What is a successful future? 

For many parents, the success they want for their children means reaching a certain level of financial stability or professional achievement. However, in a broader sense, their children’s successful personal and work lives can be defined as having the ability to reach their main goals in life – whatever these may be.  


What skills will your teenager need to enjoy future success? 

Beyond an appropriate tertiary education and good grades, there are crucial skills your teenage children will require for future career and life success. These skills can be divided into five categories:  

1. Critical thinking skills 

Critical thinking is the ability to take in, analyse and evaluate information to determine its integrity and validity. Critical thinking skills allow an individual to establish what information is factual and what is not – so important in the era of fake news. It also is the basis of education – especially when teamed with the ability to read and comprehend – allowing children to master information. Having well-developed critical thinking skills encourages young people to make life decisions and evaluate all aspects of a situation when solving problems. Overall, critical thinking skills can help young people better understand themselves, other people, and the world around them. 

How can parents teach their teens critical thinking skills? 

  • Teach your children to think for themselves. Within reason, give your teenagers regular opportunities to reach their own decision – and to learn to do things for themselves. Provide a safe and non-judgmental space to do this in. It is important to allow them enough time to wrestle with a question or issue without giving them answers too quickly. Sometimes they will make mistakes – and this is okay. It is important for them to learn from their mistakes. It is also important to educate your children to discern between real and fake news online by talking though real live examples.  


2. Research skills 

Like critical thinking skills, the ability to research encourages teenagers to think critically and analyse information objectively – and it expands the knowledge base of the person doing the research. It teaches young people to evaluate their sources, identify if there is a bias and form logical arguments. While at school and in tertiary education these are essential skills for academic success. In life, research skills are linked to the ability to make and carry out concrete plans – and are essential for informed decision-making and problem solving.  

How can parents teach their teens research skills? 

  • Research skills are learned though practice. Researching together online can give your teen practice in choosing and using appropriate keywords to find and then evaluate information. It will give them the opportunity to practice sifting through information to find the salient points. One way of doing this could be involving your teen in doing something like accommodation research or in finding fun activities for an upcoming family holiday – or tracking down a product or service the family needs. Another is to help them successfully use a search engine to find information for projects or homework.  


3. Communication skills 

In an increasingly interconnected world, effective verbal and written communication is more important than ever. Teenagers who develop effective communication skills are active listeners, can more confidently express their thoughts and clearly convey their ideas. This enables them to form positive connections with a diverse range of people and helps them succeed in various spheres of life. Communication is also a key factor in developing social skills. 

How can a parent teach their teenagers communication skills? 

  • Your children learn to communicate by observing what you say and do. Model good verbal communications skills by actively listening, addressing your teen children as you would an adult, using appropriate vocabulary, and being respectful in your interactions with other people. Encourage your teens to pick up the phone rather than texting, especially if they have a lot to say or explain. Champion expressing themselves and exercising their writing skills through keeping a journal or diary. Teach them to be aware of who they are talking to and tailor their communication accordingly – and explain the fundamentals of being aware of body language and non-verbal communication. 


4. Social skills 

As teenagers move from high school into university and beyond, they will develop a more long-lasting circle of friends. However, at the start, navigating these social situations can be tricky, especially for shy teenagers or youngsters with low self-esteem. Encouraging them to participate in school sport or “out of school” activities in line with their interests can encourage teenagers to make new friends, build confidence in their skills and discover what they love. Nurturing understanding and empathy will help teens to build strong and meaningful relationships that foster a sense of acceptance and belonging.  

How can parents teach their teenagers social skills? 

  • Social skills are not born – they are learned and take practice. The way in which parents interact socially in front of their children displays which behaviour is effective and demonstrates social norms. It is important for parents to consciously teach their child respect and good manners in social situations – like good table manners, saying please and thank you, and standing back for an older person to enter first. If your teen is already active on social media, they probably have a community of online friends, emerging from school or having shared interests. However, it is important to help your teen to maintain a healthy balance between social media and socialising in person.  

5. Self-management 

Emotional and impulse control can be developed in young people: Teenagers suffer from emotional ups and downs. Learning to identify and regulate their emotions will help them to manage and express their emotions in appropriate ways. It is essential for teens to develop this skill, as it can help them understand their triggers, identify what they are feeling, and prevent impulsive actions that may have negative consequences. When it comes to impulse control, there are a variety of coping mechanisms that can help teenagers to control their impulses. For example, helpful methods include deep breathing, counting to 10, and even walking away from a triggering situation.  

How can parents teach their teenagers self-management? 

  • Society holds teenagers to a higher standard of self-control than a two-year old having a tantrum. Youngsters must learn that negative or aggressive behaviors are unacceptable. In teaching emotional and impulse control, parents must help their teenagers name their feelings and master appropriate ways to express and diffuse them if necessary. This makes parent-teen conflict situations an ideal teaching moment.  


School also plays a significant role in teaching soft skills  

Playing school sport is an excellent way to engender many important “non-academic” skills as it entails working together as a team, encourages cooperation, strengthens communication skills, and teaches problem-solving. It also teaches players how to handle both victories and defeats graciously.  If your child is home-schooled or does not want to play a school sport, there are many other activities – sporting and other – that can benefit them in the same way. Group work in the classroom or in a programme like boy scouts, or playing music in a band, encourages the development of communication skills when it is necessary to explain ideas, listen carefully and achieve a common goal. Members of the group giving each other feedback and solving problems helps the group build rapport, strengthening social skills.  


It is skills and hard work that bring success 

Famous golfer, Gary Player, said, “The more I practice, the luckier I am.” No matter how skilled and gifted a young person is, there is no substitute for consistent hard work. No matter what your teenager wants to achieve, it is true that the harder they work, the more likely it will be that they succeed. Parents can help by intentionally doing things that take hard work or determination to teach their children that even as an adult it is important to work hard to achieve your goals. 

Over to you for sharing your comments and experiences.

About the Author: Kerstin Jatho

Kerstin is the senior transformational coach and team development facilitator for 4Seeds Consulting. She is also the author of Growing Butterfly Wings, a book on applying positive psychology principles during a lengthy recovery. Her passion is to develop people-centred organisations where people thrive and achieve their potential in the workplace. You can find Kerstin on LinkedIn, Soundcloud, YouTube and Facebook.

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