Adolescence is a time of significant change, physically, intellectually, socially, and emotionally. The challenges can be overwhelming.
This is when teens explore who they are and who they want to be.
They need to figure out how they fit in with their peers, while also dealing with increased academic demands in school and pressure from parents.
Developing critical life skills will help them navigate the world around them.
What Are Life Skills?
According to the World Health Organization, life skills are the ability to respond positively and adaptively to the demands and challenges of everyday life1.
In other words, life skills are the abilities, knowledge, and skills we need to accomplish our daily responsibilities, reach our goals, and maintain positive mental health.
For adolescents to have healthy development and be prepared for the future, life skills are vital2.
Why Are Life Skills Important For Teens?
As young people face the realities of life, they need life skills to function confidently and competently for successful living.
Primary life skills are different from daily living skills such as planning a daily schedule, fixing healthy meals, keeping track of credit card spending, or paying bills on time.
While these are independent living skills kids need to have before moving away from home, they are not enough.
In order to lead a successful and healthy life, adult life skills go beyond becoming independent.
Essential life skills are broader skills for teenagers to solve problems, protect themselves, improve their health, and form positive relationships.
When faced with difficulties or critical situations, teens can weigh the pros and cons, find solutions, and make sound decisions.
Good life skills contribute to the prevention of drug abuse, sexual violence, teenage pregnancy, HIV/AIDS, and suicide3.
Education aimed at developing crucial life skills has produced the following impacts:
- Fewer violent behavior
- More pro-social behavior
- Less negative, self-destructive acts
- Increased ability to plan ahead
- Effective problem solving
- Enhanced self-image and self-awareness
- Better behavior and self-control
- Handing interpersonal problems
- Coping with anxiety
- Conflict resolution with peers
3 Types of Core Life Skills
In 2014, the United Nations General Assembly designated July 15 as World Youth Skills Day to recognize the importance of equipping young people with essential skills.
The United Nations and the World Health Organization have identified ten critical skills that are essential for teen development. They are broadly classified into three categories: thinking skills, social skills, and emotional skills.
Thinking skills include self-awareness, critical thinking, creative thinking, problem-solving, and decision-making skills.
Self-awareness refers to the ability to recognize an individual’s strengths and weaknesses. Teenagers can discern opportunities and dangers when they are aware of their capabilities and limitations.
Critical thinking is the ability to gather relevant information to solve problems or make decisions. It involves evaluating the consequences of their current actions as well as those of others.
Another important thinking skill is creative thinking. A creative mind is capable of coming up with alternative solutions to difficult situations to achieve a better outcome.
To develop problem-solving skills, teens must use their analytical skills to evaluate situations critically and consider alternatives before acting.
Social skills include effective communication skills, empathy, and interpersonal relationships.
Effective skills in communication allow teenagers to understand others and avoid miscommunications.
Communicating effectively verbally and non-verbally, listening actively, expressing feelings, and providing feedback are all part of this process.
Negotiation skills such as the ability to refuse and be assertive are also necessary and mastering language skills and conversation skills facilitate their success.
Another key social life skill is empathy, which involves listening to and understanding another person’s feelings and needs.
Respecting others and cooperating in teams will help adolescents develop close interpersonal relationships and be accepted by society.
These relationship-building skills lay the foundation for a good social and romantic life5.
Stress management and emotion regulation are vital social-emotional skills for youth.
The day-to-day life of a teenager is filled with numerous stresses, including school and academic stress, peer pressure, criticism, and other factors.
Managing stress and coping with anger, grief, and anxiety are skills that help teens develop self-esteem6.
These emotional skills can be developed through a positive attitude and relaxation techniques.
How to Teach Your Teenager Life Skills
From the time our children were babies, we taught them how to follow instructions and obey us.
Children need these everyday living skills in order to function in their daily life.
However, most parents fail to teach their children how to think.
During adolescence when teenage children are more prone to impulsive behavior, thinking skills are what can prevent them from making risky decisions.
This is why teaching your child complex skills such as thinking and regulating is so important.
Teach, not tell, them what to do
Children learn to think through everyday interactions.
Teaching children why they should do something is more effective than telling them what to do.
For example, instead of “you need to do your homework”, ask them “what will happen if you don’t do your homework?”
Teach them to think through the reasoning and the consequences7.
They will not get any points for the assignment. They may fail the class. They may not be able to graduate to the next grade or getting poor grades will hurt their chances of getting into college. Without advanced education, it will be harder to find a good job and live a comfortable life.
Having the consequences explained in this way takes much more time than saying “because I said so.”
However, by considering the consequences of their actions, your child will be able to make better decisions.
Many parents assume that their children know the consequences and intentionally make poor choices.
But if parents don’t explicitly discuss the consequences, their children won’t know how to take the issue into consideration.
It has been found that different parenting styles have different impacts on life-skills development.
A university study involving 660 freshmen found that parental responsiveness was associated with better interpersonal communication, decision-making, health maintenance, and identity development8.
You may find that some children don’t care about consequences when you attempt to teach them. When this happens, there is usually a problem in the parent-child relationship, which must be addressed before they will listen to your teaching9.
Check out How to strengthen parent-child relationships.
Use natural consequences that aren’t dangerous to teach
Punishing is one of the most common ways to strain a parent-child relationship.
Punishment is not needed to teach teens life skills.
Teaching without punishment works.
For instance, you don’t need to be punished for reading and learning from this article.
But it may appear to be ineffective to parents who are not patient.
Children learn more slowly than adults because their brains are still developing and they lack life experiences to help them learn.
Teach them patiently. Let them experience the natural consequences if they are not a danger to anyone’s safety or personal health10.
- 1.Prajapati R, Sharma B, Sharma D. Significance Of Life Skills Education. CIER. Published online December 22, 2016:1-6. doi:10.19030/cier.v10i1.9875
- 2.Holt NL, Tink LN, Mandigo JL, Fox KR. Do youth learn life skills through their involvement in high school sport? A case study. Canadian Journal of Education. 2008;31(2):281–304.
- 3.McDonell JR, Limber SP, Connor-Godbey J. Pathways Teen Mother Support Project: Longitudinal findings. Children and Youth Services Review. Published online July 2007:840-855. doi:10.1016/j.childyouth.2007.01.001
- 4.Yankey T, Biswas UN. Life Skills Training as an Effective Intervention Strategy to Reduce Stress among Tibetan Refugee Adolescents. Journal of Refugee Studies. Published online March 20, 2012:514-536. doi:10.1093/jrs/fer056
- 5.Tuttle J, Campbell-Heider N, David TM. Positive Adolescent Life Skills Training for High-Risk Teens: Results of a Group Intervention Study. Journal of Pediatric Health Care. Published online May 2006:184-191. doi:10.1016/j.pedhc.2005.10.011
- 6.Yadav P, Iqbal N. Impact of life skill training on self-esteem, adjustment and empathy among adolescents. Journal of the Indian Academy of Applied Psychology. 2009;35(10):61-70.
- 7.Pettit GS, Bates JE, Dodge KA. Supportive parenting, Ecological Context, and Children’s Adjustment: A seven-Year Longitudianl Study. Child Development. Published online October 1997:908-923. doi:10.1111/j.1467-8624.1997.tb01970.x
- 8.Slicker EK, Picklesimer BK, Guzak AK, Fuller DK. The relationship of parenting style to older adolescent life-skills development in the United States. YOUNG. Published online July 1, 2005:227-245. doi:10.1177/1103308805054211
- 9.Riesch SK, Anderson LS, Krueger HA. Parent-Child Communication Processes: Preventing Children’s Health-Risk Behavior. J Specialists Pediatric Nursing. Published online January 2006:41-56. doi:10.1111/j.1744-6155.2006.00042.x
- 10.Bell S. Project-Based Learning for the 21st Century: Skills for the Future. The Clearing House: A Journal of Educational Strategies, Issues and Ideas. Published online January 29, 2010:39-43. doi:10.1080/00098650903505415