Essential Life Skills for Teens: Preparing for Adulthood

by | Apr 2, 2024 | Parenting | 0 comments

Many of my parent-coaching clients are concerned that their teenage daughters are not adequately prepared for adulthood, particularly in terms of life skills for teens. They are rightfully troubled when they note their teen’s inability (or unwillingness) to take care of basic responsibilities at home and school. They are flummoxed that, despite a variety of support, their daughter continues to fall short in the areas of organization, prioritizing, and ultimately, getting things done. All this while adulthood is just around the corner.  


When I coach parents with these concerns, we focus on creating an environment that will support their teen’s budding independence and a relationship that fosters the development of essential life skills for teens.


We start with an audit. 


I ask parents to consider when they rescue their teen and when they allow her to manage on her own.  Once they have identified the parts of their teen’s life that they still manage, I ask them to choose where they can relinquish control and provide their teen with opportunities to be the director of her life and deal with the outcomes of her choices.   


While teens need support from their parents and other adults, there are things they can do on their own and take responsibility for. Letting go of control is critical in order for teens to develop resilience, responsibility, and self-efficacy, which are crucial life skills for teens.  


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I often share this wisdom from Julie Lythcott-Haims, author of How to Raise an Adult:  “Self-efficacy means having the belief in your abilities to complete a task, reach goals, and manage a situation. It means believing in your abilities—not in your parents’ abilities to help you do those things or to do them for you.”


There are several other key practices that promote self-efficacy, responsibility, and resilience: 


  • Show, don’t tell. 

Instead of telling your teen that she needs to make her doctor’s appointments, manage a checking account, or even make a meal, show her how to do so.  I meet a lot of teens who want to take on adult responsibilities, but they hold themselves back because they don’t know how.  Explicit how-tos go a long way.  


  • Develop systems.

When it comes to organization, time management, and prioritizing your teen may need to learn a system.  For example, when it comes to organization, your teen may need to be shown different ways to stay organized. Some of my teen clients have found that color-coded folders help organize school assignments. For time management, a physical planner or an online calendar can help keep them organized.  For prioritizing, they almost always need to learn how to identify the most important tasks.  Depending on the task, teens may choose to prioritize by due dates, by the perceived difficulty of the task, or by their level of enjoyment. Share different approaches and encourage your teen to practice one for two or three weeks. After that, discuss what worked and what didn’t and troubleshoot from there. 


  • Prepare, don’t protect 

As you let go of managing aspects of your teen’s life and start teaching her systems and life skills, take a step back. Trust that you have equipped her to face life, and its challenges, on her own. Try to resist jumping in at the first signs of struggle because it is in the hardship that she will develop resilience and confidence in her abilities.  You can let her know you are there to support her, by talking things through and helping her determine her best next steps and desired outcomes, but empower her to take action. 

Five Ways to Build Your Daughter’s Confidence and Self-Esteem – Free Parenting Webinar

Preparing your teen for adulthood requires teaching, guiding, letting go, and meeting your teen where she is. As you do, honor her effort and highlight her progress. This will help her develop a growth mindset and awareness of how they can take charge of their future! 


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