10 Life Skills Your Child Should Acquire By High School

Is your child about to enter the crucial ‘high school phase.’ Make sure that she has acquired all the skills that will help her transition into adulthood successfully.

By Aruna Raghuram

10 Life Skills Your Child Should Acquire By High School

Children acquire life skills mostly in their preteen and teenage years. The practical, cognitive, social and emotional skills they learn, not only ease their transition in to adulthood but also enable them to lead healthy and productive lives.

The World Health Organization (WHO) defines life skills thus - 'The abilities for adaptive and positive behaviour that enable individuals to deal effectively with the demands and challenges of everyday life.' While education gives children knowledge, it does not necessarily equip them with essential life skills. So, they need to be taught by parents.

The high school years

“Social scientists are realising that many of our adult outcomes can be traced back, at least in part, to our experiences in high school,” says Robert Crosnoe, a sociologist at the University of Texas at Austin who conducted a seven-year study of the adolescent social scene. No doubt, high school is an experience that is an integral part of your child’s life. And, acquiring these life skills can help him handle this stage of his life more positively, in terms of academics, identity building and social life.

Regarding this, the National Institute of Mental Health and Neurosciences (NIMHANS) in Bengaluru developed a life skills education (LSE) programme for adolescents. A study assessing the programme found that the adolescents in the LSE programme had significantly better self-esteem, possessed adequate coping mechanisms, adapted better (specifically with teachers) and displayed prosocial behaviours.

So, here are 10 core life skills that children will benefit from by the time they reach high school. Read on to know why they are important and how you, as parents, can help your children build these skills.

Core life skills

Managing money: Learning how to manage money wisely will make children financially responsible adults. They will learn how to live within their means and avoid getting into debt.

  • What you can do: Give your child a fixed sum every month for her expenses and teach her to make a budget to handle them. She should learn how to save for long-term, such as paying for a trip with friends, or short-term, like buying a new dress.

Housekeeping skills: Knowing how to cook a simple meal can be very useful. Home-cooked meals are healthier and cheaper than eating out. Teach your child a few easy and healthy recipes. He should also know the basics of nutrition and food safety.

  • What you can do: Give your child chores like doing the laundry, cleaning the house, doing the dishes and taking out the trash. Several studies have found that kids who do chores have better relationships with their families and friends, and perform better academically, apart from being more self-sufficient.

Time management: How we manage our time in a day determines what we achieve. Having good time management skills will be an asset for your teen as she enters adulthood and later, when she starts working.

  • What you can do: Teach your child to organise her time using a simple timetable or planner. Developing a routine makes it easier to manage time. Lack of organisation is one of the factors that leads to poor time management. Following the simple rule of a place for everything and everything in its place, can ensure that she never wastes time looking for things.

Decision-making skills: These skills help individuals move through life with purpose. These include goal-setting and planning how to achieve these goals by prioritising tasks. They also involve taking responsibility for one's actions. Having the presence of mind to handle emergencies is also a part of this skill set.

  • What you can do: Give your child an opportunity to plan, shop for and cook a simple meal. Another activity you could do is to ask him to list and discuss all the big decisions he will have to make over the next 10 years – college, career, car, apartment, city to live in, marriage and children.

Problem-solving skills: Your child should not have to come to you for help. every time she has a problem. You can equip her with the skill to find solutions on her own. The SODAS system (Situation, Options, Disadvantages, Advantages and Solutions) is a useful technique to teach her how to solve problems. According to a survey conducted by the American Psychological Association, 31 per cent of teens feel overwhelmed due to stress.

  • What you can do: Guide your child on how to handle stress. Getting enough sleep, staying physically active and making time for recreation are crucial in this regard. Ensure that he does not overschedule. Knowing how to handle failure can go a long way in reducing stress.

Communication: This is a critical skill that your child will need to master both in her personal and professional life. Good manners, a ready smile and willingness to listen, will ensure she is able to communicate effectively and collaborate with others.

  • What you can do: Encourage your child to develop public-speaking skills. This knowledge will come in handy when she makes a presentation. Knowing how to write an effective email is also a vital skill today.

Critical thinking: Your child should learn to think for himself without being swayed by peers, society or media.

  • What you can do: Get your child and his friends debating about teen-friendly ethical issues. This is one way you can help him develop critical thinking skills.

Self-awareness: A sense of self involves an understanding of your personality, beliefs, values, strengths and weaknesses.

  • What you can do: Encourage your child to indulge in periods of quiet reflection and introspection. Give her a journal to record her thoughts and feelings. Motivate her to take up an unfamiliar activity as this will help her discover hidden talents. As she gets to know herself better, she will also develop the ability to cope with loneliness that is a very important skill needed for independent living.

Empathy: Having a sense of empathy can help youngsters understand and accept others who may be very different from them. At every opportunity, induce feelings of compassion for others in your child.

  • What you can do: Encourage your child to help the underprivileged in some way. Ensure that he does not indulge in bullying. Foster cognitive empathy through reading.

One of the most important ways you can help your child build his life skills is by not micromanaging his life. Stop being overprotective and give him responsibilities. And, if he resists, play the independence card. Tell him he will have to learn a skill to become independent. Also, keep the communication lines open so that he could come to you for help if he runs into difficulties.

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