14 Basic Life Skills For Kids To Master Before Adulthood

Whether you homeschool or not there are some basic life skills you should aim to teach your children before they reach adulthood.

While formal mainstream education prepares them for the workplace it’s our job as parents to prepare them for life – and everything it throws at you.

Luckily, many of these life skills can be taught and built upon from a young age which should, in turn, leave you with compassionate, caring, self-maintaining adults when your kids turn 16.

I’m excited to be sharing you the exact life skills I teach my children, as well as how (in some cases this is broken down by ages/ability) and why.

1. Communication

Human communication is the first and most fundamental skill every parent has to teach their child regardless of age. Your child must know how and when to speak ideally before starting school.

Teaching your child the most effective means of communicating wants and needs is vital and one of the best ways is by simply spending time with them.

There are a number of articles and activities that you can use to learn how to teach your child to talk, however, the pace at which a child grasps the art of communication can vary significantly.

Of course, as your child gets older it’ll be your job to teach them about matters of opinion and feelings. How what one person says can negatively or positively impact someone and how to cultivate positive working relationships.

Moving into the teen years you’ll be able to teach them more about non-verbal communication. This in my opinion is incredibly difficult to teach, however, I’ve found some fantastic resources online to help.

2. Focus & Self-Control

You can’t and won’t always be there 24/7 to watch your child. As a result, you should teach them what to expect from their peers and how to react accordingly.

Never forget that as a parent, you have to lead by example because children naturally pick up everyday habits from their parents.

There are a number of games and techniques that can be used to create focus and self-control in children from a young age.

I found this article was particularly helpful when we were struggling with our youngest child.

3. Self-Defense 

Self-defense is about more than simply learning how to fight. These classes are key to keeping your children safe as they move into adulthood and can help teach your children additional skills such as teamwork, communication and self-discipline.

Some schools have a self-defense program, however, if yours don’t or you homeschool there are plenty of self-defence classes available. You can often find one using Google, Facebook groups or by asking local friends and family.

4. Healthy Living & First Aid

There’ll no doubt be times when your child gets hurt or injured while playing. I’ve therefore ensured that all my children have a basic understanding of how to apply emergency treatment to themselves. 

My older children (six and upwards) also know the basics of how to disinfect a wound, use bandages, and the health benefits of good sanitation. You can easily partner these life lessons with a science class to emphasise and engage your children further.

5. Responsibility 

Doing everything for your child may be satisfying in the short term, however, you could also be doing your child an injustice.

Teaching your children how to make decisions, take a stand, and bear the consequences of their actions is part of the duty of a parent. Even if it causes them to shed a few tears or be at odds with you for a while.

As they grow older, involve them in more action: from packing their school bags to doing their laundry and homework.

While teaching these lessons does take some patience to begin with it will soon pay dividends by reducing the amount of time you have to spend doing things for them and allowing you to contribute to the household equally as a family unit.

As your children get older you’ll want them to be able to complete tasks independently. Ensure the child has enough knowledge and confidence to complete the project start to finish. Some of the tasks we’ve featured in our household include;

  • Making their bed
  • Tying shoelaces
  • Getting dressed for school
  • Completing homework

Your child may not be able to complete all projects independently on their first go. However, that’s part of the learning process and should allow for additional life lessons provided the failure and resolution are well managed.

I’ve covered more of these household responsibilities both below and in my post how to homeschool and keep your house clean.

6. Managing Time

While this may seem somewhat trivial I know a number of people who even in adulthood, still make a mess of keeping to time. There’re a lot of benefits to be derived from punctuality, meeting deadlines, and doing what you have to do on time.

Therefore teaching your child how to work with time, let them know when to play, and when to work is essential.

Depending on the age of your child you can implement time management in a number of ways including storytelling (this book is fantastic!), or using alarm clocks.

7. Decision Making 

They say only time will tell if we’ve made the right or wrong choice. As true as that may be, right or wrong choices don’t always have to depend on their outcome.

You can make a reasonable choice and still have an unfavorable result. Teaching your child the difference and why it’s important they make sensible choices when faced with a dilemma.

Life is a journey and there’s a lot of important decisions to be made, such as life partners and courses of study. Start by teaching them how to weigh the benefits and consequences of their decisions before making them.

You can tell them to choose between two pairs of shoes and ask why they arrived at that decision. No matter your strategy, understanding how your child thinks and helping them to improve their thought process is paramount.

8. Managing Money

I can not understate the importance of teaching your child about money, it’s value and how to manage it. I know many incredibly well-educated adults who didn’t learn the art of managing their money and therefore despite their high flying job have sleepless nights and are in hundreds of thousands of dollars in debt.

While your child may learn how to count money as part of an educational curriculum, they won’t grasp the relevance of budgeting, planning, and saving without additional learning. This can be done as part of a lesson plan or in day to day life as a family.

9. Grocery Shopping

While your children may have come to the grocery store with you from a young age, consciously going together and teaching your child about what’s involved in grocery shopping is a valuable lesson for them to learn.

On a recent visit to the grocery store with my eldest, we covered the cost of items, how to determine the value of a product (store brands vs premium bands), as well as how to store and use these items is going to require some planning and preparation on your part.

However, as a result, your child will likely be able to eat healthy on a budget, storing items and minimising food waste as they go on to have a family of their own. Looking back to my own childhood this is something I really wish my parents had taught me.

10. How To Cook

Following on from grocery shopping we have learning to cook. Before reaching adulthood your child should know how to make a range of different meals no matter how simple.

We have started this teaching method already with our children and plan to build on it year on year.

To keep children engaged in learning how to cook consider also teaching them how to cook their favourite meal(s) and baking – anything from cakes, to buns to something more complex.

If you want to continue the learning process consider watching a show together such as Be Our Chef on the Disney+ network.

11. Household Chores

I covered this briefly above, however, household chores are certainly a life skill you’ll want to instill in your children before the ‘fly the nest’. Afterall, they’ll likely be going to a college dorm or renting an apartment that they’ll need to keep clean.

I’ve found the best way to implement household chores is by increasing the level of responsibility as the child gets older and simply making it part of our everyday routine.

This does require some patience on your part and will require you to give up any perfectionist traits, however, in return it gives you children who are capable of collaborating with the family on the running of the household.

12. Basic Etiquette

It’s no secret that basic etiquette is something you should aim to instil in your child from the beginning. Of course, the level of this etiquette will increase as they socialise with new people and get used to different scenarios and surroundings.

This includes things such as eating at a restaurant and talking to your elders or teachers. Be sure to help your children understand that all of these etiquettes are part of how a person is perceived and could be decisive in earning people’s respect regardless of the person’s place within society.

13. Adaptability

They say desperate times call for desperate measures. You need to empower your child to become a critical thinker and a problem solver. Let your kid know that some unwanted decisions will be made and they must learn to live with them.

There will be times where you have to move to a new city, a new school, and a new environment. All of that means your child has to make new friends and adapt to new surroundings.

It can be a huge burden on them and that’s why you must always have open and honest communication with your kids. 

14. Competition & Challenges 

Resilience is a very good trait to develop in your child. Teaching your child to both learn from and bounce back from failure is important in their growth.

Balancing this as parents is key and a difficult technique to learn – especially as it’s often adapted depending on your child(ren). From an early age, you’ll find some children take to competition and challenges significantly easier than others.

Luckily this balancing act comes with a lot of support in the form of articles and books. Personally, we’ve found instilling team sports and family game nights to be a great way to introduce competition and the idea of both winning and losing under different scenarios.

15. Maps & Navigation 

While in the car with your children be sure to point out notable places so they get familiar with them. As they get older you can teach them how to use and read a map, or understand the in-car GPS.

When they are old enough, you should also let them get on the bus to school so they know how to commute and buy tickets. Teaching them the time intervals of the train station will also allow them to be able to travel both independently with confidence.

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