As a parent, you are in a position where you can help your teen build skills that can influence their entire lives. While many skills are important for your teen to develop, life skills are particularly valuable. Life skills, the skills necessary to function daily, include skills that help your teen to build and maintain relationships, make decisions and plan, and be successful in school and work. However, as a parent, you might wonder how to go about helping your teen to learn and improve these skills at home. Helping your teen to build life skills at home is a combination of structure, support, and allowance that enables them to grow and make these skills their own.
Value of Helping Your Teen Build Life Skills at Home
Adolescence is a very important period of development for your teen. Their brain is developing skills and functions that will play a very important role in their ability to do well in school or work, live independently, and care for their needs as an adult. The foundation of these life skills is executive functioning.
Executive functioning refers to your teen’s ability to plan, make adjustments, and inhibit their impulses, in addition to their working memory. Research shows that in adolescence, your teen is developing this foundation.
Since your teen is in a period of learning executive functions and life skills, practicing these skills at home can be very helpful. When learning a skill, the more time and experience your teen has, the better. As a parent, you can encourage and practice these skills at home where your teen is in a safe and supported environment. In doing so, you are helping your teen build a solid foundation of skills.
Helping Your Teen Practice and Learn Life Skills
Knowing it is important to help your teen improve their life skills at home, and knowing how to help are two different things. Fortunately, there are simple ways to help. As a parent, you can start by leading by example. Then you can help them create a structure to work in. Finally, by focusing on one skill at a time, you can help them develop skills that they can own.
Leading by Example
While your relationship with your teen will vary over time, you can help them learn skills by leading by example. When your teen witnesses you practicing life skills, they see an actual representation of how it looks. For example, developing a schedule for exercise or stress management in your life can make a difference for your teen. When they see you prioritizing and making adjustments, they will see how these skills are important.
As a parent, you might not think your actions matter. However, they do. Even if your teen does not follow suit immediately, they are learning. Life skills take time to develop and practice. Over time, as they watch you and learn, they may begin to slowly see how they can integrate some of these skills into their lives.
During this time of development for your child, they must have some freedom to explore. However, as a parent, you can create a structure that will help them to learn. Creating structure is very different from discipline. While discipline looks to punish a behavior after the fact, which is important at times, creating structure is making a plan for the future. As a parent, you can facilitate the creation and maintenance of this structure as they learn new skills.
Research shows that structure plays a very important role in learning skills. Regardless of the skill, a structure creates parameters. Therefore, it gives your teen guide rails for these skills. For example, consider how you can create structure around a life skill like planning. Sitting down with your teen and developing a structure together is ideal. This might look like creating a time every week when you sit down together to plan out the week. After the week is complete, the structure might also include discussing how their schedule went. Do they want to make adjustments? Were certain things helpful? What worked and what didn’t work?
One Skill at a Time
Many life skills are important for your teen to learn. This commonly is overwhelming for both you and your teen. As a result of feeling overwhelmed, it is normal to not know where to start or try to help your teen learn many skills at the same time. However, this is generally not helpful.
While one skill at a time can seem slow, it is much more effective for your teen’s learning. This is because one skill at a time is attainable. When your teen puts their energy and attention on one thing, they can truly make it a habit. By focusing on one thing, they are taking the time to practice it, making multiple adjustments until it feels natural.
Adolescence is the ideal time for your teen to learn new skills that will help them to be successful now and in the future. Practicing these skills is particularly helpful, as they have you to lean on when they struggle. However, as a parent, it can be difficult to know how to help. Fortunately, there are a few simple ways that you can improve your teen’s life skills. At Sustain Recovery, we work with adolescents who are struggling with mental health, trauma, and addiction. Learning life skills is an integral part of our program. If your teen is struggling, we can help them learn foundational skills for their lives. To learn more, call (949) 407-9052 today.