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10 Ways Teens or Young Adults Build Agency Over Their Lives, and Why that Matters for Nutrition: Skills Teens Should Learn

From when children are born until they live as independent adults, they slowly develop more and more agency over their own lives. Newborn infants are completely dependent on their parents, but only a few months later, they are able to control some aspects of their lives on their own: they can crawl where they want to go, they can grab things they want, and they can choose to eat or not to eat a food that is offered.

As our children get older, we want them to continue to add meaningful tasks that they can do for themselves on their own: get dressed, bathe themselves, keep themselves safe, and make friendships. When a child can do these things, they feel ownership over their own lives. They start to feel that they have control over what they do and what happens to themselves. This sense of agency and self efficacy encourages them to continue to add more items to the list of things they do for themselves. When they are teens and young adults, there are even more skills they should learn

It takes a sense of personal agency and self efficacy for a child to take care of their own health and wellbeing too. Children who don't feel like they are capable of doing things for themselves are less likely to feel they can take responsibility for feeding themselves well. When your teen or young adult child masters the skills they should learn, they have more self efficacy for all areas of their health, wellbeing, and nutrition.

Here are some important tasks you may want your older teen or young adult child to master. As your teen learns these skills, they will be building their self efficacy and sense of agency over their own lives. Whether food-related skills come early on or later in the progression, they are crucial for your older teen or young adult child to develop.

teenage girl

Crucial Skills for Teens and Young Adults to Learn

  • Learn how to drive or use public transportation independently

  • Work a job

  • Reliably attend classes at school

  • Schedule their own appointments

  • Manage their expenses and budgeting

  • Keep their space at home neat

  • Do their own laundry

  • Maintain a daily routine of bedtime and waking up time

  • Plan and preparing their own food

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