teenage boy at washing machine lookng shocked

Everyone Benefits When You Teach These Essential Life Skills

In some parts of the world, schools are having holidays while in others it’s the start of a new school year. In either case, it’s worth thinking about what teenagers do at home during school holidays and weekends.

In particular, parents should make sure there’s more going on in their kids’ lives than just school and social media. One thing you can do is help them learn new skills, especially those that will be useful in later life.

There’s an added bonus to this: they can take over responsibility for some of the chores you usually do!  However, you have to be prepared to accept that, especially at first, things may not be done to your ideal standard.

It’s also very important to remember to praise them for doing a good job, and let them know you appreciate their help.

Here are two essential life skills that your teenager can tackle, once you’ve taught them how:

Clothing doesn’t wash itself – who knew?

If your teenager still has all their washing done for them, now’s the time to introduce them to the wonderful world of the laundry. Show them how to operate the washing machine, then have them repeat the procedure back to you. Make sure you talk about all the things that need to be considered:

  • What do you keep separate?
  • Where do you put the washing powder/capsules?
  • What setting does it go on for different kinds of washing?

Most washing machines these days have a bewildering array of lights and buttons and it’s not always that clear which ones do what. And you never know, maybe your teenager will enjoy explaining a few things to you! Make sure they know what to do next, too – and that they REMEMBER to do it. Nobody wants the laundry left in the machine to go smelly!

If your teenager is already doing their washing, that’s terrific. Now they can move on to folding and ironing...(and maybe they'll watch those online videos that tell you how to fold a fitted sheet and they can teach the rest of us!)

Kitchen capers

Holidays and long weekends are a great opportunity to get your teenager involved in planning and preparing meals if they haven’t done this before. Maybe arrange for them to take on a few set meals such as Friday evening or Sunday lunch. Don’t get too rigid about this as times can be varied and other activities might come up. So be flexible, but make sure they make a regular commitment so they continue to develop their cooking skills.

Look through some recipe books or online recipes together and pick one or two to start with. Here are some other tips:

  • Keep it simple at first – you’re aiming for success.
  • Select dishes that don’t require too many pans on the go at once.
  • Prompt them to check what’s already in the pantry or fridge, then prepare the shopping list for what else you need.
  • Depending on how easy it is for your teenager to get to the shops they may be able to buy the necessary ingredients without your help. If you need to take them, try to let them do as much as possible on their own. Start by making the list is as specific as possible. There are so many options these days that it’s easy to come home with the wrong thing. (“I didn’t know whether you meant baked beans or green beans.”) It’s also possible to blow the budget if they buy the most expensive options. Make sure they know how much they can spend and only give them that much – this teaches them about handling money.
  • The amount of help they’ll need to actually prepare the meal will depend a bit on what they can do already. Boil an egg? Make a cup of tea or coffee? The first few times you may need to work together. But if you do, see if you can resist the temptation to take charge. Prompt them to read the recipe and work out what they need to prepare in advance. Chop the onion. Weigh the rice. Clean the potatoes. Make suggestions if they don’t know the best way to do these things but get them to do most of it otherwise they won’t learn the skill! Also, prompt them to use a timer. You can also set your own if you think you can leave them to it while you go off and do something else – but not too far away.  
  • Finally, make sure you sit down together as a family to eat it. (So you’ll need to paying attention to what the other kids and family members are doing too, so they’re ready when the food is.) There’s no need to go overboard with lavish praise if it’s not that good, but on the other hand, model the same kind of tact and good manners you’d expect from your teenager. And don’t expect them to turn into Nigella or Heston overnight! Look for the positives and discuss what might need to be done next time to learn from the experience.

There may well be other chores and activities in your home that you can begin to expect your teenager to help with, once they’ve learned the necessary skills. They may not be as enthusiastic as you’d like them to be (although they may surprise you), but they’ll thank you in the long run for helping to make them more self-sufficient, capable and confident.