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10 Essential Life Skills to Help Your Child Succeed

Children spend twelve years in school to prepare them academically, many going to college as a steppingstone for a career. As a parent, you want them not only to survive the challenging teenage years but thrive and succeed as adults. However, success is not just about being academically successful, career-driven, or financially stable, is it?

The concept of success is also attributed to fulfillment and happiness. Therefore, emphasizing academic performance to safeguard your child’s future is not enough. You must also focus on developing life skills.

Estimated reading time: 5 minutes

Black woman folding laundry with a preschool child. Learning life skills begins at home!What Are Life Skills?

According to the World Health Organization (WHO), life skills refer to the “abilities for adaptive and positive behavior that enable individuals to deal effectively with the demands and challenges of everyday life.”

Life skills are a combination of emotional, social, and cognitive abilities. Children and teens need to be proficient in varied abilities to navigate the technologically advanced and globalized world. And emotional intelligence is also crucial to form healthy relationships in their lives. The goal is for them to become well-adjusted, responsible, and positive-minded adults.

Soft Skills (or Interpersonal Skills) Are Learned— Parents Are You Teaching Them?

Similar to basic cognitive skills, interpersonal and emotional intelligence skills must be learned. And often, fostering these skills in children and teens is not a priority focus for schools.

Therefore, learning life skills must start at home. As a parent, the responsibility falls on you to teach these essential skills to your children and model them consistently until they become part of their child’s habits and frame of mind. That is a sizable onus—especially difficult if your own soft-skills toolbox is lacking.

And understandably, sometimes parents are so busy keeping up with daily demands that being mindful of this growth area can get lost in the shuffle.  However, you can do many little things to assist your children with skill-building that do not require much time. It's more about being present with the intention.

Teenage friends watching something funny on a laptop.

Critical Life Skills to Impart to Your Children and Teens

Let’s review ten essential skills to help your child succeed. Breaking them down individually will assist you in assessing and being more intentional in your interactions with your children.

1. Effective Communication

Communicating clearly and effectively is one of the most basic life skills your child needs to learn and master. Effective communication allows kids to carry out conversations, build wholesome relationships, and express themselves and their emotions in healthy ways.

Nurture your child's conversational skills by regularly communicating with them. Initiate dialogue and conversations around world topics or simply about what they’re learning at school—not just, "Did you get your homework done?" Encourage them to express what they think and identify what they believe. Model and help them regulate their emotions instead of reacting. And empower them to express their thoughts and feelings in various contexts.

2. Positive Perspective

How we see ourselves affects how far we go in life, and in part, how the world treats us. How your child sees themselves (the core of self-esteem) influences how they see their experiences and the world.

Learning how to build high self-esteem from an early age ensures that your children blossom into adults who value themselves. Individuals who value themselves tend to have healthier relationships. They are more resistant to external social pressure and more easily resist bad habits such as drug or alcohol abuse.

If you teach children how to feel good about themselves through a positive perspective, which contributes to high self-worth, they will be able to:

  • defend their beliefs
  • withstand peer pressure
  • hold up against bullying and ridicule
  • take calculated risks
  • believe in themselves
  • utilize their talents and abilities 

Not a bad list of benefits!

Mother and daughter baking in kitchen.

3. Imagination and Creativity

Some adults find it difficult to deal with boredom and the lack of purpose in their lives. They tend to sit and wait for circumstances to change instead of being creative in finding their passions, healthy hobbies, and meaningful activities.

Children, who can use their imagination, are better equipped to solve problems, be independent, and convert boredom into a creative outlet.

Teach your child to use their creativity to solve problems or pursue something fun, exciting, and meaningful. Your job as a parent is not to entertain your children; it’s to teach them to be responsible for their own outcomes and happiness.

4. Empathy

A study of child development reveals it may be normal for young children to have selfish impulses due to brain immaturity. Although children need to know themselves first to develop self-identity, they also will need to develop kindness and empathy toward others as they get older. An empathetic child can grow into a kind and considerate person who sees others as equally valuable.

Empathy refers to the emotional ability to care for other living things. You can help build empathy by providing opportunities for the child to recognize others’ needs and feelings. Helping out in community projects, giving to the less fortunate, and showing appreciation for others are excellent ways to inspire empathy.

In addition to human empathy, it's vital to teach your child to care for the environment, animals, and other living things. 

Empathy is an emotional intelligence ability powerful enough to build the foundation of equality and long-term world peace. If there are more empathetic people in the world, perhaps it will help mitigate some of the issues of discrimination and racism.

5. Resilience to Failure

Some of the wealthiest people in the world experienced many failures before they achieved success. Failure can be a great teacher.

Yet, failure is often uncomfortable, even depressing, and many shy away from it. However, if you shield your kids from failing, you strip them of the opportunity to maximize their potential. No one can reach incredible heights of success if they are afraid of or avoid disappointment and failure.

Therefore, it is important to teach your child resilience, which is the ability to bounce back from failures. Prepare them to cope with defeat and disappointment and let them understand that setbacks are only temporary if they persist in achieving their goals.

6. Smart Money Management

Poor spending and budgeting habits and lack of wealth-building skills can result in severe and prolonged economic hardships for many young adults. Some people stay poor all their lives not because they lack education or work opportunities but because they don’t have impulse control or strong money management skills.

Give your kids a solid understanding of money and its role in daily living. Teach them money managing skills like budgeting and saving. Provide opportunities for them to practice these skills, such as giving them an allowance where they apply a portion to savings, charities, and spending. Or for older children, a clothes allotment.

A child who develops good spending habits and wealth-building skills is on track to become a more financially stable and fulfilled adult.

Teaching responsibility: teen boy helping dad with dishes.

7. Contribution and Responsibility

Many parents overlook the importance of training kids to be contributing family members, which increases a sense of responsibility. Kids can benefit from doing simple tasks or everyday chores on their own. For young children, tasks like dressing themselves or tidying up their toys; for older children, cooking, washing dishes, and cleaning their room, will help prepare children for the realities of adult life.

When children feel capable, it will encourage independence, initiative, and the value of contribution and hard work.


8. Good Manners

Good manners are an important component of your child’s education. Manners, also referred to as etiquette, are the set of behavioral rules deemed acceptable by society. Graceful etiquette allows your child to adjust well to various social situations. Polite manners will encourage self-restraint, discipline, and self-respect. Having proper etiquette inspires respect and gains acceptance and high regard from others.

Some of the good manners you can teach your child include:

  • Table manners
  • Proper greetings
  • Using terms of respect, such as “Miss” or “Ma’am” and “Sir”
  • Saying “please” and “thank you”
  • Conversational courtesies like listening without interrupting others
  • Waiting in queue patiently
  • Treating the elderly or handicapped respectfully
  • Being hospitable to guests

9. Effective Time Management

An adult’s average daily life is filled with tasks and responsibilities to perform, which requires a wise use of time. However, it’s easy to neglect time management, especially when competing with the distractions of technology and social media. Poor time efficiency is often a contributing factor to work-life imbalance, leading to strained relationships, substandard grades, stress, and poor health.

The earlier you teach your child to plan and organize their time, the more successful they will be in balancing their career, health, and personal life as an adult.

For instance, have them list what they want to accomplish in the week and set aside time to achieve their weekly goals. Then at the end of the week, together assess how they did. Isolate the obstacles to achieving their goals and brainstorm strategies to be more productive.

Another simple way to encourage self-management is to have them lay out their school clothes and homework the night before. These little habits assist a child in thinking ahead.
Mother and her teenage daughter talking on the couch.

10. Social Skills

No man is an island. Adults need to deal with, collaborate, and negotiate with individuals of different backgrounds in various social and work settings. Studies show that humans are happier when they have positive and long-term relationships and a strong social network.

Therefore, it is crucial that you, as a parent, help build a child’s social skills so they can interact successfully with others. And your family is a great place to practice. These interpersonal skills will empower them to navigate a diverse world.

These skills include:

  • Cultivating and nurturing friendships
  • Teamwork and being a team player
  • Negotiating skills and conflict resolution
  • Conversational skills alongside active listening
  • Managing differences in culture or race

How Do You Teach Life Skills to Children and Teens?

You can start by researching and studying how your child learns best. Each child has a unique learning style. Helping them understand their temperament and learning style will help create a solid foundation for learning.

Also, most children tend to follow their parents’ behavior. Set yourself as a stellar example. Be mindful of your words and actions as they will impact your child’s self-esteem and learning process. In addition, provide avenues and opportunities for your kids to build and exercise life skills.

Activities like household chores, home projects, caring for a pet, community volunteering, and budgeting are effective ways to provide your child skill-building opportunities. You can also improve teamwork and other social skills through playing family games, involvement in sports, and group activities and clubs outside the home.

Did you find this article helpful? Check out our other favorite parenting articles. For parent coaching, contact us at support@heartmanity.com.

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Guest Blogger: Jasmine GordonGuest Blogger: Jasmine Gordon
Jasmine Gordon is on the editorial team of Juni Learning, a company that teaches children how to code in a fun, relaxed atmosphere.

Posted in Perfectly Imperfect Parenting

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