Ten Life Skills We Need to Teach Our Kids Before Next Summer

We are wrapping up a great summer of Vacation Bible School, camps, mission trips, midweek adventures, and general fun. Summer is a busy season in our Family Ministry, and we get to spend a lot of time with your kids and our own.  After doing a study of all these kids in their world without the benefit of parents to manage them, we created a list of Basic Life Skills we all need to teach our kids before the adventure begins again next summer.

Basic Life Skill #1 – Keep track of your own stuff.  For parents, it is natural to survey the table when we leave to make sure we have everything: phone, purse, water bottle, sunglasses, etc.  We obviously have a better understanding of what it requires to replace these possessions, so we are typically more aware of keeping track of our stuff. But now is a good time to help our kids learn to check for all their possessions before leaving an area.

Basic Life Skill #2 – Clean up after yourself.  I sometimes have fantasies about what it would be like to walk into the kitchen at the end of a long day and find all my son’s dishes in the dishwasher, the cereal back in the pantry, and the drink cans in the recycling bin.  I’m pretty sure I am not the only mom who is guilty of just picking up everything and putting it away. It is most often easier and more expedient to do it ourselves than to remind our kids to do it. But, after a summer of cleaning up after hundreds of kids, I realize this is a skill only learned by repetition.

Basic Life Skill #3 – Be the one. This was an anti-bullying campaign from last year, but there is so much truth in it. The goal is to teach our kids that when they see someone left out and sitting alone, they can be the person who reaches out, makes a friend, and tries to include them in activities.  We talk a lot about showing Christ-like behavior, so here is one area where our kids can practice and change lives in the process.

Basic Life Skill #4 – If what you are thinking is not nice, then don’t say it. This should be a basic lesson from kindergarten, but it is so easy to fall into the trap of complaining and gossiping about others. When kids are tired and hot and things aren’t going smoothly, they are most susceptible to this one. We are all guilty of this, and raised awareness could go a long way.

Basic Life Skill #5 – Manners are not out of style. A please and thank you would go a long way some days. And a Yes Ma’am and No Sir seems to be a lost art. Good manners remind our kids that they are not the only people in the universe. When they are aware of the world around them, they are more likely to offer to help someone with their arms full, hold the door for a friend, or ask if they can get something for someone.

Basic Life Skill #6 –  Be flexible. This is so hard for kids, especially those who are most comfortable when there is constant order and structure. But as we all know, life is messy and seldom follows our best of plans.  Being able to adjust to changes, being comfortable with plan B, and being able to adapt are skills we have to teach by example.  If our kids see us respond to a change of plans with ease, they will start to be more comfortable when life throws them a curve ball.

Basic Life Skill #7 – Budgeting money. More than once, I have seen kids head into the gift store on the first day of camp and come out with an armload of stuff, spending all their money.  Then later that week, they see something they really want but have spent all their money. Allowing kids to make age-appropriate spending decisions throughout the year helps them learn about making good choices, delayed gratification, and accountability for the choices they make.

Basic Life Skill #8 – Be on time.  Anyone who knows me knows I really dislike it when people are late, but more often than I care to admit, I am five minutes late.  But being on time is a way of showing respect to the person you are meeting or the other people involved in the activity.  For most kids, developing time management skills is challenging. They are not natural process-thinkers, but kids can develop the ability to reverse engineer the arrival time, considering the time needed for every step of the journey there.

Basic Life Skill #9 – Try new things. New food, new adventures, even new people. This is another one of those learn by example things.  If your kids see you face new foods, try new adventures, and develop new friendships, they are more likely to try the very same things.  I recently met a teenage boy who only eats chicken nuggets and fewer than ten other items. Teaching our kids to try new things is just as much fun as zip-lining.

Basic Life Skill #10 – Be resilient.  Our kids need to learn to handle disappointment, bounce back when everything doesn’t go their way, and push through their fears, worries, and phobias to ultimately become more resilient, independent, and happy.

“Resilient kids can step into a situation, have a sense they can figure out what they need to do, and handle what is thrown at them with a sense of confidence,” said Lynn Lyons, LICSW, a psychotherapist who specializes in treating anxious families, and co-author of the book Anxious Kids, Anxious Parents: 7 Ways to Stop the Worry Cycle and Raise Courageous and Independent Children with anxiety expert Reid Wilson, Ph.D.

The only way for our kids to learn resilience is for us to allow them to solve their own problems, work through tough challenges without our guidance, and suffer the consequence of bad decisions.

This summer has been such a blessing to our Family Ministry teams, and we loved getting to know so many new kids. We are blessed that you have trusted us to travel with your children, hang out with them, and, most of all, guide them spiritually.  We are already excited to see where God leads us next summer.

Christine Clark is the Ministry Coordinator for the Family Ministry at Stonebriar Community Church. She has a passion for supporting parents and helping them gain confidence and tools to be spiritual leaders in their homes. She is blessed to be the mom of a High School Freshman and the wife of her college sweetheart for more than 20 years. She is also an avid sports fan who loves all things football, especially in the fall in Texas.

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