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A Teenager Guide To Life Essay

By Muireann Duffy, Scoil Mhuire, Ennistymon.

Highly commended, senior Clare Champion Short Story Competition

EVERYONE  says that being a teenager is the best time in your life. That’s easy for them to say when you’re going on ancient and decide to look back on your teen years through rose-coloured glasses.
Seriously, anyone who says it’s the best part of life has huge gaps in their memory, so if they complain about how easy you have it being 16, do the decent thing and ignore them. Don’t storm off in a huff and slam every door on the way to your room, that’s way too much effort. I suggest you simply tune out and when you think they’re done, say ‘I know’ as smugly as you possibly can, leaving them annoyed and you truly satisfied.
One of the hardest parts of being a teenager is that it’s a constant juggling act. Organisation isn’t usually the main focus, unless you’re just a little bit OCD like myself. But since teenagers already have the reputation of being slobs, don’t let the side down by arranging your books in your locker in terms of size and subject, not cool. There’s nothing wrong with your locker door not closing and spilling books and hundreds of utterly pointless hand-outs onto the floor.
As for your room, forget the wardrobe. Who needs one? The ground is the perfect place to keep your clothes and allows you to see them all at once and NEVER make your bed. A messy, unmade bed can look just as nice as a perfectly made one because, remember, beauty is in the eye of the beholder.
Your school-days are the best days of your life… fat chance! School is somewhere you’re made go to and work yourself to death, just like a jail, except those bright orange jumpsuits look appealing when compared to our school uniforms. Don’t worry about teachers – they’re programmed to hate you. It’s better to be on their good side but so easy to get on their bad side. They’re supposedly human so I guess you should give them a little credit but, really, they should feel lucky that they get to be in the presence of such amazing teenagers that are you and your friends.
Homework? Don’t do it! In my years of secondary school, I have devised an ingenious way of not getting in trouble when your homework isn’t done.
Step 1: For the first question, stay low and avoid eye-contact with the teacher.
Step 2: Look at the next question, find the answer and put your copy above it.
Step 3: Wave your hand in the air showing you’re desperate to answer the question.
Step 4: Read the answer straight from the book and bask in the glory of the teacher now thinking you have your homework done.
This little tip will get you through school.
When you’re a teenager, your friends are your life but enemies come just as easy as the friends do. Whether it’s jealousy or clashing personalities, ultimately they will try to make your life hell and, the sad thing is, you’ll do the same to them. They will bring out the worst in you and the only way to get over it is to be the bigger person. Laugh at their jokes, say hello when you see them, smile when they’re mean to you and turn the other cheek. It’s like what they say about being a lady – if you have to say you are, you aren’t. If you want people to think you’re actually an alright person, don’t say it, prove it. Turning the other cheek can hurt just as much as a slap on the cheek if you do it right.
People assume you’re going to be moody when you’re a teenager so why surprise them? Give them what they expect! Stomp around the place like the world is against you, which it probably is. Act like every little thing from days in town with your friends to nights out are the end of the world, making the argument that you will become a social outcast if you don’t attend. Also. the way you carry yourself says a lot. Whatever you do, never sit up straight. It implies to the teacher that you are paying attention and are willing to learn. Do your level best to sprawl yourself across your table. If anything, it tells the teacher that you’re tired and need a break, making them go easy on you. Forgetting your books for class is a must. Some of the best conversations with your friends happen when you have to share a book with them.
It’s easy to write about all the bad things, but even I have to admit that it’s not all bad. You’ll make friends you’ll go on adventures with, even when you’re old and grey and going about the place on mobility scooters. You’ll meet people, boys and girls, that will drive you up the wall but, like the Kelly Clarkson song ‘What doesn’t kill you makes you stronger.’ Have the bant and the LOLs, because you’ll never be this young again and this is the oldest you’ve been so far. Be nice to your parents. Besides just being your parents, they will also serve as a long-term source of finance because, really, no matter how old you get, you’ll always be the adorable child they’d give anything for, just so long as you promise to put them in a nice nursing home.
As for brothers and sisters, be nice to them too because friends, money and all things like that are great but, when it comes down to it, your family is all you have. Take everything as it comes and don’t let anyone see you sweat or worry. Take care of yourself. Your health is your wealth, and only do what makes you happy.

More stories to follow

Image: iStock

Life passes by quickly. Before you know it, your little ones will grow up into adults with a life of their own. And when they do, you would want them to be ready for life. Education gives your children the knowledge they need about different subjects, but it does not necessarily equip them with essential life skills.

MomJunction takes you through the list of basic life skills for teenagers before they fly out of the nest and how parents can help children acquire these skills.

Essential Life Skills for Teens

Life is full of surprises, but not all are pleasant. If you want to save your children from the nasty surprises in adulthood, you should help them acquire these basic life skills as youth.

1. Money or Budgeting Skills

Money may not be the most important thing in life, but it certainly is vital for a comfortable life. Education gives you the knowledge and some skills you need to become employable. But it may not give you the skills to manage your earnings and spending, save money, etc. In simple words, you need to make your teenagers financially literate. The important financial concepts that you can help them learn to include:

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  • Make a budget and stick to it. Your children should know when to spend and when to save.
  • Every teen must know how to open a bank account, use the ATM, transfer money online and write a check.
  • Apply for a credit card, how to use it and how not to get into debt using a credit card. The most important lesson your child should learn here is how credit works and how quickly they can get sucked into a whirlpool of debt if they are not careful.
  • Save money to buy or invest in something, for emergencies.
  • Give money to charity without going overboard.
  • Maintain financial records.
  • Assess the basic market value of goods.

[ Read: Life Lessons For Teens ]

2. Cooking or Food Skills

Knowing how to procure food or cook food is one of the primary life skills for teenagers. Teach them the below basic food skills so that they can survive in any part of the world.

  • Procuring groceries is important to cook. One of the important skills here is to be able to identify different ingredients and know where they are available.
  • Using kitchen appliances like microwave, coffee maker, dishwasher and toaster among others.
  • Knowledge about utensils, cutlery and how to use them.
  • Being able to prepare a healthy meal with the ingredients available. Teach your teen the basics of cooking a decent meal using simple ingredients.
  • Storing food in the right way. You want your kids to know where and how to store different food products like fresh produce, packaged food, and liquids.
  • Reading food labels for nutrition and ingredient information.

3. Dressing Sense or Clothing Skills

Your teenagers will not continue to dress themselves like how you once dressed them. They may change their style completely owing to external influences, but the chances are that they are likely to get influenced by the wrong people. So, here is what you can help them get one of the everyday skills right.

  • Picking the right sized clothes, a decent outfit.
  • Choosing the right kind of clothes for the right occasion.
  • Sewing is a skill both men and women can benefit from.
  • Iron a shirt, a trouser or suit. What is more important is to distinguish between clothes that need ironing and those that don’t (we don’t want them ironing their jeans now, do we?).
  • Do the laundry. Teach your teen to wash clothes by hand or using a washing machine and to deal with simple stains.
  • Fold clothes and put them neatly in their cupboard. You do not want a messy closet when they are at home or away.
  • Pack a suitcase.
  • Read and understand fabric labels.

4. Personal Grooming

Grooming is a skill that children should be taught early on. Personal grooming is important to stay healthy and also have a good social or romantic life.

  • Teach them healthy habits like brushing and bathing daily.
  • Explain the importance of keeping their bodies clean. It is important that they know how to care for their skin and hair.
  • Boys should know how to shave or maintain facial hair in a hygienic way.
  • Teach girls to stay clean during their periods, proper disposal of sanitary pads, etc.

5. Cleanliness and Hygiene

Cleanliness is one of the tenets of hygiene. Teach your kid to keep himself as well as his surroundings clean and tidy. This is part of their personal grooming and home management skills. Some of the basic things that your teen should be able to do include:

  • Dusting and vacuuming.
  • Mopping floors and getting rid of cobwebs.
  • Keeping bathrooms and toilets clean.
  • Keeping the kitchen clean.
  • Clearing garbage regularly.
  • Eliminating clutter from time to time.
  • Knowing how to clean dishes by hand, not all homes come with a dishwasher.

6. Personal Healthcare and Basic First Aid

Among the critical things that teens should learn, as part of taking care of themselves, is to take care of their health. Important points to remember here are:

  • Knowledge of personal health and over-the-counter medications that can come in handy.
  • Knowing when to go to the doctor.
  • Taking proper care of self, through proper diet and environment, in the case of illnesses like common colds, fever or the flu.
  • Health insurance and how it can help them. It is important that you teach your teenager to keep track of health insurance payments to ensure they get aid when needed.
  • Handle medical emergencies, like calling 911 or the emergency number in your country.
  • Get your teen to learn basic first aid skills like how to clean a wound, use bandage, and other first aid in case of medical emergencies, which may enable him to save a life, should such a situation arise in the future.

The best way to teach your kid about these everyday living skills is to help them take care of themselves when they are at home. Avoid doing everything for them.

7. Social skills and manners

You don’t want your teenager to be singled out because of his or her clumsy manners, do you? Teaching your child skills and manners that he or she must display in a social setting is essential if you want them to have a smooth social life.

  • Explore and pursue hobbies, recreational interests and activities to meet like-minded people.
  • Develop and maintain friendships.
  • Create and nurture personal relationships. Valuing relationships and people in our life is something that only a parent can teach.
  • Maintain healthy family relationships.
  • Know party etiquette, including how to be host and guest.
  • Respect people and their views, regardless of what they think about others.

[ Read: Social Skills Activities For Teens ]

8. Organization skills

Lack of organization is one of the factors that lead to poor time management. A poorly organized person is almost always searching for something. Sounds familiar?

Here is what you can do to make your teenager stay better organized.

  • Teach them the simple rule of Kaizen – a place for everything and everything in its place. Help them implement this rule and they will not have to ‘search’ for something the next time.
  • You can help them use an organization tool or system to arrange their books, clothes, and other things.
  • Organization also helps de-clutter a room and makes it easier to find something in less time.
  • Explain to them that they can avoid making blunders when they are more organized.

9. Domestic skills – managing a home

Imagine your pampered little child finally finishes college and starts a life of his own. But he hates every moment of it because regardless of how intelligent he is, he does not know basic home management skills. Every teen must learn these life skill activities early on.

  • Teach them how to find the right accommodation or housing options.
  • Manage utilities, pay bills.
  • Basic maintenance of the house. Teach them to vacuum, dust and clean the house.
  • Your teen is better off knowing how to deal with little repairs around the house. Simple things like fixing a broken circuit, locating water furnace and turning it off or on, and addressing the basic plumbing issues is a must.

10. Driving and auto Maintenance Skills

Driving is one of the most important life skills for teenagers to be self-dependant. But knowing how to drive a car is not enough. Your teenager should also know about auto care or what to do when there is vehicle trouble. Teach them to:

  • Buy a car and insurance.
  • Registration of the vehicle.
  • Have important vehicle records and documents like driver’s license, registration papers, etc. while driving.
  • Pump gas and change oil for maintenance.
  • Change a tire using different tools.
  • Know and follow traffic rules for the safety of self and others.

[ Read: Teen Driving Safety Tips ]

11. Navigational Skills

Knowing how to drive a car is of no use if your teenager does not know the road he or she must take. Basic navigational skills are more important than being able to drive a car. That way, even if they do not have a car, they will be able to travel from one place to another. Some of the things they should learn include:

  • Being able to read bus, train or flight schedules, and timetables.
  • Read maps to go from point A to point B.
  • Understand directions – north, south, east, and west; left, right.
  • Have a knowledge of traffic and road terms like curves, exits, freeways, highways, etc.
  • Be aware of information about the different transport options to reach different places.

12. Communication Skills

Communication may seem more like a business skill. But think about it, won’t your teenager need to communicate in his personal life? Teaching your teen how to get his or her message across without offending another person is important. Communication is a critical skill that your teenager will need to master for interpersonal relationships in personal and professional lives.

Talk to your teen about these important skills when it comes to communication.

  • People are different, and all don’t speak the same language.
  • There is a need to understand the individual’s temperament before determining how to communicate with them.
  • Nobody likes being told what to do. Even your teenager does not appreciate that.
  • Explain them the importance of listening skills in communication.
  • Empathy and the importance of understanding another person’s perspective are necessary.
  • Negotiation skills to create win-win situations.
  • Different forms of communication like writing, talking and non-verbal behavior.
  • Using different modes of communication like a telephone, letters or email, etc.

13. Behavioral Skills

The character of an individual shows in the way he or she behaves. Help your teenager build a strong personality by helping them develop healthy behavior. Here are a few basic things you can teach them.

  • Accepting a mistake, admitting a fault and taking responsibility for their actions are perhaps the first things you can teach your teen.
  • Most teenagers have a problem apologizing. Teach them to say ‘sorry’ and not feel embarrassed about it.
  • Teach them to be polite and say ‘please’ and ‘thank you’ when needed.
  • Morality is a concept that you should introduce to your teenagers early on. That teaches them to stand up for what they believe is right, conscientiousness, and a sense of responsibility for the less fortunate.
  • Teach them to stay true to themselves and others. Honesty is a trait that teenagers should be encouraged to develop.
  • Teach them to ask for help when needed. It is important to be self-reliant, but there are times when we all need help. Explain to them that it is ‘okay’ to ask for help.

The only way to help your teenager learn about moral behavior, honesty, and character, is through practice. Parents should guide the kids through their growing years to inculcate healthy behavioral traits.

[ Read: Conflict Resolution Skills For Teenagers ]

14. Skills to Stay Safe:

When your teen is out in the world all by herself, it is important to know how to stay safe. In fact, staying safe is one of the most important life skills for teenage girls. Here are a few pointers that can help your teen girl or boy stay safe on the physical plane as well as the virtual plane (online).

  • Stay safe on the road when alone. Teach your children to use their common sense and avoid secluded parking lots, deserted roads and empty plots away from civilization.
  • Teach your teens what to do if they get a flat tire in the middle of the highway or the car breaks down at night on a deserted road. Encourage them to call for help and avoid venturing on their own at night.
  • Avoid traveling with strangers or picking up hitchhikers when traveling alone.
  • Ask your teenage girl to get a ride at night always, or have someone meet her on the way.
  • Keeping someone posted about their whereabouts is a good idea.
  • Carry extra cash just in case they need to take a taxi.

15. Coping with Emotions

Teenagers tend to see everything in black and white. Teaching them to cope will allow them to see that it is not all good or bad, there is something in between. Coping and self-management skills that you can teach your teenager, especially girls, include:

  • Self-management or control, this allows them to set the pace to how they react to different situations, people and things in life.
  • Teens will have to cope with loneliness and being away from their loved ones when they go to college. It can be a difficult time for them if they do not learn how to deal with the change.
  • Avoiding impulsive decisions that can have severe consequences, mostly negative.
  • Managing feelings in a healthy way. Teach your teen to think and act, rather than react. Reactions can result in negative consequences, but thoughtful action seldom does.
  • As an adult, your teen will have to deal with stress at work, home, in personal relationships and so on. Coping with stress is an important skill you should help your teen acquire.
  • A critical skill that you should help your teenager with is accepting their emotions. Tell them that no emotion is bad or good, and it is okay to feel happy, sad, afraid, angry, aroused, silly, jealous and even guilty. The trick is not to dwell on a particular emotion.
  • Teach them different ways to deal with their emotions, such as physical activity, meditation, listening to music, or just by talking about it.
  • Spirituality can also help in coping with major changes in life.

16. Problem-solving Skills

Among the main life skills for youth is problem-solving. You cannot expect your children to come back to you for help every time they have a problem. What you can do is teach them to deal with problems like matured adults.

  • Teach your kids to face problems, rather than run away from them.
  • The first step to problem solving is identifying the problem. The key is to find out exactly what is bothering them and why it is a problem. Help them narrow down their problem by asking a simple question: “Is my current situation different from how I would want it to be?”
  • Once they pinpoint the problem, help them come up with a list of possible solutions to it.
  • Analyze each solution to know which option gives you the desired result, or something close to it.
  • Once they shortlist the options, your kids will have to use their decision-making skills to pick an option they think is best for them.
  • Then they can apply the chosen solution and check if they are right.

[ Read: Problem Solving Skills For Teens ]

17. Basic Educational Skills

Education is essential for living a comfortable and healthy life. There is no dispute about it. Your children would have learned to read, write and speak at home. But they should also know how to use a computer, a phone, and other gadgets.

Kids tend to understand digital technology better than parents do. But they may not understand all things analog. Also, use of smartphones and instant messaging has also changed the way they use their language skills. Encourage your kids to:

  • Write in complete sentences. They cannot use shortcuts and slang when they write their papers in college or send business emails.
  • Read to understand, not just skim through text.
  • Write letters, journal or just make notes to improve their language and communication skills.

To stay safe online, remember these tips:

  • Use passwords that aren’t easy to guess.
  • When browsing online, it is safe to use a VPN to protect personal information.
  • Avoid accessing banking accounts using public networks.
  • Avoid talking to strangers, or sharing personal information and photos with them.
  • Alert you if someone makes sexual overtures online.

18. Goal Setting – Knowing how to prioritize

Goal setting is a professional skill, right? Wrong! Goals can be personal as well. Teach your children to identify their skills and set goals that can give them personal gratification as well as professional success. You can teach them to:

  • Figure out what they want to do and where they want to be in a few years time. Help them gain clarity.
  • Set realistic goals, or else they will end up disappointed sooner than later.
  • Focus on their goals and chalk out a plan to achieve them in a realistic manner.
  • Identify resources that can help them achieve their goals.
  • Change goals or modify them if needed. Goals can be changed or adjusted to suit the changing needs of a person. Your teenager may also change, as an individual, which can lead to changes in their personal or professional goals.
  • Eventually, you can guide your teenager to a position where she or he can set bigger goals, paving the way for a more meaningful and purposeful life.

19. Time Management

How often have you heard your teenager complain about not having enough time to do all that they want to? We all have 24 hours in a day. How we manage it makes a world of difference in what we achieve. Essential skills that your teen should develop for managing time better include:

  • Start by modeling good time management habits. If you are always ‘wishing for more time’ and doing things in a hurry, chances are your kids will learn to do that too.
  • Teach them to organize their time using a simple timetable or a planner.
  • Let them create a schedule and stick to it. Even the slightest deviation from the plan can leave them crunched for time.
  • Teach your kids to prioritize their tasks to use their time responsibly. Help them identify important tasks and differentiate between what is important and what is urgent.
  • Developing a routine makes it easier to manage time.

Encourage them through model behavior, but do not nag them about wasting time.

20. Decision-making Skills

This is one of the key teen life skills that you should help your son or daughter with. Your teenager will have to make decisions, make a choice at every step of their adult life. From something as simple as what to eat for dinner to making a significant career move or marrying a person they love, everything is a decision.

  • The first step to teaching your teenager to make a decision is stop making decisions for them. However, you should not leave any major, life-changing decisions in the hands of an adolescent.
  • Rather than telling them to do something, give them choices. Let them choose.
  • Also, emphasize that every choice they make comes with a consequence. That way, they will learn to take responsibility for their decisions.
  • Help them make the right choices by weighing the pros and cons and determining what the outcome of their decision would be.
  • You could also teach them to make a list of options first and then evaluate each to make the right decisions.

[ Read: Tips To Improve Teen Decision Making Skills ]

21. Employability Skills

To be employable or be noticed by potential employers, a person needs to have more than just credentials on the wall. Here are a few skills you should encourage your teenager to develop for better career opportunities.

  • Communication skills.
  • Thinking and analytical skills.
  • Work ethics and integrity.
  • Ability to value and use available resources.
  • Knowledge and application of technology.
  • Adaptability to adjust to new work environments and coworkers from diverse backgrounds.
  • Willingness and ability to learn new skills. Teach your child to be open minded.
  • Ability to evaluate own skills and identify weaknesses.
  • Willingness to rectify faults to deliver better.

These are only a few among the list of life skills for teenagers they need to learn before beginning the journey as an adult. The key to a happy life is to sustain two key skills – the willingness and ability to learn new things, unlearn skills that are not useful and relearn them with a new perspective. Agreed that teaching life skills to teenagers is not easy but if you can do that, you will have done justice to your job as a parent.

What life skills do you think teens should learn? Share your views about it in our comments section.

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