Teen at computer

By Kathy Kuhl

Part 4 of a series on life skills (which began here).

Once I met a new mom at our homeschool group, who asked how old my kids were. When I told her, my oldest was then eighteen, she replied, “Oh, then you’re done!”

I smothered a chuckle. I know what she meant. But I sure didn’t feel done. Today we’ll consider some life skills to be sure your teen is learning.

Handling dangerous social situations

Sometimes young people get into serious trouble  simply because they feel pressured and can’t see a way out. Kids who have trouble reading social cues or who are impulsive may be more prone to these troubles.

Bert Fulks suggested families adopt a secret emergency text message code to help teens and young adults signal to family they need help. His idea is that the family agree to all these terms:

  1. If a teen is in a bad situation and need a quick way out, the teen will text the letter “x” to a family member.
  2. The family member will call them in a couple minutes and say, “Something’s come up and we need to come get you.” At this point, the teen in the awkward place can play dumb and ask, “What happened?” The family member can say, “I can’t explain now (which is true because he or she doesn’t know). I’ll be there in five minutes. Please be ready.”
  3. The teen tells his friends his folks have called and have a problem and have to come get him.
  4. The rescue ride comes and the parents do not harangue the teen.
  5. Unless safety of people is at stake, the teen is not obliged nor pressured to explain, even if he or she is not where he or she should have been.

Berk Fulks gives more important tips at his blog here. 

Filling in those missing skills

“Oh, no! I forgot to teach them how to ______.”

Happily, we don’t have to teach our kids everything before they move out. They can call us, ask friends, ask neighbors. That’s one way to grow relationships in a community. People respect being asked—though not being milked for free help.

Can your teen or your adult tell when they’ve asked too many favors? If not, remind them to ask politely. Please and thank you go far.

Help from the Internet

For all of its problems, the Internet is a handy way your kids can pick up skills you missed, but only if they’ve learned how to be wise users of the Internet. No one wants to file a 1040 using “alternative facts,” or be trained by a video to tackle jobs better left to professionals. So that’s one more skill to add to your life skills list: sensible use of the Internet.

One part of your academic and life skills training should be how to evaluate websites for reliability. Several universities have good tips. See the resources section below.

Learning life skills from the web

For instance, last week, I was trying to figure out why my brake lights sometimes stayed on when I turned my car off. If you’re going to try to diagnose a car problem by watching Youtube videos, how do you decide which videos to trust?

My answers were

1) to watch several videos,

2) to check how many people liked the videos, and

3) not to jump to conclusions. A little skepticism can be healthy.

If my car brake lights stay on again, I’ve got some problems ruled out now. I’ve learned some new vocabulary, so I can talk to a mechanic more intelligently.

Internet: Help or Hazard?

I cannot mention the value of the internet without also mentioning its dangers. While I don’t have time to address this today, let me recommend two articles by Hal and Melanie Young, of Raising Real Men: “Ten Ways to Keep Your Family From Being Devastated by Porn and Predators” and “Five Reasons (Besides Porn) that Teens Need Accountability on Their Devices.”

The links are below.

My top tips

But most importantly, you want to develop your relationship with your teen so that they are happy to phone you when they do need help. I didn’t always follow this advice, but this is what tried to remember. These can improve relations with your teens:

  • Don’t correct and admonish 24/7. You regularly spend time with your teen without teaching or rebuking: chatting, laughing, hiking, and playing. I recommend Wayne Rice’s book, Enjoy Your Middle Schooler.
    It’s not just because I love the title, but because he talks wisely about this. Prepare now for a future relationship with your child when he or she is an adult.
  • Don’t give a lecture, and throw in irrelevant, if helpful, material. (You can always make yourself a note to tell them later: “While we were talking about changing your tire, I wasn’t sure I’d reminded you to put tire rotation on your calendar.”)
  • Don’t chew them out. Remember the Golden Rule. When I am dealing with a plumbing problem, am I likely to call back a plumber who harangues me on what I put down the drain?
    No, but if I caused the problem, the plumber will tell me without a lecture (if he or she is wise), and let the bill speak for itself.

Resources are below. Please share your tips and questions in the comments section. Thank you.

Evaluating Internet resources

Avoiding Danger on the Internet: Two good articles from Hal and Melanie Young

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