Independent living skills are a collection of age appropriate skills necessary for leading the most self-sufficient life possible. The scope of these skills will change and grow as the person ages and learns new sets of skills. Teaching the importance of being responsible for oneself will reap benefits for a lifetime. Learning that you are able and capable of a variety of tasks and activities will bolster self-esteem and pride in one’s accomplishments. The process of learning to be accountable for independent behaviors while functioning as part of a family, team, group or community is a delicate balance that must begin at an early age and continue through adulthood.
It’s never too early to start working on independent living skills. For most kids the earlier they learn to contribute to their surroundings, the more it becomes an integral part of their routine. At about age two, each child should begin assuming responsibilities appropriate to their performance level. Start by teaching children to always carry their silverware or cup to the sink, or to throw away all the napkins after dinner. Kids can also contribute by picking up their toys, exhibiting good listening skills, or helping with recycling programs. Monthly Activity Calendars for pre-K and early elementary kids are available on abcteach. They contain many ideas to help families begin teaching routines that will promote the development of independent living skills.
As kids grow into their upper elementary and middle school years, it continues to be important to expand the range of their responsibilities. Because participating in household maintenance has been part of their regular routine, there should be fewer arguments when their jobs become a little more involved. I’m not suggesting that the adolescents assume too many of the home responsibilities, but they should be participating in a variety of activities in anticipation of living on their own as much as possible. Again, a selection of Monthly Activity Calendars for Upper Elementary and Middle School students with many age appropriate suggestions for tasks is available on the abcteach site. During these years, activities such as time and money management skills, simple meal preparation and social skills should be introduced as important components of an independent living plan.
The secondary school years continue to provide opportunities for improvement in the independent living skills area. Young adults are now preparing themselves for the world of work and hopefully for moving out of the family home. Hopefully they have been learning independent living skills for many years and have been building up a good repertoire of skills. They should now be focusing on home management skills, daily living skills, community involvement, interpersonal relationship skills, and job development and retention skills. The abcteach site has thought about these important skills too! Monthly Activity Calendars for secondary students and adults are included on the abcteach member site.
Working hard to prepare our young people for the adult world is a huge responsibility. Through it all, let’s not forget what each and every one of us really wants for these young adults: to live the most productive life possible, to feel fulfilled and satisfied with that life and most importantly, to be HAPPY! Here’s to finding that intricate mix for all those we care about!
Posted by Jane Quinn, abcteach team
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