Life skills are the abilities that help a person meet the demands of life, be healthy and serve as a productive member of the community, according to the World Health Organization. For example, the ability to communicate with peers or bosses, or even preparing food for yourself are vital life skills. By helping a child or teen develop these skills, you prepare her for the future so she can take on responsibilities and cope with the challenges that she may face as an adult.
Thinking skills include problem solving, decision making, critical thinking and creativity. These types of life skills are important as they help a young person make good decisions, evaluate information objectively, explore alternatives and understand consequences. When a child is in preschool, help him strengthen his thinking skills by encouraging him to explore and use his imagination. Kids use sights, sounds, smells and touch to explore and learn about the world. Places such as a park, children's garden or zoo facilitate exploration. Help a child use his imagination by reading to him, playing make-believe, letting him draw or having him help you create a story. As your child gets older, set boundaries and help him understand positive and negative consequences so he can practice making good choices. For example, discuss with him what may happen if he spends his allowance now to buy a toy or saves his money for the future. If your child is a teen, help him learn to deal with problems and emotions in a healthy manner, listen to others and consider the consequences of different actions.
Health-related skills help your child develop a healthy lifestyle by regulating emotions, adopting healthful practices and safe living. In preschool, teach a child about health-related life skills by showing her how and when to wash her hands, having her put away her toys to prevent a tripping hazard, getting her accustomed to regular bathing and teaching her about healthy foods. Throughout a young person's life, discuss water and fire safety and what to do during an emergency. If you have a teen, encourage the young person to exercise. Teach basic cooking skills by having the teenager help you prepare family meals. Add chores such as laundry, taking out the trash, washing dishes and cleaning the bathroom to teach a teen how to maintain a clean, healthy living space as an adult.
Work-related skills are those that will serve a child in and out of the workplace, as well as in high school and college. MacMillan Education, in the publication “MacMillan Life Skills, Language is a Life Skill,” states that work-related skills are soft skills that apply to time management, leadership, teamwork, communication, organization and cooperation. Throughout the childhood and teen years, promote literacy so your child learns to communicate verbally and nonverbally. Do this by letting your child check out books from the library, providing journaling activities, finding a pen pal who is your kid's age and giving your child word puzzles. When your child is in preschool, play games that require taking turns so your child learns to lead and work with others. When your child is a preteen, involve him in preparing his weekly schedule so he begins practicing time management. Encourage leadership and teamwork with your teenager. For example, let him lead or participate in study groups, which require organization, collaboration, compromises and a commitment -- skills needed in the workforce.
Interpersonal Skills and Self-Awareness
Good interpersonal skills are necessary to interact with others positively and maintain healthy relationships. Relationships are essential to an individual’s well-being. Self-awareness relates to recognizing your emotions and knowing your character, strengths, weaknesses, likes and dislikes. By combining self-awareness with good interpersonal skills, a young person can develop empathy for others, connect with those who offer social support and communicate effectively. Start teaching interpersonal skills in preschool by encouraging your kid to ask for permission, shake hands when she greets someone and practice patience. Let your grade-school child explore interests by enrolling her in a related class or club. Teach her to apologize when she does something wrong and demonstrate sportsmanship during a competition. A teen will continue to develop self-awareness and interpersonal skills when she explores hobbies and interests with others in a group-like setting or through extra-curricular activities. Promote positive communication and self-awareness by encouraging the young person to identify and express emotions with a statement such as, "I feel ... because ..." For example, "I feel frustrated because it seems as if you don't understand me."