Teaching Older Children
As your children grow into adulthood, it is
vital that possess key skills and knowledge about various areas of life including money management,
self-care, solving problems and making decisions. The education system teaches
them academic and career skills but who is responsible for teaching them life skills?
As a parent, you will be the principle
teacher of life skills for your children helping them to grow into independent and confident
adults. Many of the skills that we teach our children are taught in a passive way as part of
everyday life and we are not even aware that we are teaching our children. For example, when you ‘baby
talk’ with your infant making sounds back and forth you are teaching your baby the art of conversation and
taking turns at speaking and listening.
In the same way, playing ‘turn taking’ games with young children teaches them
valuable skills for later interaction with others. While it is relatively easy
to teach life skills when you are aware that you are doing so (for example, teaching your young adult how to
use a washing machine) it is very difficult to ensure that we teach good life skills when we are unaware that
we are doing so. The way we live our life and carry out our day to day activities is how we teach our
children life skills by example.
Being conscious of your actions and habits as a parent can be difficult but it
is important that we look at how we live if we want to pass on good life skills to our
Life skills are learnt from us in three ways
– what we teach our children intentionally, how we help them to develop skills by practicing these skills
with them and how we give example or demonstrate good life skills. Let’s look at some of the categories of
life skills that we need to teach our children and young adults.
skills - nourishment, hygiene and everyday living
Young adults should be encouraged and taught
basic cooking skills. These skills are learned at home by watching how parents prepare and cook
an early age, we should get our children involved in helping with preparing food and cooking
of this will be done by example but it is important to also teach your child basic skills such as peeling and
washing vegetables, how to cook vegetables, meat and fish, kitchen hygiene and so
What we eat is also very important in terms
of teaching by example the life skill of good nutrition and healthy eating. If we never cook fresh food
then our children will not learn how to prepare fresh food but will also miss out on the value of good food
for a healthy life. Similarly, when we ourselves eat a healthy balanced diet, we are giving excellent example
to our children to do the same.
In addition to food and nourishment, our
children need to learn skills for everyday living and personal hygiene. For everyday living, our
young people need to know how to do simple but vital tasks such as using a washing machine, hanging out a
wash and ironing garments. Get your young adults involved in helping with these household chores so that they learn
skills such as these. In terms of personal hygiene, we need to teach our children to shower regularly, wash their
hands when required, brush their teeth and mind their oral hygiene and the importance of changing their
clothes and underwear. An adult who lacks in personal hygiene skills can be bullied or excluded in work or social
situations and so it is vital that our young adults understand basic personal
Money Management – managing a budget
Many of us went into adulthood never making
the connection between the food on our plates and how it got there in the first place! The same can be said for
clothes in many peoples cases (particularly the males who’s parents shopped for their clothes), holidays,
presents and so on. Managing money quite often was never part of our responsibility as our parents gave us
money for our needs. Occasionally we may have been warned “it doesn’t grow on trees” but most of the time we
would have ignored that as our parents gave us the money anyway!
Teaching our young adults how to shop is a
very basic start. Before they reached the teens, they have most likely already had plenty of exposure to
shopping with you in the supermarket, butchers, vegetable shop and more. As teenagers, they wouldn’t
dream of going to the supermarket with you! Therefore, it is important
that you get your child involved in helping you with the shopping as often as possible. Helping them to learn how to
recognise items, weigh loose produce, place it in the trolley, handle the check out process and so on, is
teaching them a basic skill of food shopping. While it is often so much
quicker to leave the children with someone and do the shopping alone, it is important that you let them
accompany you as often as possible.
Clothes shopping and shopping for other
items is often learnt from parents as a natural result of children accompanying parents on shopping
trips. Again, try to teach your child how to choose sizes, colours, items that match etc., when
you take the shopping.
Money management is a complicated and
colossal subject in itself. Our young adults need to learn how to manage their money in terms of budgeting for what
they need, saving for larger purchases and resisting buying items that they cannot afford. Yes, these skills are
lacking in many of us – in spite of our ages!
From an early stage, you can help your child
to learn how to manage their money by giving a set amount of pocket money each week and helping them to
decide and manage how they will spend it. For a young adult, this
amount could be given at a weekend when they have completed their chores for the week. Having to complete their
chores teaches a valuable lesson in itself; that is, you have to work for your money! When agreeing how much they
should get, it is helpful to discuss with them the type of activities and expenses that they have and how
they can manage what you give them to enable them to have enough money to manage to do the things that they
would like to do. If you give your teenager certain amount of money per week, they will have to budget how
much they can afford to spend on games or DVD rentals, cinema visits, trips to shopping centres, fast food
outlets and so forth. If they run out of money because they have overspent, then try to leave them with the
consequences of that (e.g. they don’t have money to rent that X-Box game and have to wait until next
should also encourage them to save a little for bigger items or occasions – perhaps save for an upcoming
birthday gift, purchasing something they really want or extra money for family holidays. These skills of learning not
to spend beyond their means and saving for special purchases will be of enormous help to their financial
management in adult life.
and Identifying Options
As a parent, it is often easier to make
decisions for our children rather than letting them decide for themselves. It can save time and we also
are reassured that it is the right decision because ‘we know best’. However, if we are to teach
the valuable life skill of identifying options and problem solving, we must allow children to make decisions
themselves as often as possible on an age appropriate basis.
From an early age, this decision could be as
simple as choosing what colour jumper they want to wear or what toy they want to play
they get older, it may be a choice as to whether they will do their homework as soon as they get home from
school or after they have had some TV time. The basic skill of
identifying their options (i.e. the toy to play with or the time to do homework) and then making a decision
is being learnt and practiced by your child in everyday life if you allow them to be involved in choosing
their options as much as you can.
As your child develops into adulthood, the
choices that they face are more complex and their decisions carry important consequences in many aspects of
example, the choice of certain subjects at school can influence options for third level courses or career
direction. It is important that we as parents realise that it is not our duty to choose the option for
the teenager and impose our decision.
It is on the contrary, our duty to help the teenager to work out what his/her
options are, what the impact of the options will be and how to decide on which option to
should also, where it is possible, help them to recognise how to review their decision and change their mind
or choose an alternative option if they want to. The key to good problem
solving with our teenagers is to firstly, set aside time to chat with your teenager on what the problem
letting them speak first, list out what the choices are in terms of how to solve the
issue. Again, it is important that you let the teenager go first on listing the options and only
add in extra options by suggesting these to the teenager. The third part of the
process is to talk through the options with your teenager and let them identify the impact and outcome of the
various options. When your teenager has had a chance to talk these through with you, let them choose the
option that they want to pick.
It is important then that you agree to chat again after a set period (maybe a
day, week or a month) to see how the option chosen worked and if you and your teenager are happy with how
this is going.
This art of problem solving together not
only teaches your teenager how to identify their options and make a choice, but also how to discuss and
problem solve with other people.
This skill will be useful to your teenager throughout their adult life in
discussing and problem solving in many areas such as work, relationships, parenting and much
Self Care & A Healthy
This is an important skill to teach our teenagers but often one that we neglect in
our own lives. We all know how important it is to have a good work and leisure time
balance. The same applies to regular exercise, sufficient sleep and rest, good nutrition, limited
alcohol intake and not smoking.
Unfortunately, we are often guilty of failing on one or all of the
sure that you demonstrate and lead by example on as many of the items above as possible. It is healthy for your
teenager to see that you have hobbies and interests to encourage them to do the same. It is vital that you lead by
example in terms of minding your health (both mental and physical) by having social outlets, getting regular
exercise and eating well. When you live well and take care of yourself, you are teaching them that it is important
that they do the same. For many of us, we still have not gotten around to teaching ourselves this
Remember, we should be demonstrating
to our teenagers to “do as I do” rather than “do as I say”.