This post: Life Skills for Teens: 21 Things They Need to Know Before They Fly the Coop
I’ve had my son in my tender care for 18 years and all too soon he’ll be heading off to college. It’s an exciting time for him (and for me), but I find myself spending a lot of time wondering (and truthfully, worrying) if I’ve prepared him for the next phase of his life.
In some areas, I feel as though I’ve prepared him well. In other areas… well, let’s just say there is still work to be done.
Whether your child is venturing off to college or starting their career, the following are 21 essential life skills for teens that parents agree teens should know before they fly the coop and take on this world as an independent adult.
Your teen may not master ALL of these before they leave the nest (it’s perfectly okay to figure things out as you go), but it IS helpful if they have a grip on most of these things so they venture into “the real world” well prepared.
Life Skills for Teens: 21 Things They Need to Know Before They Fly the Coop
#1 Basic Car Maintenance
Other than occasionally pumping gas, most teens have had little experience with car maintenance, which is why it’s important to teach them a thing or two before they venture into the real world. Make sure they know how to change a tire, how to jump a car, when to change the oil, the importance of regular maintenance, and a few tips on purchasing car insurance.
#2 Social Skills
Knowing how to converse with people and how to handle themselves at social gatherings will help your child both in their personal and professional life. Teach them the importance of a firm handshake, making eye contact when speaking with someone, paying attention to their body language when talking with someone, being a good listener, and being open to and tolerant of other people’s views and opinions.
#3 Money Management/Budgeting Skills
It can be a rude awakening for teens. Money has a way of slipping through your fingers when you’re not paying attention or spending too freely. Learning how to make a budget, open a bank account, and apply for a credit card (including reading the fine print) are important life skills for teens that will make it easier for your child to spend wisely and stay out of debt.
#4 Laundry Basics
Before your child leaves your tender care, make sure they know how not to shrink their clothes as well as other laundry basics. Simple things like separating whites from darks and temperature settings are a given, but also a few other handy tips that you probably think they know but don’t, like how often they should wash their clothes, towels, and sheets, and a few stain-removing tips, i.e. ketchup, blood, coffee, and makeup.
#5 Grocery Shopping 101
Since they’ve been young, our kids have been a little spoiled… they open the fridge and lo and behold, there’s food! Once they venture out on their own (either in college or into the world) they need to know a few basics about grocery shopping including making sure they have a standard list of basics to keep on hand, how to look for specials (store brands are always cheaper), and even how to pick the best fruit and veggies.
#6 Basic Cooking Skills
Chances are your teen already knows how to whip up a grilled cheese sandwich and make pasta, but once they get out into the world, they’ll need to have a few more basic cooking skills under their belt. Teach them how to shop for ingredients, follow a recipe, simple measuring tips, and proper food storage. It’s a big bonus if they know how to make a handful of easy recipes so they won’t starve when they venture out on their own.
#7 How to Write a Professional Email (One That Doesn’t Include Emojis)
At some point your child will be summoned to write a professional email – one that doesn’t include emojis or the word “heeeeellllp!” in the subject line. Give your child an overview of the basics including the proper salutation, maintaining professionalism, avoiding email as a venue to complain, and ensuring the email is clear and concise, to name a few.
#8 How to Effectively Manage Stress
Regardless of whether your teen ventures off to college, moves across the globe for an adventurous gap year, or dives right into the working world after high school, they need to have a few smart coping mechanisms under their belt to manage stress. Exercising, eating healthily, getting enough sleep, and creating balance in their lives is a great place to start.
#9 What Medicine to Take (and Not to Take) When They Get Sick
It’s inevitable. They will get sick – especially if they’re heading off to college and plan to live in a dorm. They need to know which medicines are best depending on what’s ailing them and which ones cannot or should not be taken together. They also need to have basic first aid knowledge, what to do in an emergency, and when it’s time to seek medical help.
#10 The Importance of Stepping Out of Their Comfort Zone
Everything from starting college as a freshman to interviewing for an internship or job can be stressful and exhausting. The more you talk about the importance of stepping out of their comfort zone (and offering ways to help them manage that stress), the more likely they are to feel normal if and when they feel overwhelmed when they face life’s challenges.
Chewing with their mouth closed and putting their cell phone away at the dinner table are basic manners our teens likely already know, but there are other manners and etiquette tips we need to empower them with before they move out. Things like knowing which utensils to use at a fine restaurant, which foods are acceptable to eat with your hands (and which ones aren’t), how to tip properly, and pushing their chair in when they leave a table are all skills that will help them put their best foot forward.
#12 How to Really Clean and Organize
For most teens, the idea of cleaning… well, anything, involves moving stuff to less obvious places like in a closet or under a bed. But once they start adulting in college or in an apartment with roommates, they’ll need to know how to really clean.
Teach them how to wash dishes and floors, clean a bathroom, vacuum, and dust. Also, teaching them a few decluttering tips, how to fold clothes, and how to organize an area with bins and shelves will help them keep their living space neat and organized.
#13 Fashion Know-How Tips
Ask most girls what they should wear to a birthday party or in an interview and they’ll likely offer up a few great ideas. Guys, on the other hand, can sometimes be downright clueless. Before your child heads off to college or into the real world, teach them a few fashion know-how tips, including how to dress properly for certain events, what type of clothing looks good together (no, button-down shirts shouldn’t be worn with sweatpants) and making sure they know how to use an iron.
#14 How to Accept Responsibility for Their Actions
Understanding that they will be held accountable for their actions and taking full responsibility for what they say and do is a like skill every teen needs to master before they enter the real world. You can help your teen get a running start by creating a culture of accountability in your family, making your teen responsible for certain chores in the house, and establishing firm rules and expectations.
#15 Time Management Skills/Prioritizing
The term “time management” is actually a misnomer. Our kids can’t actually manage time, but what they can do is manage the events in their lives relative to time. Prioritizing, not procrastinating, keeping distractions (like their cell phone) at bay, and staying organized will all be important to their future success as a student or as an employee.
#16 How to Foster a Strong Work Ethic
A strong work ethic is key to leading a successful adult life both professionally and personally. Inspire your kids to have a strong work ethic by instilling the belief that school is their “job,” passing along plenty of (age-appropriate) responsibility, letting them face the consequences when they don’t try hard enough and fostering the belief that life is a marathon (not a sprint).
#17 Personal Safety
It’s what every parent loses sleep over – our kids’ safety. Arm them with a few safety tips that could save their life including being aware of their surroundings at all times, using the buddy systems when possible (especially at night), always locking their dorm or apartment door, and being extra careful when they get into their car.
#18 How to Use Credit Wisely
Nearly 248 million Americans over the age of 18 carry substantial credit card debt, which is why it’s important for teens to get a handle on how to use credit wisely before they venture out on their own. Once they have a credit card, teach them to spend within their means, keep track of their charges, pay their bill on time, and gain an understanding of the benefits of building credit.
#19 Recognize What Love Looks Like
We can’t prevent our child’s heart from ever being broken, but we can empower them with a few smart relationship tips to protect their heart. Pass along valuable tips including making sure they take new romantic relationships slowly, looking for someone who shares their values, morals and goals, paying close attention to relationship red flags, trusting their instincts, and never settling for less than they deserve.
#20 How to Speak Up for Themselves
From explaining their symptoms to a doctor and managing conflict with friends to approaching their teacher about a grade they feel is undeserving and asking their boss for a raise, it’s time to step into the shadows, nudge our kids to the forefront and let them speak for themselves before they pack their bags and move out.
#21 How to Live Life with a Grateful Heart
When it comes to life skills for teens, living life with a grateful heart might just top the list. Gratitude has long been considered a powerful ingredient of health and well-being – it holds the power to help our kids live a happier and more satisfying life. To nurture a more positive, grateful heart in your teen, encourage them to volunteer their time, find the positive even in negative situations, help them recognize that there’s nothing too small to be grateful for, and to focus on building meaningful relationships in their life.