Written by Autum Tesky

The world around us is rapidly changing. More teenagers than ever before are left with a sense of being caught out in a storm. For these teens, stability is within reach through the development of a teen life plan.

Sitting down to figure out the direction of your life may not sound like your teen’s idea of fun.

Take the time to nail down their goals and aspirations now. Doing so will potentially save them a future of headaches, worry, and stress. Many teens are silently wondering, “How can a teenager prepare for the future?” or “What should I do in my teenage years?”

Four Key Concepts for a Teen Life Plan

There are four key concepts you should be following when developing a life plan with your teenager:

  • Focus on preparing them for adulthood
  • Guide them toward realistic life goals
  • Provide an avenue toward independence
  • Support them in making the most of their teen years

In this article, we’ll cover these new rules for teaching essential life skills to teens. By approaching your child with support and guidance, you can help them build a strong foundation that leads to future success in their adult life.

Preparing for Adulthood (Life Coaching for Teens)

Before you sit down to figure out what your teen’s life development plan will look like, ask them one simple question: what life skills do you need before you leave home?

Depending on how much responsibility your teen has been exposed to before, you’ll get wildly varying answers! Regardless of what your child says, you’ll have a better idea of where their priorities are and where they need more guidance.

To a certain extent, everyone has a different view of what a successful life looks like. Your child’s priorities, talents, and hobbies may be the complete opposite of yours. Therefore, how they prepare for adulthood may look different than your ideal.

Of course, there are still essentials to adulthood that your child should learn regardless of their priorities.

Skills like how to balance a checkbook, scheduling appointments, and paying bills on time are just a handful of essential life skills every adult should have in order to succeed.

Talk with your child to see where they may need further guidance in essential skills. Provide support toward learning all about the fun ‘extras’ of adulthood.

The goal of a life plan for a teen should be to prepare for adulthood rather than make a full transition with adult-sized responsibilities and worries.

Setting Life Goals

In one afternoon, your teen can build their own goal setting worksheet to help guide them through the time ahead while using their time wisely.

Your teen should focus on goals that are SMART: specific, measurable, achievable, relevant, and time-based.

For example, studying for and passing the test to get your driver’s license is a goal that your child has a reasonable amount of control over.

Next, work with your teenager to discuss what type of work will be required to meet their life skill goals. Using our driving example, you could add to your worksheet that you and your teen will practice driving three to four times each week for three months.

In addition, your teen can make a commitment to study their driver’s manual weekly and take several practice tests.

Click the Life Plan Checklist below to download a PDF version.

Flexibility Is Key for Life Planning

Adding the steps or tasks required to your teen’s goal worksheet allows them to see the bigger picture associated with their goals. Stress that these steps are how they envision their future, their future plans ideas. Ideas can change.

This is a starting point, not a rigid path that must be followed. 

It’s also a great exercise in learning how to break a larger goal down into manageable chunks, which is a useful life skill on its own!

Above all, make sure your teen knows that a good plan is also a flexible plan. Throughout their life, they will likely be faced with situations completely out of their control that forces them to put their goals on hold.

Learning how to face these situations with grit will serve your teen well later in life.

As time wears on and your teen works toward learning the life skills they need and reaching their goals, ask them to reassess their goal worksheet.

Are all the tasks necessary and propelling them toward their end goal? Do they need to do more in order to reach their goal before the deadline?

A life goal sheet should evolve as your teen’s life does, with shifting tasks and priorities to meet the goals that most important to them and their success.

Becoming More Independent

Above all, learning life skills allows your teen to take steps toward their own independence. However, this can often be a hard transition for both parents and teens.

Any responsibilities you add to your teen’s plate should be done slowly. Between school and preparing for college, it’s easier than ever for teens to feel burnt out.

Too many new responsibilities at once will only add to the strain they feel. Help your teen set boundaries for their own mental and physical health.  

Teens learning how to be independent need guidance, support, and access to the resources they need to succeed. Avoid the extremes of either doing everything for your child or making them figure everything out on their own.

Parents who make it clear that there’s no such thing as a dumb question will often find their teens more willing to ask the questions that will give them an ‘aha’ moment.

Recommended Books

The 7 Habits of Highly Effective Teens, by Sean Covey, is a long-lasting classic book. This gem introduces a new generation to the seven habits – teen style: 1) be proactive, 2) begin with the end in mind, 3) put first things first, 4) think win-win, 5) seek first to understand, then to be understood, 6) synergize, and 7) sharpen the saw. He begins by affirming a teen’s experience in life. Problems are real; mood struggles, school issues, and parent problems do affect teens everywhere. Problems can’t be wished away, but teens can develop skills and tools to use during life’s challenges. The ideas in this book have helped hundreds of teens and can help your teen, too.

Smile & Succeed for Teens, written by Kirt Manecke, is an incredibly useful book for any parent who wants their teen to improve their social skills, interact more with real-world people, and to prepare to get and keep a job. It has a simple framework and clearly tells teens what they need to learn to succeed and why its important. Help your child develop the confidence they need to succeed in life and the skills to do so. Learn about the right way to shake a hand, smile, and look people in the eye. This book is written in an engaging humorous tone specifically for teens to read.

Creating and Living a Successful Teen Life Plan

Overall, living a successful life as a teen is all about finding balance. Between enjoying their teen years and taking them seriously enough to start learning life skills and setting life goals, these years can become extremely busy for your teen.

Make sure they take time to relax, build friendships, and develop hobbies that bring them joy.

While a life of extreme productivity may seem ideal now to your hard-working teen, finding balance is what will allow them to remain productive well into their adulthood.

Finding out what adulthood looks like to your teen is a huge step in their transition toward independence. Listen to your child’s dreams, goals, and passions and offer guidance toward realistically achieving them.

The more support you provide, the more willing your teen will be to spread their wings and fly outside the nest for the first time.