, and what Urgent Care and Minute clinics are for. A few years from now, your child could be living in another state. You want to cover these issues before there's an emergency in the middle of the night. Talk about food poisoning, flu, strep throat, etc. Go ahead and sign up for the Red Cross's first aid class and CPR! You'll sleep better knowing the kid has a clue about this stuff. There's also an infant first aid and CPR class. Your child will one day have children, too, or babysit for some other child. More knowledge about what can go wrong and what to do in a crisis is a good thing. 

In our Life Skills category, we also watched Rick Steves’ program on savvy traveling. Sooner or later, your child will travel without you, and you want them to be careful, respectful and safe. Making sure you’ve covered the basics together gives them a great start. Take a few trips using public transportation (busses, light rail, taxi) so your child doesn't have to attempt these things in a new city alone some day. 

You've probably taught American Govt 101, but be sure to take your child along when you vote. Young adults are more likely to vote if they ever went along when their parents voted and they have some idea how the actual process works at the voting site. Watch the SChoolhouse rock video about the electoral college, so they understand the bigger process, too.  If you haven't watched Schoolhouse Rock how a bill becomes a law, add that to your list, too. 

Finances- talking about budgeting is one thing, but now you need to dig in and explain taxes. Talk about exemptions and deductions and how and when to file. Federal and State. Talk about 401Ks and investment options. Be sure to have a conversation about who to take advice from and who NOT to. Maybe take an investments class together to through community ed or check out some online sources. Your bank or credit union might also have little workshops.  Talk about mortgages and credit scores and property taxes. 

Another important topic is getting a job. How to job hunt, resumes, interview tips, how to dress professionally. Talk about office politics and how to steer clear of it. Chat about benefits packages and how to compare them. Talk about working hard to get ahead, but being aware of when a boss might be taking advantage of you and piling on more work than is fair. How to have boundaries, and how to know when it's time to leave a job or start looking for a better position. 

It doesn't hurt to spend some time on Laws: Privacy laws, parking laws, trespassing laws, motor vehicle laws. Tenants' rights, human rights, and what to do next if someone is infringing on your rights. 

That’s my list for Life Skills. I’m sure you’ll add more to it.  We want our kids educated and informed as they head out into the world on their own. And that day is just around the corner.