Teaching Skills for Life

The young adults I work with as a social worker have endured some tough challenges. Today was a day in which I realized though I don’t want to miss out on life and what God has for me I am humbled this is what I can ponder. I don’t feel like I am floundering to figure out how to manage my day to day life.  Much of the day to day “life skills” have come quite easily to me.  Most often my parents didn’t explicitly teach specific skills I would need for adulthood.  However through their stability and being available always to ask questions this allowed me move into the world of adulthood with more confidence than anxiety. Because of this I believe I have more energy to ponder deeper questions and also work on answering them for myself.   Does that make sense?  If you are just trying to figure out how to navigate the daily challenges of life such as laundry, grocery shopping, banking, how to register for a class, etc. the deeper questions in life – your goals, faith, values, etc. are important but most often put on the back burner.   

I have a great advantage as well when I get a bit stuck, my parents continue to be a call away.  They still answer questions that I would rather ask my Mom or Dad then Google. “Mom, how do I make the gravy thicker?” “Dad, what type of stain do you think I should use on this project?”

In contrast all of the young adults I’ve talked with this week have significant developmental areas they have missed out on. Today I met with the 21 year old that missed out on a stable family, has been bounced from residential school program to residential school program.  Tons of money spent to help him manage and overcome his emotional/behavioral needs yet despite it he missed out on so much that he can’t pass the tests to graduate high school. Even a basic GED program would be a stretch for him. Another very smart young woman who was raised by her grandmother shared she isn’t sure when she is pumping gas how to know when her gas tank is full. It’s a silly thing, super easy to learn, but knowing that’s a skill most often that would be taught by a parent saddens my heart. There are lots of moments in her life she has needed a parent, and not a grandparent, to guide her through. Another 18 year old young woman today asked me if she could get money to spend at the mall when we go to social security (to work on her benefits) tomorrow. She wasn’t aware that social security is not a bank, doesn’t hand out checks at the counter, cash, or anything else that might help her go shopping at the mall. She doesn’t really understand why she doesn’t have money but also has shared she really doesn’t know how to count change when she does have it. We’ve been working a lot with her on being an adult as she was told that she can’t return home (some challenging family dynamics which can be explained best by imagining Cinderella like step-mother). She proudly told me that she was in her new (supported) living situation for 2 hours alone “and nothing happened” and “I was safe.” This has happened before with young adults I work with, they have never spent time alone, and it’s a skill they need to learn as they’ve missed it.

Today I am grateful that I have not missed out on learning skills I can in turn pass on to the young adults I work with. Though it saddens me that they have missed out I am humbled that I can offer some stability when they feel they are floundering… I don’t want to miss out on teaching skills that will help them be successful adults and give them space to ponder deeper questions of life and faith.

A site I often use to find resources for young adults – resources for young adults, often geared for those aging out of the foster care system: http://www.caseylifeskills.org/


Posted on February 24, 2011, in Faith, Family, Social Work, Young Adults and tagged , , . Bookmark the permalink. Leave a comment.

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