Teaching your kids the right skills as they grow instils confidence and resilience around everything from becoming financially literate to looking after themselves and being able to bounce back from disappointment.
It’s why one survey has found that almost nine in 10 parents said they thought being taught life skills was more important in adult life than algebra.
The research of 1,000 parents of kids aged 11-16 also revealed parents wish they had been taught an array of skills such as how to save money, look after their mental health, and speak publicly. With that in mind, here are the top life skills to teach your kids.
Some of the most essential life skills for kids:
Mental health management
Financial literacy skills
Taking on challenges
Standing up for yourself
- Delaying gratification
- Being a good friend
- Dealing with failure
- Money management
- Household chores
- Handling stress
Life skills to teach 7 - 10-year-olds
Making a decision and standing by it is a life skill that all children need. Primary school children can grasp it with choices around what they want for dinner, which book they want to read and even when they want to do their homework. Choices within choices are the best way to help them make informed decisions that weigh up what they want.
Research from Cambridge University has found that by the age of seven, most children have grasped how to recognise the value of money and to count it out. By this age, they will also understand that money can be exchanged for goods. For this reason, says Sue Atkins, Family Parenting Expert and author of Parenting Made Easy, “Pocket money, regardless of the amount, can help to teach children to make choices, save up, and learn to wait for things they want.”
Looking after themselves
Health and hygiene are key life skills that all kids need to learn. From brushing their teeth to washing their hands to wearing clean clothes - learning to look after themselves is crucial to their development and ability to do things independently.
Helping children to understand why they need to delay gratification can start early with simple requests, such as waiting to speak when someone else is talking, saving treats for the end of the day, and being patient when they ask for something. All these requests help them understand how to control their impulses for a better reward later. Also says Sue Atkins, “Help them understand how they are exposed to the power of advertising all the time, and it has a very strong influence on them, so it’s important to explain how advertising can make them want things that they don’t really need or can’t really afford.”
The best way to teach your child this skill is for them to learn through small tasks completed in short blocks of time. Age-appropriate chores around the house can help here, as you can set start and end times.
Standing up for themselves
One of the best ways to teach your kids how to stand up for themselves is to encourage assertiveness with role play. This means getting them to practise speaking up for themselves in various situations, at school, at home and with friends.
Knowing how to express their needs confidently is the key to good communication skills. Show your child how to do it by encouraging them to be clear when they ask for something.
Being a good friend
Studies have shown friendship has a positive effect on mental and physical health, school performance, and self-esteem. Therefore, teaching your children how to be a good friend and develop friendships is essential to their overall well-being. Talk to them about what being a good friend means.
How to stay safe
You may have already talked about personal safety and how to stay safe online but it’s essential to also talk to your children about trusting their gut feelings and knowing what to do when they feel something might be wrong.
How to deal with failure
No one likes to lose, come last or get a bad mark on a test. However, failure happens, and it’s vital to teach kids that they can cope, move on and focus on what to do next.
Life skills to teach 11 - 14-year-olds
No kids love to do chores, but understanding why chores need to be done when you are part of a household is important for the future. Up the incentive for your kids by helping them earn for extra chores outside of their usual remit.
Building their money skills is essential to making your child financially literate. Money management is about budgeting, saving and understanding how to make the most out of pocket money. GoHenry can help with these money skills with Money Missions bite-sized lessons to build financial literacy and confidence.
Organisational skills are essential for teens as they need to know how to prioritise, so they can feel in control of their lives and set and achieve goals. Help them to set routine as this gives a sense of security and control. When life is well organised at home, children begin to see how this benefits them.
Resilience is the ability to bounce back during difficult times. Kids and teens can build resilience by being encouraged to try again, and working on understanding that school, work and relationships can be challenging.
Taking on challenges
Kids also need healthy challenges to develop and mature. Encouraging them to face and take up challenges helps them to become confident and independent as well as acknowledge their abilities.
Teaching your child to be responsible is another life skill that helps them become confident decision-makers who can accomplish tasks for themselves. Start by giving your child age-appropriate chores to do every day. Show them how to do a job, then let them get on with it – and resist the temptation to keep reminding them!
How to handle stress
Life can be stressful, and stress can be harmful when kids aren’t shown how to manage it. Teach kids the strategies that help limit stress, such as how to get ready the night before, how to leave enough time for revision before exams, and when to take a break when they feel tired.
Empathy is the ability to understand the emotions of others. It’s an essential life skill as it teaches kids to reflect and think about their behaviour. To help them understand this, talk about feelings in real-life situations and use examples in their own lives.
All kids need to learn how to cook, not only for their confidence but as an extension of being able to look after themselves when you aren’t around. Not only does it teach them to be self-sufficient but also how to stay healthy.
With puberty comes a desire for more privacy. This makes it even more important to talk to teens about personal grooming and hygiene. Explain the importance of keeping their bodies clean and caring for their skin and hair, alongside dealing with bodily changes.
Life skills for teens 15 - 18-year-olds
Critical thinking is the ability to use available evidence to form an opinion. It’s something this age group is used to doing academically but often needs to be translated into real life. Encourage your teen to practise making choices. Give them pocket money and allow them to decide how to spend it. This requires your child to think critically about choices and the consequences before they make a decision.
Finding a job
Job hunting is another skill to teach your teens. Alongside how to find a job, show them how to complete a job application, and what to expect in an interview.
Following on from money skills and money management, now is the time to teach your teen about financial planning skills. GoHenry can help with Money Missions which are bite-sized lessons on areas like investing, borrowing and credit and spending wisely.
Looking after themselves
One life skill teens should learn is how to take care of themselves and their health. This includes knowing when to go to the doctor, what a prescription is, what’s good for their health and how to handle their own health emergencies.
As we know, work life is very different to school life, so teens need to know what’s appropriate and what isn’t. Talk about time management, organisation and motivation. A part-time job can help prepare your teen for the world of work.
Goal-setting skills are essential life skills. Teach your teen to set goals, such as saving for something they want. Then, talk about how they can reach that goal and set a time frame to help them stay motivated.
Conflict Resolution is a crucial lesson, especially as no one can be expected to agree on everything at all times. It’s vital for your child to learn to deal with conflict in a healthy way. Teach them to be in charge of their emotions, so they can communicate their needs and seek a compromise.
Basic household management
When teens leave home, they need to know more than how to do simple chores. Teach your teen how to register for utilities, what council tax is, how to pay bills, and how to do simple repairs. Additionally, make sure they know how to do their laundry.
A study from the World Economic Forum shows that young workers lack the “soft skills” needed for success in the workforce. Soft skills are how you interact with others, such as good listening, teamwork, and respecting other people’s views. Be a good role model at home for these skills to show your teen why they are essential in life.
Mental health management
Knowing how to manage stress and anxiety is an important life skill for teens who are almost ready to venture into the world without you. Talk about coping mechanisms, what can make mental health worse, managing emotions, and when to seek further help.
How GoHenry can help
GoHenry is a prepaid kids’ debit card that can help kids in several ways. Not only does it give kids the independence to use a debit card in the real world, but it also helps them learn about the value of money and how to make smart financial decisions. It teaches them about money management and the importance of tracking their spending, and also allows them to set savings goals.