For the first time, my 21-year-old daughter did her taxes this year.
Making money, she ‘s discovered, is nice – but not so fun is figuring out how to deal with forms bound for the taxman. “I hate adult stuff,” she complains.
I hate adult stuff too, I told her. But there are adult things one has to deal with in life.
This exchange got me thinking: What are 10 life skills every teen should have by the end of high school?
For guidance, I sought the expertise of Daniel Patterson, a Newport Beach-based academic adviser, teen advocate, parenting coach, speaker and writer with 15 years of experience working with teenagers and parents as a teacher and administrator.
His “Patterson Perspective” (pattersonperspective.com) helps students and families identify goals, analyze previous outcomes and roadblocks, and develop and execute actionable plans.
“Life skills often get overshadowed by the large stature of academics and college admissions,” Patterson says. “However, it’s crucial that our teenagers are able to thrive in their post-secondary life, not just survive; this simply isn’t possible without getting the basics of ‘adulting’ down while still in the controlled environment of home.”
Here’s Patterson’s list, with my comments:
Craft an intelligent and cohesive email. Excellent choice. The advent of social media has led to the deterioration of not only written but also spoken communication. Blame texting and emojis. Communicating clearly in an email is an invaluable skill every teen should master.
Write a thank-you note without being told to do so. I can’t count the times I nagged my kids to send thank-you notes to a relative who had given them a gift. It’s simply being considerate. Only recently has my daughter taken it upon herself to do so. And I was thrilled she wrote actual thank-you notes and didn’t just fire off a text.
Pack his or her own lunch, daily. In a perfect world, yes – but not too high on my priority list. Maybe because I rarely packed my kids’ lunches and instead gave them money to buy grub. Hmm, so that’s where all my money went. On second thought, Patterson is onto something here.
Face a school consequence without help from a parent. This goes without saying. Teens should not rely on their parents to bail themselves out of an uncomfortable situation – unless, of course, your teen has been arrested and needs to literally be bailed out of jail.
Take ownership of mistakes and poor choices. Similar to No. 4, and another good skill. It’s easy to blame “peer pressure” when a teen messes up. Own your mistakes. Doing so is honest, and it builds character.
Learn to keep a calendar of some sort. Bingo! My daughter now has on her bedroom wall a large calendar with not only appointments, but also encouraging mantras about pursuing one’s dreams and goals.
Draft a résumé. I’m in my 50s and still struggle with this one. I wish I would have mastered, as a teenager, this critical life…