When my children were growing up I made the decision to be proactive in giving them life skills. I knew from my own childhood that I was not given much direction in the way of life skills. That is not to say that I had bad parents, but I did have a very over-protective mother who did, or tried to do, everything for me. I knew at an early age that it was not good for me. Thankfully, my father taught me many things including how to think for myself. Thus, I learned that I could teach myself the things I needed to know. Armed with the memory of my hard earned knowledge, I made the decision to provide my girls with as many life skills as possible. By the time they were 10, they could run the house, do laundry, knew what to do if there was a fire, could cook a basic meal, knew basic first aid, understood about such things as not talking to strangers, the value of tooth brushing, how to clean dog-pee off a carpet and other varied and useful things.

Actually I started very early with them and made it into a game. Each night I spent some quiet time with them once they were in bed. It was often time for a sing-song, or a story or a chat about my childhood, but also it was a time to introduce some basic skills. We had a small book, which we kept in the kitchen, which contained all the things they were learning. I would try and 'catch' them with a question, such as, "What would you do if you saw smoke coming fro the back of the TV?" They loved this kind of thing and were always anxious to tell me what they knew about fire safety. (My Dad was a fireman in London during the war so I learned a lot from him!).

By the age of ten they did their own laundry including deciding when to change and launder their bedding, they could use an iron, cook a meal, take care of each other and me if necessary. They could brew tea safely, use the stove, feed the pets, fix things on their bikes and join in all discussions regarding the running of the house.

From this early start it was a small step to dealing with things like drug use. We chatted about everything. We watched TV together and chewed over the knotty problems in various movies. We discussed cigarettes and alcohol and - yes - drugs. It may have helped that I took them out of school and home schooled them, so they were not exposed to the peer pressure in high school, but at 14 my younger daughter was working in a dental office in her spare time, so was dealing with real life situations, and working with adults in a setting where drugs were used in a medical way. She also saw the results of drug abusers teeth, when they came in to the office with "meth-mouth".
My elder daughter was in college at 17 working on becoming a professional photographer. By that age, she was pretty much drug-proof. Neither of them ever showed any interest in drugs or cigarettes. We drank small amounts of alcohol at home and I had no problem with them trying things. However, it was only in the context of a glass of wine with a special meal. They did not see us smoke. They did not see us use alcohol as a prop if we'd had a bad day. Children watch and copy from the time they are born. If the parents use alcohol as a cure for a bad day, then the children will get the message that it is ok to use alcohol for a crutch.

There is a common saying that goes "It takes a village to raise a child" In our times, we do not have the constant support of a village. Often we are separated from our family of origin, which means that the built-in support from a family unit is no longer there. This makes it all the more important that parents are encouraged and supported to teach their children the life skills they need. Sadly, I see many parents struggling with lingering effects of family dysfunction, and so they are not able to pass on life skills, as they do not have them for themselves.

Author's Bio: 

Vivienne has been an educator for natural childbirth, an adult trainer for outdoor camping skills, a speaker on domestic abuse, the founder of a state home schooling network, an advocate for the dying, the guiding light in local drug education and currently has a business coaching parents and families of drug abusers.