70+ Essential Life Skills Teens Can Use Now and in the Future
These 70+ life skills for teens are essential for making sure your child will be safe, confident, and self-sufficient when they leave home.
One day you’re holding your baby in your arms and next you’re standing next to – or possibly looking up to – your teenager.
Our time with our children is short and once our kids grow into teenagers we have only a few short years left to prepare them for life outside the home.
Equipping our teens with life skills not only means they’ll be better able to manage money, do their own laundry and possibly cook a meal. It also means they’ll be more adept at handling emergencies, staying out of crippling debt and presenting themselves well to the world.
Few schools teach teens life skills today, so it’s up to us to make sure they’re ready.
Teaching your teen life skills doesn’t have to be a burden. In most cases, it’s a matter of making sure you’ve discussed important topics or have started handing over more responsibility. And ultimately, the more life skills your teen has mastered, the more self-sufficient they’ll become – which means less work for you.
Here are the essential life skills your teen will need for life outside your home, along with resources you can use to begin teaching these skills:
Money Management and Budgeting Skills
One of the most essential life skills we can teach our teens is how to budget and manage money. This basic knowledge will equip teens to stay out of debt, handle credit cards, save for big purchases and potentially live a life of financial freedom.
And now is the time to teach this skill to your teen because once they leave home it’s too late. Learning these skills while still at home is valuable, since any mismanagement of money won’t have major implications.
The best way to teach teens and kids how to manage money is to give them some of their own to mange. By giving your teen an allowance, and making them responsible for certain expenses, they’ll see first hand the benefits of budgeting and being careful with money. Inevitably, your teen will make mistakes, such as blowing money on an expensive purchase, that will make the need to budget and save obvious when there’s no money left to go out to dinner with friends.
Here are a few resources to help you start teaching your teen money management skills:
- How to set up an allowance for your teen
- How to encourage kids to budget their money
- How to set up a clothing allowance for your teen
- The best debit cards for kids and teens
- Whether or not you should give your teen a credit card
- How to teach kids to comparison shop
- Basic investing concepts all kids should know
One of the biggest barriers to academic success for teens is not having good study skills. Understanding the best way to study in order to learn is essential for success in high school, future success in college, and professional success later in life.
The important study skills teens need include: knowing how to study without distractions, carefully reading and following directions, knowing where to find help and when to ask for it, and keeping track of deadlines and due dates.
Here are a few resources to help your teen develop good study skills:
- Good study habits that contribute to a lifetime of success
- How to find a good place to study
- 8 sites where students can get help with their homework
- 7 test anxiety tips to help kids and teens cope with test-taking nerves
Personal Grooming and Hygiene
It goes without saying that maintaining good personal grooming and hygiene is essential not only for staying healthy but also to make oneself presentable. Few people want to spend time with someone who smells bad or appears unkempt.
While our teens are still at home we can help educate them on the basics of grooming and hygiene. As teens go through the transition of puberty, they’ll especially need guidance in a caring for their changing body.
Here are a few topics as well as resources to review with your teen:
- A step-by-step guide to showering and bathing properly
- How to brush teeth properly
- How to maintain proper hair care
- The basics of taking care of your skin
- The basics of nail care
- How to manage facial hair
- Understanding a menstrual cycle and what to do
Chores and Household Skills
Knowing how to do basic chores and maintain a household are important skills so that your child doesn’t end up living in a rat’s nest. But consider this too – household skills are also essential for maintaining a good roommate relationship and harmony in a marriage. In fact, according to a study conducted by Harvard University, 25% of marriages end in divorce because of disagreements over chores.
The earlier kids are given chores, the more they will become the norm. If your teen hasn’t started chores yet, there’s still time to learn and contribute to the family. Just be sure that chores aren’t tied to their allowance (see why here).
Here are a few resources to help you get started:
- How to get your kids successfully started on chores and keep them motivated
- Age-appropriate chores for kids – lists by developmental stage
- 8 tips for getting your kids to clean your house
- 5 tips to get your kids and teens to clean their messy bedrooms
Knowing how to cook brings a number of benefits: not only do cooks gain greater self-sufficiency but cooking generally results in healthier eating and can save money.
Getting your teen in the kitchen to cook alongside you is one way to get the ball rolling. Some of the basic skills you’ll want to cover include:
- Reading a recipe
- Knife skills
- Using measuring cups
- Using appliances
- Using a stove and oven
- Understanding basic nutrition
- Store food properly
- Understanding when food has spoiled
The following resources can help you teach your teen basic cooking skills:
- 11 Healthy and Easy Dinner Ideas for Kids and Teens
- Teach kids to cook by age and ability
- Teach kids knife skills and safety
- 25 skills every cook should know
- How to store foods safely
Maintaining a Wardrobe and Clothing
Clothing becomes more important to kids as the get closer to and enter the teen years. But while your teen may have a better sense of style than they did at age six, do they know the proper way to dress for certain occasions? And do they know how to maintain their clothing through proper care?
Clothing can play a major role in many professions and understanding which pieces of clothing are considered appropriate is essential.
And being able to take proper care of clothing will prolong the life of clothes and reduce how much your child needs to spend on clothing.
These resources can help educate your teen:
- How to determine the right size clothes for you
- How to dress for a job interview
- How to dress for certain formal occasions
- How to do laundry
- How to iron clothes
- How to store and organize clothes
- How to pack a suitcase
Personal Health and Basic First Aid
As an adult, it’s important to know not only the basics of staying healthy but also what to do when help is needed. We can begin educating our teens these life skills while they’re at home so they’re well-informed by the time they’re on their own.
Especially if they live in the United States, teens should also be aware of the basics of health insurance – how it works and what it covers.
These resources can help teach teens the basics:
- The importance of eating healthy and exercising
- When to seek medical help
- What to do in a medical emergency
- Understanding over-the-counter medications (and abuses)
- Understanding the effects of alcohol, marijuana, and illegal drug abuse
- An explanation of health insurance
- Basic first aid
Social skills are important for teens as they become more independent and have the opportunity to form stronger bonds with friends. These skills will also be essential as teens leave home and become more self-sufficient.
In addition to some of the softer skills such as how to make friends or apologize, teens should also know proper etiquette like when and how to write a thank you note, how to demonstrate appropriate table manners, and when to give a present and how to choose one.
These resources can help teach teens the basics:
- How to make new friends
- Proper etiquette for teens
- When and how to write letters and address an envelope
- How to demonstrate appropriate table manners
- Common courtesies when texting or making a call
- 8 ways teens can improve their communication
Help your child learn twelve important social skills with this 18-page ebook, Social Skills for Kids. Your child will learn how to be a gracious host, write informal and formal letters, address an envelope, set a table, demonstrate appropriate table manners, and more. Includes easy-to-read instructions written especially for kids. Click here to learn more.
Staying organized can have a big impact on a teen’s academic success and also reduce stress. When everything is in its proper place, it can lower frustrations about missing homework assignments, sports gear or any number of things that can get lost in a teen’s room.
In general, studies have shown that seeing clutter can be mentally draining and increase anxiety. Understanding how to stay organized can help teens feel more at ease.
These resources can help:
Time Management Skills
Showing up to an event on time, understand how long it will take to complete a task, and calling someone when you said you’d call them are all important skills teens and adults need.
One way to encourage your teen to consider their time management is to ask them to pick a time when they’ll complete a task such as chores or homework.
And when teens are working on longer term projects, like essays or science projects, for example, it can be helpful to coach them on how to write out a plan or schedule so it’s finished by the due date.
These resources can help:
- How to teach kids to manage their own time and get things done (without nagging)
- 24 time management tools for teens
As teens spend more time outside their house without parents, it’s important to make them aware of safety concerns. These skills will be especially important when teens leave home and are in college or living independently. It’s best to educate your teen now, while they’re still living with you, so they’re prepared in the future.
- Teen safety while driving
- Teen safety online
- Teen safety tips for going out alone
- Teen safety tips for staying home alone
- 50 safety tips every teenager should know
To really make our teens self-sufficient, they’re going to need to learn to solve problems independently. The process of acquiring problem-solving skills is gradual and your teen will need your love, support and guidance as they attempt to solve their problems independently.
The first step in encouraging problem-solving skills in teens is to let them make decisions and deal with challenges. It’s tempting to jump in and rescue our kids from friendship difficulties or contact their teacher over an issue they could and should address on their own.
Parenting kids in a way that encourages problem-solving can take a bit of practice, but the truth is parenting becomes a bit easier when our kids are equipped to think for themselves.
This resource can help:
Even the most highly-educated college graduate won’t get far in a job if they don’t understand basic career and employment skills. That’s why teens benefit from getting jobs before graduating high school.
By getting a job, even for a short time, teens learn how to apply for a job and may also learn customer service etiquette, among other valuable skills. These jobs can also serve as a time to make small faux pas and learn from them, before embarking on a career.
Here are some resources to help teens get and keep a job:
- How to get a job as a teenager
- 40 jobs for teens
- Online jobs for teens
- How to help your teen be successful at their first job
- 14 sample interview questions for teens (with realistic answers)
Driving and Auto Maintenance Skills
Learning how to drive is a huge rite of passage for teens. But it’s important that in addition to just learning the skill of driving, teens also understand the basics of what it takes to own and maintain a vehicle and how to stay safe.
Here are a few of the things your teen should know:
- How to register a vehicle
- Buying car insurance
- How to pump gas
- Basic maintenance such as the need to change the oil, how to change a tire, how to keep tires full of air, and how to maintain windshield wiper fluid
- Basic safety knowledge like the dangers of texting while driving, speeding, and not wearing a seat belt
- Knowing how to navigate without the use of GPS
More about teens and life skills:
7 Ways Parents Can Encourage Teens to Be Self-Sufficient
7 Important House Rules for Teenagers (and How to Make Sure They’re Followed)
Why These 3 Classic Punishments for Teenagers Are Ineffective and What to Do Instead
At What Age Can Kids Stay Home Alone?
What to do next…
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About Kerry Flatley
Hi! I’m Kerry, the mother of two girls and a certified parent educator. I believe it is possible for parents to have a supportive, loving, and warm relationship with their kids while raising them to be independent and ultimately self-sufficient. Over the years, I’ve read numerous books and articles that support this belief and I’ve put these ideas into practice with my own kids. Read more about me and Self-Sufficient Kids here.