The older generation loves to claim that Millennials have had it easy. No world wars, famines, economic depression that crippled countries for decades, easy access to basic necessities, the internet and ecommerce! I mean, what more does a generation need right? (I’m generalising here so play along)

Then comes Generation Z. The real cushioned generation. If most millennials would list babysitting or tutoring as their first job, the generation succeeding them possibly doesn’t even need to have a first job. (Again, generalizing to refer to middle and upper middle economic classes)

But, they’re born into a world that is rapidly changing year to year; what with the global economy crashing every decade or so. Student debt is almost a given (as it was for the youngest millennials), owning a house isn’t, starting a family is pushed out because of unstable financial status , social circles are online with the side effect of mental health epidemic, basic necessities will get dearer and everything is compounded by resource scarcity and overpopulation.

So, generation Z begins their adult life into a deeply uncertain, fast changing digital world yet somehow living in a bubble insulated from the harsh reality that they will need to face once they’ve flown the coop.

How can millennial parents coach their generation Z teens to thrive in a world where skills are very different from the ones demanded in our time?  Some habits, behaviours transcend generations. Here’s our checklist for what we consider as the top 10 valuable and necessary habits and behaviours for the mid 21st century world.

Note that these habits cannot be taught unless we parents practice them. The easiest way to teach is to lead by example, so model these behaviours and habits.

1. Money Management 

Most teens from economically comfortable homes don’t necessarily need to find jobs to fund their lifestyle. Parents are the primary providers and maybe relatives, during birthdays and other life events. Even so, money habits must be begun as early as developmentally possible, preferably as soon as the child learns about money at school. Because, the habits of consumerism and excess once learned in childhood are extremely difficult to modify as an adult.

    • A needs and Wants list.

      • This list is the skeleton around which your teen will build his habits. But, remember that needs/wants change based on stages of life. Teens might not need a car today but might need one in the future. So updating this list every year or so should be expected.
      • Be open about your own list. If you haven’t created one yet, now’s the time to have that inner dialogue.
    • Frugality

      • Living well within one’s means could mean driving a low maintenance car, owning a home without going into debt for a lifetime, cooking at home versus eating out etc.
      • Consuming less would mean owning less, buying less and simple, healthy eating habits.
    • Documenting income and expenses

      • Keeping a journal of every single purchase made, whether it is one bar of candy or an appliance. Preferably categorised on an excel sheet which can then be used to analyze spending trends.
      • Share this sheet with your kid so they get an idea of the flow of money through the month. Couch it in the tone of “This is what we make, this is what we spend and this is what is leftover at the end of the month”. It will be justified when you can’t buy them those expensive set of sneakers or that must-have video game.
      • How to use an ATM:  Before they get their own ATM card, take them along when you use yours just so they are familiar with the requirements of ATM machines- where to insert the card, slot where the cash comes out from etc.
    • Budgeting

      • After a teen keeps a record of daily/monthly expenses, she should be taught how to budget for those expenses against the income. If she doesn’t earn much to qualify as income at that point in time, pare down the expenses to include only the category of necessities- school, clothing, self care, entertainment, travel. The expenses in these categories should be based on needs vs wants.
      • Saving-  Basic banking fundamentals shouldn’t be abstractions so take your child inside a bank whenever possible. With the rise of online banking, most kids wouldn’t have a clue how a brick and mortar bank operates, so it’s doubly imperative that a kid knows who to approach to open a savings account, how to write a cheque, how to deposit money in their account etc. Teach your kids these fundamentals by including them in your visits to your bank. Observation is the first step of doing it independently.

More money management tips at :

6 simple ways to help kids build smart money habits.

The terror of consumerism

2. Social skills*

      • Basic manners: Saying Thank You and I’m sorry, addressing others respectfully, offering to help someone in need, being generous with time and effort.
      • Perspective taking.
      • Being a good listener. 
      • How to judge a person’s character, what to look for when doing so. 
      • How, when and who to ask for help.
      • How to resolve conflicts.
      • How to have difficult conversations.

3. Time management

      • Show your kids how you prioritise your tasks and the approximate time you set aside for each of those tasks
      • Help them create their own to-do and priority list so they’re aware of the time requirements of tasks.
      • Help them make time for critical habits with wide ranging impact on health such as spending time with family and friends, exercise or working out, cooking with a focus on nutrition etc.

4.Home management

    •  Cleaning

      • What precautions to use while using cleaning products.
        • Gloves and mask is important particularly when using bleach based products. 
      • The right cleaning products for the surface you’re attempting to clean. For eg- Bleach should not be used on marble or wood as it is corrosive.
      • How to clean up after yourself once you finish cooking.
      • How to disinfect surfaces.
      • How to clean bathrooms and how often.
      • How to sweep and mop floors.
    • Organising

      • Folding clothes and putting them away in a closet. I cannot express how often I encounter young adults who cannot fold their clothes neatly and stack them in a closet. 
      • How to read labels on clothes for laundry/washing and ironing. For example: Silks must be hand washed or dry cleaned. Colored cottons must be separated from cotton whites, especially when using hot water as colors are likely to bleed.
      • How to iron clothes taking into account the fabric. For eg- linen requires the highest setting versus the synthetic or blended material need lowest heat setting.
    • Cooking:

      • How to shop for groceries- price comparisons, buying in season and local, fresh produce over processed etc.
      • Collecting and documenting favorite recipes 
      • How to follow cooking instructions. This process has been simplified mightily with the rise of 2-10 min instagram videos with step by step instructions.
      • For amateur cooks: Making sure all ingredients are on hand before you begin cooking.
      • Storing leftovers: Hugely important as I found out when I left cooked rice on the counter for 2 days as a young adult. Came back to mold and stench.

5. Health management

    • Preventative healthcare
      • Basics of nutrition and food. For eg- protein requirements for the body, maintaining healthy weight, choosing fresh produce over processed, packaged food., etc
    • Healthcare documentation
      • Maintaining a specially marked file for prescriptions, bills, any hospitalizations, diagnostic test results, x rays etc.
    • Basic first aid
      • How to administer first aid for non-life threatening injuries or illnesses not requiring hospitalisation- what to do when you cut or burn your finger, twist your ankle, have mild case of food poisoning etc.
      • First aid kit stocked with paracetamol, ibuprofen, antiseptic cream, burn cream, band-aids, anti-diarrheal and antiemetic medicines…
    • How to administer CPR in an emergency.

6. Personal safety

    • How to identify safe and unsafe neighborhoods.
    • How to stay safe in an unknown neighborhood
    • Carrying items that will help during a threat such as pepper spray or a whistle.
    • If out late at night, to check the inside of their parked car before unlocking and entering.

7. Spatial awareness: 

8. Personal hygiene and grooming

    • Personal hygiene would mean the basics of daily showers, keeping a check on odors (body or breath) etc. 
    • Grooming covers the fundamentals of clothing and personal appearance. For instance- a flattering haircut, wearing ironed and well fitted clothes, being dressed appropriately for context and occasion; all constitute good grooming practices. I won’t be getting into the details as a simple internet search will supply you with tips; although there are more pages devoted to men’s grooming as compared to women (Why? I have no idea). 

9. Coping mechanisms

    • Feelings of occasional anxiety, loneliness, despair, depression, negativity is normal.
    • When that mood extends and begins to disrupt your daily routine and renders you unable to perform basic tasks, then it is a mental health condition that requires professional help.
    • Teens and young adults should know when and who to reach out for help. 

10. Decision making*

    •  How to make an informed decision
    • How to research options before coming to a decision

The above is not an exhaustive list, by far, but most of these can be addressed simply by involving kids when you’re going about your life. Having said that, a few of these life skills will be learned only when the teen is living independently, for instance- paying utilities like electricity, water, gas bills.

In short, focus on what they can learn through observation, guidance, and supervision so that they leave the nest as a young adult sufficiently prepared to tackle the adult world.

*Will be covered in future stand-alone posts.

2 Comments

  1. Devishobha Chandramouli says:

    Great list!

  2. Ram says:

    A very practical list of life skills for every teen. Learnt a few of these helping out at home during teen age years… But, Social, emotional & coping skills probably were learnt over a much longer time.

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Preeti Konaje

Preeti is the Head of Content (Consulting) at Kidskintha. An inquirer at heart, she constantly seeks to question and challenge the status quo. She holds a M.A.Ed with expertise in pedagogy and instructional design. In the recent past, she has designed and facilitated teacher workshops on engaging pedagogical methods. She is particularly interested in issues related to gender biases in education.

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