Life skills

Discussion in 'General Parenting' started by flutterbee, Jan 12, 2008.

  1. flutterbee

    flutterbee Guest

    This subject has come up a lot recently with those of you with older difficult child's.

    My focus with my difficult child has been just getting through the day. Learning how to cope with and deal with daily triggers, anxieties and other issues, such as communication, friendships, school, perception...that sort of thing.

    At what age do I start to work on more independent living skills? She still needs reminded to shower and brush her teeth, although she is starting to take some initiative on that. Some. I've gotten over my personal angst of reminding her to shower (she would always be sooo offended) because it just needs to be done. However, your posts have really shown me that she is going to need a lot of help to prepare for any kind of independence. I know at almost 13, she has a long way to go, but these are skills that are going to have to be taught and retaught in order for her to really 'get it'.

    Any suggestions on when and where to start?

    I know the first thing is the purchase of a GPS. :wink: Have I mentioned that she has no sense of direction? LOL We have lived in the same small town all her life. She has no idea where anything is. Not a clue. When easy child was her age, he'd ride his bike into town. She couldn't make it off the street.
  2. meowbunny

    meowbunny New Member

    Mine was like yours -- she'd turn the wrong way to go to school if I didn't watch her. Oddly, once she started driving, she got much better. It took me explaining (?) to her that getting lost while in a car was dangerous, so it was important to notice landmarks, etc.

    I would suggest you start now. Do things like give her a certain amount that you will spend on clothing for her. She can pick what she wants (with mommy veto power on taste) but once her money runs out, there won't be any more. So, if she decides she HAS to have the $150.00 dress, she won't have a coat that fits for school or she'll be buying a lot clothes at Goodwill to make up the difference.

    Start teaching her how to cook, including measuring and experimenting. When she's around and you're doing things, mention the tips you've learned.

    Have her start doing her own wash if she isn't already. There will be times (many many times) that her clothes will pile up and she'll go to school in dirty clothes, but that's her problem, not yours.

    My daughter won't clean but she certainly knows how and, when she does, she does a good job. She knows what to use on what.

    I started letting my daughter know what the household expenses were when she was about 16 and how I budgeted. You can start teaching her now what will happen if she's overdrawn and deliberately writes a bad check; that credit cards are not cash and do have to repaid; that insurance is required to drive a car and, yes, it is a total waste of money until you get into an accident and then it is a life saver; that the bank will charge her overage fees for ATM withdrawals, etc.

    Mine has the tools but isn't at a stage where she can really implement them quite yet. She still thinks that when she has money, it has to be spent. Looking to the future is just not in her. Right now, she is being forced to save for an apartment. Of course, she's thinking some of the best places around with no clue that she will never qualify for them since she destroyed her credit rating on her previous "attempts" at living with her friends.

    My daughter once told me she was going to live with me until she was 33. I gulped and didn't say a word. She is not happy that I am "kicking her to the curb" in August. However, I've done everything I can at this point. A retirement community is no place for a 21 YO -- she's pretty miserable here since she's made no friends her own age -- and I have no intention of leaving here unless I absolutely have to due to financial reasons. What's frightening to me is she keeps trying to make plans that include me living with her. Quite honestly, I'd rather be homeless!

    I'm sure there are books on teaching life skills.

    I'll be interested in some other answers to this one. See what I've missed for my daughter and what I can still work on for her.

    Great question! Thanks.
  3. DammitJanet

    DammitJanet Well-Known Member

    I think you need to figure out just which life skills you want to work on and make lists to deal with that you think are reachable goals for her level.

    Helping to learn how to do laundry and which products you feel work the best, last the longest, are the best buy for the dollar...that is a good one.

    Showing her in the grocery store how to spot bargains and how the stores place impulse items is a teaching moment.

    You could teach her about debit cards with a prepaid visa card from walmart. Much better than wracking up credit card charges.

    One friend of mine pulled the old Bill Cosby routine and paid his kids with monopoly money and charged them rent and utilities to show them how far paychecks really went.
  4. Marguerite

    Marguerite Active Member

    There are ways and there are ways... although I do like the Bill Cosby method.

    Role playing is good. Some games are good - various forms of "Game of Life" can be fun and educational.

    There are also ways to remind a kid, without seeming to remind them. "Do you want your dinner before or after you shower?" is a good one. "Because I figured you'd maybe want extra time so you can wash your hair, so it will be pretty and bouncy for school in the morning."

    I took my kids shopping with me. I needed their help anyway. We shop to a list, so sometimes while in the supermarket I'd hand them the list and say, "Go find me the most economical baked beans," or they would see something yummy and beg me to buy it. We would stand there in the supermarket and discuss it. "How much does it cost? Why do you want it? Is it because you think the product is extra good, or is it connected to a commercial marketing gimmick, such as a 'free toy'? Is there another almost identical product which is cheaper? Do we already have something like it at home?"
    Sometimes, often, they could talk me into it. But they needed to justify it first. "I want to buy that brand of cordial because it's made from fruit juice and so it tastes better. We are running low on cordial and I do use it to take my medications, which taste horrible and need a shot of concentrated sugar to kill the taste."
    A good justification would be rewarded with buying the product (if we could afford it).
    The kids would help me at the checkout, unloading the trolley onto the conveyor in a sensible order, then re-packing the trolley so we could then load things into the box in the car. Process the heavy unbreakable stuff first. Do NOT put vol-au-vent cases or crisps at the bottom under the bottles of lemonade. Handle the paper bags of flour and sugar with utmost care, since a hole in a bag will be messy.

    When kids complain about the menu, I happily hand them the job for a week. "You plan the menus, you work out the necessary ingredients, you go buy them, you budget for them, you prepare it all, you field the complaints." I've never actually handed over the reins - somehow they always change their mind and withdraw the complaint. But also sometimes they say, "I WOULD like a change though. I'd lOVE to have X meal again."
    "That's fine - if YOU prepare it," I reply. I know I am going to get 'suckered' in to helping, but as far as possible I get them to do it all.

    The result has been, the kids learn to work as part of the family team. They also take that team spirit with them when they leave home, and work with other flatmates.

    Sometimes I've been too ill to cook and I've had to get the kids to do it. I remember one particular time when I was flat on my back (literally) with aseptic meningitis. I had previously planned a Sri Lankan curry (noted for rich flavour but not too much chilli) so I told the kids which recipe book to use and from my bed, I helped them get organised. They had to have all ingredients gathered together before they started. They sliced and cut the onion - I gave them a suggestion on how to do it with minimum tears - cut up ginger and garlic and put it in little pots at the ready. They got a bowl and put in it the curry powder and spice mix then they began to cook. They still burned the onion and spice mix, but with this recipe it actually improves the flavour. They were very proud of the end result. It's a recipe which simmers very gently for a couple of hours and all afternoon those kids could smell the delicious results of their work.

    We now have BF2 living with us. He alone produces more washing than the rest of us put together, so I gave him a lesson in how to use the washing machine. He is getting other lessons too, we all have our own way of doing things and he is learning this.

    difficult child 3 was paid for his role in the movie (I posted in Watercooler - "The Black Balloon" is being launched at Berlin Film Festival next month). This meant he had to file a tax return because the film people had to withhold tax. So when difficult child 3 got his tax refund cheque, I made him put it in the bank on his own. I was nearby, but he did it all - worked out what sort of transaction it was, went to the relevant window, had any paperwork ready (such as his account card and other ID) and put the transaction slip into his wallet when it was done. He was very proud of himself for doing this.

    There are so many things - each day brings opportunities to learn life skills which we often don't realise at the time. We just do it.

  5. Hound dog

    Hound dog Nana's are Beautiful

    Depends on where you think she's at right now as to where to start.

    At 13 Travis couldn't be left home alone. Not if I wanted my house there when I came back.

    But he did begin to walk to the library about that time. It's a 2 mile walk to the library and 2 miles home. I didn't worry cuz it's right across from the high school and he walked there everyday.

    I'm also thinking that's when he learned to make little things like hot chocolate in the microwave. He wasn't allowed near the stove. Not just his eyesight, but the fact he'd start doing something and wander off and forget. We didn't do the stove til about 17. But he got darn good with the microwave. lol

    He was 16 the first time I left him home alone. (nerve wracking for me) Started out with me making a quick trip somewhere. Maybe 15 mins, and worked our way up gradually as he did well at each step.

    He's just now beginning laundry.

    At 13 we all but had to drag him into the bathroom to shower. Now we beat on the door trying to get him OUT of the shower. :rofl:

    Mostly I did it with baby steps. A little here, a little there. His booster for Life skills came when Nichole surpassed him. Having your 3 yrs younger sister having more freedom and responsibility than he did really irked him. I simply told him as Fran always says so wonderfully, "Do to get."

    He doesn't do too bad. Although we're still working on a few areas. Still, I think he's doing much better than I'd prjected his progress to be back when he was 13.
  6. timer lady

    timer lady Queen of Hearts

    So many of the life skills are taught through simple repetition & role modeling. However, the constant reminders are grating on one's nerves - I do understand that.

    I've made up many simple reminders & posted them about the house for kt. None are rude or silly. I used PrintMaster & made very pretty posters for in the bathroom. They almost blend with the decor. Things like "Hang your Towels", "Brush your Teeth", etc,.

    In kt's bedroom, again done with taste - "Deodorant", "Dirty Clothes in Hamper".

    I find I nag less & just have to point to the posters.

    And to be honest, at 13, with kt's emotional age of 7 or so, that is about all she can handle.

    Slowly, very slowly, other things are being introduced. kt has taken an interest in her appearance & is worried about her weight & fashion. We've discussed healthy eating & watching portion control. I've taught kt to read the labels & check what a portion of her cereal is & taught her to measure it out. (This is with blessing from psychiatrist & therapist). The same with her favorite snack of yogurt covered pretzels. She learned that she can have more 3 Musketeers than yogurt covered pretzels - just because it says healthy doesn't mean squat (in her mind).

    Because of all of this, she is beginning to help plan meals & is doing some meal prep & cooking with her PCAs & with me on occasion.

    I've taught kt that if she dances (extra steps) while she cleans or cooks it's a fun way to sneak in some exercise.

    There are so many other life skills that we are just taking our time with or addressing as they come up. Phone manners, boundaries & money come to mind. When an opportunity comes up we use it to model proper & appropriate skills.

    I guess, after all that rambling, what I'm trying to say is use whatever is going to be positive for your difficult child. Something to keep her excited about learning & to keep you from pulling your hair out.
  7. wakeupcall

    wakeupcall Well-Known Member

    I guess we fall into the category of teaching VERY slowly and with some kind of fun so he doesn't really know he's learning. husband has still been cutting his meat and I've been throwing a fit. HE'S TWELVE!! Good grief, I'm having to train husband, too! husband does it to avoid melt-downs, but I maintain he's not learning a thing that way. I'm beginning to win out on that one.

    One of difficult child's new tricks is to belabor eating his meals, so that makes me have to stand and wait to finish dishes so that MY work will be done in the kitchen. One day last week I decided, ok...then YOU do all the dishes (not just his) when you're done. I still helped in that I stacked them, put away the salt and pepper, etc., but he was in charge of WASHING. He did it!! He didn't even complain too loudly.....and did a so-so job (though all I did was praise him!)! This waiting-on-hand-and-foot just has to end, I'm getting old!!!!!!!!!
  8. Fran

    Fran Former desparate mom

    Wyntersgrace as a veteran of many years of life skill training, I am still reminding difficult child to wear a clean shirt when he leaves the house or takes a shower. He is 23.

    I used to have a check list but as teens it becomes a trigger for them.

    If you have any time to have a conversation with her without the emotional outbursts, it would be appropriate to ask her if she thinks a check list in her bathroom or the door she uses to leave for school would help her.

    My sweet son who is a major difficult child couldn't make change. I realized how crippling this was when returning from buying milk, I asked if he had trouble. He said he realized if he gave them more than they asked he would get change!!!! He was 15. He was absolutely crippled in developing independence because he was anxious to look "stupid" and not know how much money or if he had enough. We got him a check card. He could go to the movies or buy something without all that anxiety. It pushed the limits and made his world bigger and him more confident. Now there are down sides to that on a more practical level but I was helping towards independence so we would work on the down sides.
    Driving was another leap forward in independence.
    GPS is an absolute godsend in reducing his anxiety of being lost and his tool towards exploring. He knows more of N.C. than I because he has entered addresses for where he wants to go.
    He has flown alone and can navigate La Guardia airport on a regular basis. It started slow and has grown.

    I used keeping as close to his peer group with independence skills as possible as my unit of measure. He wasn't going to a 4 yr college but his peers were. We worked on him getting away from home into a structured setting as a goal. Driving was not a topic of interest since I drove him everywhere. We nudged him towards that goal because that was what his peers were doing.

    Did you do laundry at 13? then you may want to work on that skill. I didn't so it wasn't a biggie for me. Learning to do dishes and clean my room were skills that I worked on. Neither easy child or difficult child seem too inclined but I know, just as I did that when it's their own home it will improve.

    Look at what your child needs. Talk to them about your concerns. Ask what you can do. Make some suggestions. Try to get them to be part of the problem solving. If they are too difficult child about it, then you have to make a parenting decision about how best to go about the steps towards independence.

    In the heat of battle at difficult child's worst, I told him that it was ok if he didn't love me. My job was to raise him to be a good, moral, functioning adult with the ability to live the life he wants. If at the end he loved me that was gravy but not my goal.
  9. tammyjh

    tammyjh New Member

    We can only focus on one or two things at a time for life skills here. It really depends on where the mood is and as she' been kind of stable the last 3 wks or so, we've also seen progress in her showering. Instead of not getting clean, having greasy hair, and still stinking after her shower, she's been clean, smelling pretty and her hairs been much cleaner. If the mood holds, we'll be working on laundry..which is one we revisit a lot. She can make some of her own lunches...from a can, a sandwhich, or freezer meals...we'll be progressing to recipes and the school will be doing a litle of that as, making change, reading sales flyers, checkbook keeping etc... We need to work with her on her housekeeping skills as well so I'm thinking I'll make up a list and prioritise them in what I think is important or maybe let her choose what she would like to work on first and number them. Maybe spend a week on each and just keep repeating the list when we get to the end of it.

    I agree that when the biggest issue is keeping the mood in check all day, it makes it hard to fit in any of the other things they need to be learning.
  10. Sara PA

    Sara PA New Member

    That's an extreme form of dyslexia, for want of a better name. I have what is called (informally, I think) right-left dyslexia which means you should follow my hand gestures, not the words I speak. There was even a movie about it, staring Valerie Bertinelli.
  11. SomewhereOutThere

    SomewhereOutThere Well-Known Member

    My son doesn't misbehave, so maybe it's easier for me (although he used to be a behavior problem). However, we've been working on life skills since he's been little and he STILL needs more work. It's a real challenge to teach him he needs to shower every day--it's not that he doesn't know this, it's that he doesn't care if he smells bad. My son is fourteen. I'd start now for your daughter.
  12. Hound dog

    Hound dog Nana's are Beautiful

    Pamela I sooooo wish I'd thought of that when Nichole was younger. She was horrible about dragging out her meal for at least an hour after everyone else had finished.

    Sara I'm going to look that up. That's what Nichole has. (we weren't given a "type", just that she has dyslexia) Actually today she informed me that I'm in charge of teaching Aubrey the difference between left and right. lol
  13. Wiped Out

    Wiped Out Well-Known Member Staff Member

    Thanks for this thread. I'm getting lots of good ideas for my difficult child!
  14. SomewhereOutThere

    SomewhereOutThere Well-Known Member

    I have that right/left/lack of directional sense problem too and I can't figure out how to work a I have to get places by spotting landmarks. I have no idea what it means when somebody says "go North." You have to say (and I need to write down) "turn left at the Mobile gas station on Main St." There are coping mechanisms for Learning Disability (LD) problems and lack of directional sense is a sort of learning disability. The best thing in my opinion is learning to take directions that YOU understand...and not getting lost all the time (although I still do that too). Oh, and not being afraid to ask for directions at stores and fast food joints when you're lost.
    I was not told it was dyslexia. I have no reading dyslexia at all. I was told it was due to damage/deficienty (life-long) in the right hemisphere of the brain. I seem to have that all around--it makes organization, face recognition, directions, math, My left brain has to compensate for everything.
    If your child is like this, he or she WILL need a lot of life skill interventions and strategies to work around stuff.
    OMG! Did I just say it wrong? Is it the LEFT side of the brain that tells you where you are in space???? LOL! See? I'm not even sure which side gives me trouble...
  15. Mrs Smith

    Mrs Smith New Member

    Right brain dysfunction, associated with NonVerbal Learning Disorder (NVLD) or traumatic injury to the right hemisphere.
  16. flutterbee

    flutterbee Guest

    It's the NonVerbal Learning Disorder (NVLD). She gets lost in space and time. A couple of doctors have asked if she suffered from oxygen deprivation at birth and she didn't too my knowledge. She did have the cord around her neck, but they seemed to take care of that with no trouble.

    I'm going to post more later when I can get my thoughts together.
  17. SearchingForRainbows

    SearchingForRainbows Active Member


    Thanks for posting this!!! I'm struggling with teaching difficult child 2 independent living skills. I'm getting some good ideas right along with you from all those who have responded.

    difficult child 2 is extremely disorganized, cannot multi-task at all, is extremely S L O W in doing everything, lacks common sense, and needs constant reminders to stay on task. Trying to teach him simple things makes me absolutely CRAZY!!!

    easy child is typing up a step by step list of how to clean the bathroom, complete with which products to use for the sink, toilet, shower, etc... I'm going to laminate the list and hang it in the bathroom.

    difficult child 2 is going to watch easy child clean the bathroom next weekend. She will explain everything to him in simple, short sentences. difficult child 2 will watch her do this for several weeks with her explaining everything. Then, we'll have difficult child 2 try to do the first task on the list. When he completes that task satisfactorily, we'll try to move on to the next one. It is a very draining and tiring process!!! I don't know how I'm going to be able to maintain the patience necessary for this...(This is one of the reasons I asked easy child to help me. She is good with difficult child 2 and doesn't mind.)

    I could go on and on and on...BUT this is your post. I've been pressing for Integrated Listening Systems (ILS) to be added in his IEP. The SD is supposed to provide Integrated Listening Systems (ILS) by law. Even though your difficult child is being home schooled, is there any way you could get your SD to enroll your difficult child in any sort of an Integrated Listening Systems (ILS) program? It might be worth looking into.

    Sending lots of hugs, strength, and patience as I know how difficult this is!!! WFEN
  18. nvts

    nvts Active Member

    Hey! Have you tried looking into either Social Skills training (contact your local Department of Developmental Disabilities) or Social Stories?

    Most websites/books on Social Stories (Carol Gray is the one that seems to come to mind first) are geared toward smaller kids/severely disabled children, however there are books out there where you can learn to write social stories that can help out.

    For people with smaller kids, there's a website that (naturally for a fee) allows them to write the social story for you with your own childs physical traits, likes, foods, etc. It's called They have a free sample that you can personalize and use to see if it catches your childs interest.

    Social skills training is usually done on a group basis with kids/teens that are similarly afflicted and allows them to interact with others which allows them to see that they're not on the boat alone.

    Hope this helps!

  19. Fran

    Fran Former desparate mom

    WFEN, you may want to cut out some pictures of the cleaning product and/or pictures of bathroom applainces(toilet, tub, shower, shower door) We found that it helps connect the dots.

    Fortunately,difficult child knows all the steps, it's just his initiation to the next step. One of my infamous lines is "stop stopping". The planning to automatically go to the next step is natural to us but my difficult child has flat earth thinking. Once one step is done it's as if the rest of the task falls off the earth. No continuation or initiation of the next step.
  20. tammyjh

    tammyjh New Member

    building on what Fran said, you could make a few simple instructional booklets with- pictures on how to do certain tasks. Thats what I'm thinking about doing for the laundry and just simple stuff like loading the dishwasher, etc. Some computer programs come with loads of clip art that have pics that can be useful as well as cutting pics out of mags. :smile: