Help Your Teen Build Basic Life Skills

daughter helping mother with dishes
From the WebMD Archives

WebMD Feature from The Jed Foundation (JED).The JED Foundation 

When you think of learning and maturity, you tend to focus on the kinds of things that kids learn in school. Certainly, classroom lessons help kids create a better-informed and deeper sense of themselves and the world.

But there are many practical skills that they absorb more or less automatically and intuitively as they grow up. These are the ones that will help them manage their daily lives. Kids who are about to go off to school need to have a good handle on them. If they don’t, the transition to college and adulthood will be more stressful.

What kinds of skills are we talking about? Let’s start with physical health and safety. When kids are younger, you tell them when to go to sleep and what to eat -- and when. You’re also in charge of their basic physical care.

As they grow older, kids usually assume more control of their health and personal activities. It’s important for them to get comfortable managing their sleep and meal schedules (with input from you). That’s how they learn to make sound decisions.

Over time, kids should take a bigger role in managing their health and health care. They’ll need to be able to make decisions about how to stay safe on campus. They should think about what sorts of situations might expose them to physical risks and dangers and how to avoid them.

As kids mature, their lives become more complicated. School, hobbies, sports, and work can all make demands on their time. You need to help them learn to manage time and set priorities. These organizational skills will help them handle the greater independence and complexity of life that come along with college and adulthood.

Kids also need to learn to take care of their things. As smaller children, maybe they helped keep their rooms or living space in order. As they become more independent, they’ll need to keep track of their belongings, clothes – this will include doing their laundry, money, and electronics.

How can parents help? Be mindful of how your kids are doing when it comes to mastering the basics. Give them progressively greater responsibility as they get older. Let them handle more things on their own as you guide them toward adulthood.

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WebMD Feature from The Jed Foundation Reviewed by Hansa D. Bhargava, MD on September 18, 2017
© 2018 The Jed Foundation, All Rights Reserved.