However long your teens are still at home before they go out into the big bad scary world on their own, they should have some basic life skills to fall back on when they are on their own.
Sending them out on their own into the world is a terrifying prospect for me. How do I know that they are prepared? How do I ensure that they aren’t calling every couple of hours asking me how to do something or another? How do I know that they can handle it and won’t die because they let dishes pile up for days or weeks on end, they didn’t clean out a clogged sink or toilet and they caught some atrocious third world disease? How do I know that they’ll wash their clothes and mend them instead of running around looking like a homeless person on the street? You get the gist of it.
So I’ve compiled a list of life skills all teens should have before leaving home:
1. They Need To Know How To Do Laundry
You don’t want your teen to be the smelly one running around or the smelly kid in class, the life of their wardrobe is impacted by how they wash their clothes. Irreparable damage can occur when they don’t read labels or sort clothes properly.
And then you have the possibility of longer-term effects like stuffing the washing machine too full of clothing causing extra wear and tear on the fabrics as well as the life of the washing machine.
Teach your child the basics of laundry, including not using too much detergent, how to read the ideal cleaning method on the tag, and how to treat stains. Little tips and tricks are great too, such as letting them know that fabric softeners may make their towels softer but they will also less absorbent!
2. They Need To Know How To Keep Their Home Clean
First of all, you don’t want your teen to be the hated roommate or face the high cost of pest infestation. Teaching your child how to keep their home clean should be a top priority. I mean you don’t want to have to drive up to clean their dorm room or first apartment every week.
Make sure your teen knows how to dust, vacuum, wash dishes, store food safely, and clean their bathroom. Visit your local Target or stop by Amazon to order them their first set of cleaning supplies so they know what they need and can just buy replacements as they run out.
The average American throws away 65 pounds of clothing every single year. Some don’t fit, but some only have small defects that people don’t have the time or skill to fix themselves. How much money could your teen save over their lifetime if they knew how to repair their clothes, not just replace them?
Maybe you don’t sew or are afraid they will forget their new learned skill as soon as they need it, turn to YouTube. It is definitely an invaluable resource. There are a gazillion videos for just about anything your child could need. Buy them a basic sewing kit and send them on their way.
If you don’t sew, or you are afraid your teen will forget as soon as they need the skill, YouTube can be an invaluable resource. There are tons of videos for everything your child could need. Just set them up with a basic sewing kit and send them on their way!
4. How To Cook The Basics
Don’t let your teen leave the house without understanding the basics of healthy cooking. They should probably know how to fry an egg, cook chicken, grill a steak, and steam vegetables. Plus, a few lessons on reading easy recipes probably won’t go to waste. Millennials eat out an average of 5 times a week, spending over $2,900 annually on eating out! This takes enormous chunks out of their budget, money they could be saving for other more important things. Oh, and if they don’t know how to use a grill, make sure you show them. A lot of people do crazy things trying to operate grills like putting charcoal on a gas grill for one.
5. How To Select Produce
Be sure to take your kids on a few runs to the grocery store and show them how you are picking out produce. Take them on some runs to the grocery store with you and demonstrate the right way to select fresh and ripe produce. Nothing is more disappointing than looking forward to eating a fresh apple or melon and biting into them just to find they weren’t ripe.
If you struggle with finding the best produce yourself, check out these guides from Kitchn on choosing the best vegetables and the best fruits together with your teen. Maybe you can both learn to make the most of your grocery budget!
6. How To Jump Start A Car
Do you really want your child waiting an hour or more for a tow truck to come to jump start their car? Jumping a car takes just minutes, and the knowledge can help your teen help others who find themselves stuck.
A set of jumper cables costs can be purchased for less than $20, while a portable jump starter, if your child is often in rural areas or traveling late at night, can be purchased for $70 or less. Personally, I like this emergency roadside assistance kit and this first aid kit so your child can keep jumper cables, emergency vest, basic first aid, and more in their car at all times.
Here is a step-by-step guide to jump-starting a car. If you worry your child may forget, print it off and tuck it into their jumper cable case in their car!
7. How To Keep Up With Necessary Car Maintenance
For many young adults, their car is their most valuable asset. They use it on a daily basis and repairs can set them back months in their budget. So while they don’t need to change the oil themselves, they do need to know how to keep track of maintenance and tune-ups.
Have your teen set up alerts in their phone or email calendar for when their car needs an oil change or regular tune-ups. Also, show them how to check the tire pressure in their car each month, how to check their tire wear with a penny, how to fill their tires at the local gas station, and how to refill their windshield wiper fluid – including teaching them when to switch to defroster from standard fluid!
Cars are expensive, but the more carefully your teen maintains them, the cheaper they are and the longer they last. Cars can regularly get over 100,000 miles if well cared for, lasting your child many years.
8. How To Use Basic Hand Tools
Does your child know how to use a hammer, screwdriver, drill, and saw? Do they know how to patch a small hole or replace a piece of drywall?
Knowing how to use essential tools for hanging pictures, installing shelves, and other minor repairs will help your child save on security deposits and take more significant ownership of their future homes.
9. How To Write A Resume And Cover Letter
Even if your child wants to be an entrepreneur, chances are they will be applying for jobs at least a few times in their lives. Make sure they know how to write a clean and professional resume.
Resumes should be only one page, have no typos, focus their education and life experience details for the job they are applying for, and have an organized format. If they have unique work experience, interests, or skills make sure they are included to help their resume stand out!
When it comes to cover letters, it is all about the preparation put into it. Explain to your teen that they should never submit a standard cover letter or a letter addressed “to whom it may concern.” Take the time to find out the name of the hiring manager or HR representative and include details of why they are interested in this particular job and what benefits they can bring to the company. For top positions, cover letters are set aside.
10. How To Set Up A Budget
Hopefully, your child has been practicing basic budgeting from a young age, but if not, now is the time to sit them down and show them how to prioritize their spending. What is their source(s) of income? What are their necessary expenses? (Rent, car insurance, cell phone) How much are they putting aside for the future or towards debt payments? How much does that leave for fun spending with friends?
Budgeting is a lifelong skill that will help them avoid debt and start them on their way to achieving their longer-term goals. You Need a Budget is excellent for setting up new budgeters and is my favorite budget app. If you have a family account, you can set your teenager up with their own budget for free on your account to gain practice!
11. How To Invest For Their Future
Young adults have the most potent financial asset on their side – time. If your child didn’t have personal finance education in school (they probably didn’t!), they may not know the power of exponential growth and compound interest. Teach it to them early to give them a chance to shine!
With teens, it is best to frame investing in a context they are interested in and can understand. For instance, how can they become millionaires? The long-term return of the stock market since the 1920s is ~10%. Explain to them that all they have to do is put away just $140 a month into a Roth IRA, invested in a low-cost S&P index fund, from their 18th birthday until their 30th birthday. Make investing that money a top priority in their budget.
12. How To Iron A Shirt
Teens don’t do a lot of dressing up but there will come a time when they need to dress up or at least wear a button-down shirt or somewhat other dressy attire. Don’t let your teens go to a job interview or work wrinkled, teach them how to use an iron.
13. How To Keep A Plant Or Animal Alive
Teens like to think they know it all. They think they are invincible. They also tend to think they are adults before they have the maturity. The older your teens get the closer they are to starting families of their own. So well before they try to raise a baby teach them how to raise a plant or an animal. Keeping something other than themselves alive is a big responsibility- even if it’s just a house plant.
14. How To Pump Their Own Gas
There are actually some people in the United States that don’t know how to pump their own gas. All I can say is that if you drive a car you better know how to pump your own gas.
15. How To Change A Tire
I know so many adults who don’t know how to change a tire. There are all sorts of excuses- including having a membership to AAA. But what happens if you get a flat- in the middle of nowhere, with no cell service and no one else around?
Being able to change a tire is one of the most important ALL people should know- especially teens who like to go out driving just to drive.
16. How To Read A Map (NOT GPS!)
Some basic life skills are being lost in this age of technology. Reading a map is one of them. If your teen didn’t have his phone or access to GPS, can he read a map to get where he is going?
If he were lost could he tell which direction he was going? Being able to read a real, paper map is not only an important life skill for teens but a survival skill as well.
17. How To Pay Your Bills
When you teen moves out of the house he will be solely responsible for all of his living expense. Chances are he will need to keep track of bills such as electricity, rent, car insurance, phone, and more.
Your teens need to be able to organize these bills and pay them on time. If they don’t they risk ruining their credit and losing important things like their home!
18. How To Write A Professional Letter
Writing a professional letter or email is completely different than texting your BFF- yet some teens don’t seem to get that. If you want your teen to be taken seriously as an adult, make sure he knows how to write a well thought out, professional letter with NO abbreviations or emojis!
19. How To Be On Time
This is a major pet peeve of mine and one I see getting worse and worse in younger generations. Please, please, please teach your teen the importance of being on time. Teach them to value their own time and the time of other people.
Don’t let them be late for school. Work. Class. Practice. Start early so they don’t have trouble with being late when it matters.
20. How To Administer Basic First Aid
How to take care of themselves when they are sick or hurt is a life skill all teens need. How to dress a burn or wound. How to prevent dehydration. When to seek medical help. How to do CPR. How to do the Heimlich maneuver. These are all important skills teens need to know.
21. How To Calculate A Tip
This may seem small- but everyone should know how to easily calculate a tip in their head. Teaching teens to take 10% and double it for 20% or 10% then half of it for 15% is as easy as moving a decimal point and will make a difference in the life of your waiter.
And while you are at it- teach them not to be stingy.
22. How Their Government Works
When your teen turns 18 years old, he will be an official, voting citizen. Make sure he knows how to vote and how his government system works. How laws are made. How officials are elected.
You can’t change or complain about something you don’t understand.
23. How To Defend Themselves
At some point in your teen’s life they may find themselves in a dangerous situation. It could be in a dark parking lot or a bully in class. Teach your teen how to defend herself. How to get away from an attacker. And how to incapacitate an attacker. Then hope they never have to use the knowledge.
24. How To Possess Basic Manners
I remember when “Bless You” was an automatic response to any sneeze. When doors were held open for strangers. Basic manners and etiquette are a lost life skill for teens that need to be reclaimed.
Excuse me when you need to pass. Hold doors for strangers, and say than you when someone does it for you. Say thank you when the waiter refills your water glass.
These little manners should be instant and automatic every single time.
25. How to Say No (Stand Up for Themselves)
When our kids are young and they find themselves in trouble they look to us to help them. To keep them safe. Teach your teens to say NO and stick to it. And teach them to be their own advocate and stand up for what they believe in.
You can’t prepare your teen for everything in life but the more everyday practical life skills they have the better they’ll fare,
What are some of the things you do in your household to prepare your teen for the real world?
Take care until next time,