Life Skills for the 18 Year Old

Photo Credit: Sam Houston State University Marketing & Communications
Photo Credit: Sam Houston State University Marketing & Communications

In some of my presentations to student groups, I mention that once you turn 18 you are an adult for almost all legal purposes, except the possession and consumption of alcohol (at least in Texas). Eighteen year olds can vote, enter into contracts, marry, and serve in the military.

One of the things that I have to keep in mind for my job–serving students primarily in the 18-21 year-old age range–is that I am ultimately helping to educate them on how to be professional.

This means not only educating them on the law or conflict resolution skills, but also on how to act professionally and responsibly in a sometimes out-of-control, hostile environment. They may not remember a particular point of the law that I share with them, but they will remember how to write a professional letter or how to responsibly resolve a conflict.

In other words, life skills.

Julie Lythcott-Haims, a former Stanford Dean of Freshmen and Associate Vice Provost for Undergraduate Education at Stanford recently wrote on eight adult skills every 18-year-old should have for Quartz. She also writes of the crutches that we, as parents and educators, provide to 18-year-olds that prevent them from fully developing these skills.

These skills involve being able to speak to strangers, managing assignments, handling interpersonal problems, and coping with ups and downs.

It seems to me that these are skills that even adults have difficulty mastering. That’s why life is a constant learning process and why it’s important to get help from professionals in these areas. Don’t reinvent the wheel. Learn from the person who has used a wheel and then try to improve upon it.

When dealing with students–and even older adults–I find that stereotyping is dangerous and it is better to meet people where they are. Some are more mature than others. Some are worldly and have profoundly emotional experiences at early ages in life. It seems like some of our children start out with little chance.

Regardless of background, we have to learn to talk to each other, find our way around, take risks, and get along with each other. I recognize, and am sometimes saddened, by the abrupt, immediate, and public harshness of discourse by so many–young and old alike–these days. In the “old days”, there were rough political ads that accused candidates of all sorts of terrible things, so it isn’t necessarily new. But why does it still exist?

Ultimately, our role as educators is to help train others in the way that they should go so that they will not depart from it later, to paraphrase Proverbs 22:6.

I’d like to know your thoughts on Dean Lythcott-Haims’ article.


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