As students get ready to go out into the world on their own, regular life lessons tend to get overlooked. In many ways parents are more involved than they’ve ever been before. But at the same time, young people are lacking important life skills for their future. Plus, the now-common helicopter parenting style isn’t doing these kids any favors—studies like this one from Florida State University show that teens are having a hard time transitioning to the real world.
I’m a mom of two teenagers, and I think about this often. I wonder if my kids are going to be able to solve their own problems and figure things out for themselves once they leave home. I know I’m not the only one either. Many parents I know have the same concerns. So to make sure I had the basics covered, I went and talked to educators, parents, and recent high school graduates. Here are some of the top life skills for teens they identified as being essential for the future. While not all can (or even should) be taught at school, they definitely belong on the list to learn, right alongside math and English.
BEING AT HOME
These life skills for teens focus on items you can master at home.
Laundry is an essential skill for all ages, but it’s especially important for teens before they move away. It’s not just about being able to work the washer or knowing how much soap to put in—don’t forget the dryer sheet—but it’s also about being responsible and organized so your favorite shirt is always available when you want it.
This one can be tailored really well to the individual’s skill set and the level they’re at. For some students, it might be as simple as making a sandwich or whipping up some scrambled eggs. For others, it might be picking a challenging recipe online and mastering it.
Pack a lunch.
This seems like an easy one, but a lot of young people haven’t actually packed their lunch over the years. They either haven’t needed a lunch or they’ve had an adult pack it for them. Going through the steps of packing a healthy, complete lunch is a great life skill to have.
Make your own appointments.
Doctors, dentists, and hair appointments are all part of regular life maintenance. Yet, parents are often the ones driving this. It doesn’t have to be the case, though. Slowly shift this chore over because this is one of those life skills for teens that will serve them well in the future!
Practice basic home maintenance.
Whether you live in an apartment or house, there are some basics that you should know when it comes to home maintenance. For instance, changing batteries, lightbulbs, and knowing how to unclog a drain are all good skills to learn before going out on your own. Another good one is to know how to build a piece of furniture from scratch. This can definitely come in handy.
These are good skills to learn, alongside those traditional studies.
Be responsible on social media.
This is an important skill to master both in personal life and at school. Social media sticks with us for years, so it’s essential to learn how to be responsible and professional when we’re on it. Often, colleges will look up potential applicants to see how they present themselves on social media, so this one is worthwhile to get right.
Recognize quality online sources.
Media literacy isn’t just a buzz phrase. It’s really important for us to know where our information is coming from and to make sure it’s a quality source. With so much of our news and information being served up online and on social media these days, how can we dig deeper to understand quality?
Create a schedule and stick to it.
We all have schedules and demands to meet throughout our adult life, so learning this one is high school will offer benefits for years. Not only is creating a schedule half the challenge, but then sticking to it, meeting deadlines, and showing up on time is the older (and much harder) half.
Learn to negotiate and compromise.
These are two essential skills that come a lot more naturally to some over others. They can be excellent skills to pick up among the walls of a classroom, though. For this one, try to identify specific situations where negotiation and compromise came into play.
Respect and honor authority.
Learning to respect authority isn’t just something you do when you’re young. This stays with us all of our lives. For this one, students should find a way to acknowledge a leader or authority figure in their life. Encourage them to show appreciation in some way.
NEEDS AND BASICS
From overall health to getting a job, these are essential life skills for teens.
Create a resume.
It doesn’t matter what kind of job you expect to have in the future—learning to create a resume is a life skill worth learning. You can find a lot of good resume templates out there to start from. You might also try using a creative (and free) template through a site like Canva. A good design can go a long way.
Apply for a job.
Whether you apply on site, online, or through an app, this is an easy one to master. Basically, it’s about reading the directions and following them closely. If not ready to apply for a job, try applying for a volunteer opportunity instead.
Understand first aid basics.
You don’t have to take an official first aid class or know CPR to know what to do in certain situations. Ask your teen to look up common first aid situations they might encounter, and then have them look up what to do in each scenario.
Eating well and taking care of your body through exercise are two very important life skills to master. It’s tough though! The younger you can tackle these, the better because there will be many great benefits for years to come.
Practice good self care.
In addition to physical health, good mental health is also essential. One of the best ways to do this is through positive self care. Help students figure out what this means for them, and then encourage them to do it. Often, it’s hard for us to take time for ourselves, but it’s absolutely essential to do over the years.
GAIN FINANCIAL INDEPENDENCE
It’s not easy to do, but it’s a big part of the future.
This is so important, and many people are thrown into it at a young age without really understanding what’s going on. Young people need to know all the different types of bills they will have, including frequency, average amount, etc. They should know how to set up autopay or create a schedule so they never fall behind. This also ties into the bigger financial goal of setting up a bank account, so throw that into the mix as well.
If you’ve never received a paycheck, only to have a huge chunk taken out of it before it hits your bank account, then you don’t really understand taxes. Not only do young people need to know what taxes are, but they also need to know how to file their taxes at the end of the year.
Learn about health care.
Some young people don’t have to worry too much about health care because they’ll remain on their parents’ accounts. But for others, it’s a whole new world. No matter what, it’s important to know the cost of healthcare and what basic necessities cost.
Create a budget and save plan.
Budgeting and credit go hand in hand. At a glance, it’s a pretty simple one to understand—it’s money coming in vs. money going out. But spending can quickly get out of hand and unexpected expenses are always going to come up. You can help this by figuring out a budget and a savings plan. This will of course evolve and change quite a bit through the years, but it’s good knowledge to have upfront.
Create a “get back on track” plan.
Most adults at some point or another will find themselves with less money than they thought or hoped they might have. Whether this is because of credit card spending or unexpected expenses, it doesn’t matter. The important thing is knowing how to get it back on track. Many people will teach students about savings, but few people will teach them about how to climb out from debt. Statistically, many people will experience it. Help young people tackle it up front by having them create a strong plan, and it could come in really handy in the future.
OUT AND ABOUT
These life skills for teens will help us all master adulting.
Return something to a store.
This seems like a simple one, but it’s another where adults tend to be the ones who tackle it. If an item doesn’t work for you for one reason or another, don’t be afraid to return it to get something else or just get your money back. This is a small life skill item that can save you a lot!
Do laundry at the laundromat.
Not only should young people know how to do laundry at home, but they should also know what a laundromat is and how to use it. In general, public facilities like this are good for people to know about and utilize. Getting them comfortable here will help ensure they will be able to tackle other things as well.
Go grocery shopping.
Tie this one into one of the first ones on the list (making dinner), and you can knock out both at once. Grocery shopping is such a good exercise in budgeting and making smart choices. It’s easy to spend a bunch of money on impulse purchases at the grocery store, but sticking to a list and budget is a challenge worth tackling.
Go to the post office.
Many young people have never been to the post office, and they don’t even really know what it’s for. Encourage them to learn about public facilities like this that are available to them, and experience them first-hand. Other places they might also want to check out include city hall and the library. Encourage them to learn what they are and the purpose they serve.
Be comfortable on public transit.
For some students, this is no big deal as it’s something they experience regularly. For others, it might be very unknown and also a bit intimidating. It doesn’t have to be, though. Help them understand the resources available when it comes to public transportation, and get them comfortable with reading maps, schedules, and being willing to ask for help.
Did you notice when you put all the sections together that it spells out BINGO? Print out the Life Skills BINGO board to encourage students to complete all the items.