In this post: Teaching life skills for teens can be challenging to fit in, but it’s so important. Here’s a quick list for reference.
Learning Life Skills Is an Important Part of Growing Up
As hard as it is to let our kids go out into the world, we need to make sure they are prepared with some essential life skills. Before we know it, our babies are heading off to college or to a more independent life where they will need to know how to take care of all the things. It is our job to ensure they are prepared with some basic life skills.
Sometimes it is easier for us to do things for our teens, but the truth is, we’re not helping them–we’re just delaying the inevitable.
And we get it. Finding the time to teach your teenager about basic first aid or how to use the atm or fight with them about how to wash the dishes properly can feel like just one more item on your never-ending to-do list. When we’re already riding their roller coaster of emotions, it can be tough to just push this aside.
But even if your teen fights you on it now, they will absolutely thank you for it lat
Teaching Life Skills for Teens Can Help Your Teen Function Effecively in the Real World
The World Health Organization defines life skills as “the abilities for adaptive and positive behavior that enable individuals to deal effectively with the demands and challenges of everyday life.”
For some teenagers, it can feel overwhelming when they move away from home and into a dorm room or an apartment. When they know how to take care of themselves properly, they are more apt to try new things, keep a more positive perspective, and possess the coping skills for any challenges that may arise. That’s why it’s so important we teach these important life skills for teens.
There are probably things that we’ve thought to ourselves “Oh, I should probably teach them how to use a credit card when we have a few minutes.” Or “It would be good for them to know how to change a flat tire.” Perhaps some of the items below hadn’t even crossed your mind, but you’ll be like “yep, balancing a checkbook would be kinda good for them to know.”
Oh, and if you think “Surely they know how to do that!”
Definitely don’t be so sure. I was shocked that my teen had NO idea how to address an envelope. But in their modern world of technology and email, many of these simple non-tech basics get easily overlooked and taken for granted.
Either way, these aren’t overly involved things and it should be too challenging to teach your child these life skills. But there is no time like the present to check a few boxes on that “how to be a functioning adult” list.
50 Simple and Useful Life Skills for Teens You Can Teach Quickly
- Fill out a form/job application: Do they know all the info they would need like their social security number, etc.
- Make an online appointment or an appointment by phone: This may sound silly, but you would be shocked by how little teenagers use a phone to communicate. Role playing is a great way to ensure your teen knows how to answer questions appropriately, provide detail of what they may need, and write things down after the fact.
- Address an envelope: Does your teen really know where the stamp goes, and further to that, do they know that they can buy stamps at the post office, grocery stores, or even online?
- Changing a lightbulb: teach your teen how to look at the wattage. Pro tip: remind them that if they take the light bulb to the store with them, they can find exactly what they need.
- Replacing the batteries in the smoke detector: Nothing is worse than waking up to the annoying chirp in your fire detector, except the repeated phone calls and texts you may get from your teenager in the middle of the night because they woke up to a chirping fire detector.
- Fixing a blown fuse: your teen should know where breaker boxes are commonly located, labeled, and how to discern which fuse may be blown.
- Loading and Unloading the dishwasher: this should include what soap to use, and how much what can go into the machine (most things are labeled as dishwasher safe or not) and how to load things efficiently.
- How to use an ATM/talk to a teller: While teens love mobile banking apps, there are times when you either need to go through an ATM or (heaven forbid) walk into a bank to talk to a teller. Teach your child the basics of their accounts, how to operate and ATM, and what information they need to access their funds.
- Safely using knives/ Chopping food/Sharpening knives. Even if they are using a meal plan, it’s good for them to know how to safely use these utensils. It could save a trip to the ER.
- Ironing a shirt, pants or dress. Nobody likes to do it, but everyone should know how to do it in a pinch.
- Shining shoes: Teens can be hard on their dress clothes. Teaching them how to care and shine their shoes can help look more professional when they need it.
- Sewing on a button: We didn’t learn how to do this until much later in life, but there are so many times it would have come in handy. Basic sewing kits are available at any retail store and are so useful.
- Writing a check (no they aren’t totally obsolete yet)
- Paying a bill: Some teens are shocked that every single month they have to pay for their cell phone, utilities and rent. Teaching your teens these basic money management tips (like tips 15-17 can go a long way. )
- Depositing a check using a banking app
- Sending an online check or payment
- Transferring funds online
- How to apply/use/manage a credit card. This also means discussing the dangers of credit card debt.
- Doing laundry/Folding Laundry : It’s amazing how many teens simply never put their laundry away and only use their basket. This may work at home, but when you have four other roommates, keeping your clothes in the middle of the floor may not work too well.
- Cleaning the lint trap on the dryer and why. If your teen has never done a load of laundry, they might not even know what the lint trap is, but it can be extremely dangerous if ignored for too long.
- Unclogging a toilet or a drain: You don’t want your teen to be calling you frantically the first time they see a toilet overflowing. Because teens are, well, kinda gross, they should kow how to use a plunger or how to unclog a drain filled with hair or other items.
- Using a vacuum and a mop
- Returning items to a store. This is one of those things that doesn’t sound to hard, but for some teens, it can feel paralyzing to have to actually walk up and talk to someone at a store. Explain to them the importance of keeping receipts and how simple it is to return an item.
- Wrapping a present: Sure, gift bags are great, but nothing beats a beautifully wrapped present.
- Setting up a basic budget: Despite our best intentions, sometimes we don’t do the best job with teaching our teens the importance of a budget. Sending our kids off with a spending limit cap without putting into perspective what they should be using the money for is a recipe for disaster.
- How to cook at least three meals. It doesn’t have to be fancy, but teens should know what ingredients to have on hand in order to make a dish at any time (quesadillas, spaghetti, scrambled eggs, etc.)
Related: 15 Easy Recipes for Teens to Help Them Learn to Cook
- Using a grill/ Cleaning grill. Nothing is simpler (and less mess) than cooking on the grill, but unless you know how to do it right, you could end up constantly overcooking or undercooking your food. Let your teen experiment with the grill before they fly the nest.
- What medications to take for what symptoms. We cannot stress this enough–your teenager needs to understand how to take charge of their health. Not only should your child know what over the counter medications they should take, they should know how to refill a prescription and how to speak to a pharmacist about how certain drugs work together.
- How to clean a refrigerator. Teen should know that they need to throw out dated items and wipe their fridge/freezer out on the regular.
- Identifying and pulling up weeds (other basic yardwork)
- Checking the oil in the car
- Changing a flat tire (This can be intimidating and dangerous for some teens, so we like to make sure our kids know how to use a basic tire repair kit until they can get their car to a professional.
- Checking tire pressure and putting air in a tire.
- Jump starting a car (Our favorite gift idea for teens is this portable charger that enables them to jump start their car without the need for another vehicle. It’s been a lifesaver.)
- Putting gas in the car.
- Washing a car or going through a car wash.
- How to use a car service/taxi/Uber, etc. It’s also critical to teach them how to use ride-shares safely.
- Writing a thank you note or email: this is super important if your teen is applying for a part time job or internship.
- Ordering food online or by phone: they may think they can do everything online, but there are still a lot of restaurants that only take orders via phone.
- Creating a grocery list: Many teenagers think food just magically appears for them to eat. It’s so important for teens to understand how to buy what they need for the week, what food costs, and budget accordingly. Some kids end up living on Ramen only because it’s the simplest option.
- How to use basic tools (hammer, wrench, screwdriver) teaching them how to hang a picture or put together small items by following directions is something they’ll do over and over again.
- Folding a fitted sheet/Making a bed: OK, truth be told, we don’t know how to fold a fitted sheet either, but we do know how to make a bed, and even if teens are no longer using top sheets, they should still know how to change their sheets on the regular.
- Scanning and sending a document using an app: there will be a lot of times teens will need to scan and send information. This is a quick and simple thing to teach them via their phones.
- Getting a stain out of a garment or furniture. If your teen is renting their first place, this could mean the diference between getting your security deposit back or not.
- Signing their name (like in cursive)
- Cleaning a toilet and a shower/tub
- Dealing with customer service representatives politely by phone or online
- What can and can’t go in a microwave, stove, washing machine, etc. One would think your teen may know not to put metal in the microwave, but you all know what happens when we assume.
- How to use a fire extinguisher. We keep these small, mini fire extinguishers all over our house to protect from small flame ups. Consider opening up one for a live demo so your teens truly understand how to use it.
- Tip appropriately.
If you want an easier way to refer to this list regularly, we’ve created this handy printable for you that’s free when you sign up for our weekly newsletter.
We know it’s tempting to spoil your kids while they are living at home, but do yourself (and them) a favor, and start teaching these important life skills for teens today. You won’t regret it, and you may even sleep a little better knowing they can take care of themselves.
Raising Teens and Tweens can be hard. Maybe some of these other popular posts that other parents found helpful will make it a little bit easier:
Also, if you’re looking for some great books to help them develop important adulting skills, we highly recommend the following:
The 7 Habits of Highly Effective Teens (With Companion Workbook)Life Skills for Teens Workbook – 35+ Essentials for Winning in the Real World | How to Cook, Manage Money, Drive a Car, and Develop Manners, Social Skills, and More (Mental Health for Teenagers)Adulting for Beginners – Life Skills for Adult Children, Teens, High School and College Students | The Grown-up’s Survival GiftThe Manual to Manhood: How to Cook the Perfect Steak, Change a Tire, Impress a Girl & 97 Other Skills You Need to Survive