While we might wish to keep our kids young forever, the reality is our teens are moving into adulthood. Preparing our kids for their futures, even during the academically rigorous and sometimes stressful times of high school, takes on a new priority for us as parents. Many schools and homeschool programs offer high school electives to complement the four core subjects. While we might often think of electives as art, music, cooking, or foreign language, there are other elective courses available to strengthen your teen’s life skills. These electives are excellent opportunities for a break from the academic rigor, and provide opportunities for your teen to round out their education and gain confidence in skills they will carry with them after graduation. Teaching these four life skills for teens in your homeschool or as an after-school supplement can help to set up your child for success!

Personal Learning Strategies

Even if your child has not yet determined post-graduation plans, they will be a lifelong learner. Teens need to have tools that help them learn effectively and efficiently. Through self-awareness, students can begin to have an understanding of their own strengths and challenges. Focusing on their strengths, and developing strategies to support their challenges, will help build self-confidence and increase both motivation and persistence.

Which learning strategies are important to teach? For academic success, the learning strategies you teach may focus more on areas where your child struggles or needs to be more efficient. For example, learning strategies like graphic organizers may help your child specifically on tasks related to listening or reading comprehension, note taking, writing an essay, or preparing a presentation. While learning strategies for test preparation, learning how to read a rubric, and maintaining academic integrity will strengthen competence across subject areas. By practicing learning strategies in different subject areas and across tasks, students will begin to collect successful strategies that are uniquely beneficial to them. Teens should be taught learning strategies explicitly and then be provided with opportunities to try them and modify them in different contexts to meet their needs. To provide structure and to round out your teen’s education, consider adding a Strategies for Academic Success course.

Project Management and Time Management

A key to building life skills for teens is also developing executive function areas, like project management and time management. Key topics in these areas should include goal setting, organization, and problem solving.

For example, encourage your teen to develop personal goals, and ask them to organize and identify the intermediate steps. To support and organize their work, have them create and track their own schedule of goal steps, academic plans, extracurriculars, and hobbies using digital calendar tools, an analog planner, or both. Use those planning tools to map and celebrate their progress! When students combine these strategies with their academic knowledge and skills, they are rewarded for their efforts because the work they do is on time, organized, and purposeful. They avoid feeling frustrated and overwhelmed. With your continued help, they will have key strategies for lifelong learning and development.

Communication and Interpersonal Skills

Whether your teen finds socialization easy or not, learning communication and interpersonal skills can help your teen build on natural competencies and learn new strategies to make their speech, writing, and body language more purposeful and effective. Teenagers need to learn how to adjust verbal and nonverbal language to a variety of audiences, listen actively, and be able to give and receive feedback with respect. As our world gets smaller and smaller, teens need to navigate interactions with people of diverse backgrounds and be sensitive to cultural, racial, religious, ability, age, and gender differences. Bringing communication and interpersonal skills into your home education program can make a powerful difference in your teen’s professional and personal success.

Talking with one person can be challenging——but collaborating with or presenting to a group can be intimidating. Did you know that many people identify public speaking as their greatest fear? Today, collaboration and presentation skills are highly valued in education and in the workplace, with employers often seeking individuals who can flourish in team environments and deliver informative and persuasive presentations. Being able to share ideas successfully with a group brings confidence and satisfaction, and, luckily, these are skills that can be learned with the right guidance and/or curriculum.

Money Management

Many adults do not realize the importance of financial competence unless they run into difficulties. In high schools, required economics classes often focus on macroeconomics (the study of large-scale economies) while personal finance for teens may only be found in elective home economics classes. The truth is that money management for teens must become a priority in a high school education. After all, we are asking students to choose their major in college or another vocational pathway soon; they need to understand the connection between career choices and income at the most basic level.

At a deeper level, regardless of whether such topics are learned through home ec classes or through teachable moments in the household, we need to set up teens for financial success by helping them understand high-impact concepts like financial responsibility, budgeting, managing credit and debt, and investing. How many of us graduated high school knowing how to balance a checkbook, create a travel budget, or even compare prices, let alone how to set aside money for emergencies, plan for the future, or become an entrepreneur? Personal finance for teens is an almost limitless area that can be nurtured with great dividends.

While life skills for teens—particularly in the areas of learning strategies, communication and interpersonal skills, and money management—are crucial when approaching adulthood, life skills in high school aren’t limited to home economics classes, and they don’t need to wait until  high school. Life skills for kids of all ages can be taught within academic core courses, electives, extracurricular activities, and embedded in informal lessons in daily life. The important part is to make these skills a priority in your child’s education!