25 Life Skills for Teens to Learn Before They Leave Home

Prepare your teens for any situation by teaching them these key life skills.

Published January 4, 2023
Boy and father talking while renovating apartment

Your teen is about to enter the real world. Are they ready for independence? As a parent, you want to make sure that your child can handle anything. While most teens know how to work a dishwasher and make a sandwich, there are lots of other essential responsibilities that they need to know for life as an adult. This is a breakdown of some of the top life skills essential for teens to learn before they leave home. Use this guide as a starting point to open up discussion and teach your teen what they need to know for the real world.

Home Skills for Teens to Know

For almost the past two decades, you've probably done a lot of cooking and cleaning for your teen. Maybe they've helped out and learned a little along the way, but maybe they weren't paying as much attention as you would have liked to all the household tasks you took on as they grew up. Here are some of the most important home-related life skills for teens to master before they vacate the nest.

1. Cook Basic Meals

It seems simple enough, but does your teen know how to scramble an egg? Can they boil water? Do they know how to cook chicken? These tasks might seem self-explanatory until you watch someone use a toaster to make a grilled cheese or put a crockpot on the stove. Yes, these are true stories. As your teen enters adulthood, they need to know how to make simple dishes that are hearty and healthy. Also, remember that they will probably have to live on a budget. This means that it is also important to show them how to get creative with what they have on hand.

Daughter and mother cooking together

2. Unclog a Toilet

Did you know that there are two types of plungers? Contrary to popular belief, that classic red plunger with the wooden handle is meant for your sink. In order to unclog a toilet, your teen will first need the right tool - a plunger with a flange. Second, they need to know how to turn off the water and why continuously flushing is a recipe for disaster. If you have a clog in your home, take it as a learning opportunity and have them follow your instructions to complete the process.

3. Perform Simple Home Maintenance Tasks

It is likely that your teen will move into an apartment or rent a house at some point in their near future. Does your teen know how to conduct the basic home maintenance tasks that they'll have to do every month and year? Along with everyday house cleaning tips, review how to change an air filter, replace a lightbulb, test a smoke detector's batteries, and clean the dryer vent. Most importantly, you need to make sure that they know how to prepare for inclement weather and what to do when the circuit breaker trips.

4. Know How to Care for Clothing

Anyone can throw clothes in a machine, add soap, and turn it on, but that doesn't mean the clothes will come out looking the way you want them to. Does your teen know how to do laundry properly? Can they iron a shirt or sew on a button? Do they know how to treat a stain? The quickest way to ruin clothing is to not have a basic understanding of laundry practices. Simple household items like white vinegar, baking soda, dish soap, and even WD-40 can be fantastic tools for treating a variety of tough stains. Certain fabrics require a buffer when ironing them. Sit down with your kids and teach them some good old-fashioned home economics.

5. Set a Table

Your teen probably won't be hosting any formal dinner parties in college, but knowing how to set a table properly ensures they know how to conduct themselves in a formal setting. This is an important life skill for teenagers who are looking to land a job and have their interview over a meal.

Automotive Skills for Teens to Learn

Your teen may have passed their driver's test, but are they equipped with the knowledge of how to perform basic maintenance on their vehicle? Are the knowledgeable on how to handle roadside issues that could arise? Make sure that they have these automotive abilities and vehicle maintenance skills before driving off into the sunset.

1. Change a Tire

It will happen to almost everyone at some point in their life. Their tire will go flat thanks to a nail or they'll have a blowout while driving down the highway. No matter what the cause may be, most folks don't know how to handle this unfortunate task. Not only that, but many times, this scenario occurs when cell service is not available. Thus, knowing how to change a tire as well as where to find their spare, the car jack, and the lug wrench are crucial for keeping your teen safe and prepared.

Father showing his son how to change tire

2. Jumpstart a Car

A dead battery is another unlucky event that requires a bit of know-how. While the go-to solution is to wave someone down to get things started again, there may not always be a helping hand. Therefore, you want your teen to know how to jumpstart their vehicle with and without another car. In case you didn't know, a spare battery and a battery charger can both recharge an automobile.

3. Change Their Oil

If you have ever sat in your car during an oil change, you know how quick this task takes to complete. That begs to question, why are you paying so much for this service? Not only will learning this life skill save your teen time and money in the long run, but it will also better ensure they stay on top of their car's regular maintenance. However, if you don't actually know how to complete this task yourself, then at least take the time to talk to your teen about the importance of regular car maintenance. Their car's manual will detail times for regular service intervals for their oil and other essential fluids.

4. Parallel Park

If your teen plans to live off campus in college, parking can become a major problem. Knowing how to parallel park will help them get to class on time and it will give them an edge in finding the closest space to the stadium during football season! This can also be an important skill if they will live in or need to go into a busy city with limited parking, and other situations as well.

5. Get Their Car Unstuck

Mud is a menace. Worst of all, this sticky situation can cost your teen a pretty penny if they have to call for a tow. Knowing the importance of traction is key in this situation. This means finding something for their tires to grip on to like a wooden board. Many people also don't know that lowering the air pressure in their tires can also increase traction. While this scenario seems unlikely, this life skill for teens can be useful if they encounter muddy, sandy, and snowy terrain.

6. Drive In Wet and Icy Conditions

Most people stay indoors during inclement weather, but what happens if your teen finds a job in a medical profession or their college classes don't get cancelled on a snow day? Certain parts of the world are used to having to deal with a little ice and snow, but if your teen is moving from a warm weather climate, they may have never come across this scenario. Knowing how to drive in all types of weather conditions is imperative to their safety.

A women instals snow tire chains on a car

Financial Skills to Teach Teens

One of the biggest sections of your teen life skills checklist should be to teach your child how to handle their finances. Bills are a big part of adulthood and most teens don't understand the meaning of 'living on a budget.' Here are some of the top life skills for teenagers to know about finances.

1. Sign Their Name

Since 2010, many American schools have done away with cursive and handwriting courses. Unfortunately, this means that many teens don't know how to sign their own name. This unique form of identification is imperative for setting up a bank account, signing a lease, or a job contract.

2. Write a Check

Speaking of signatures, many businesses have still not transitioned into the digital age, making the lesson of how to write a check very important. What is a routing number? Where do they find an account number? What information is required in order to use this form of payment? Teach these things so they can use a check if they need to.

3. Pay Their Taxes

Did you know the IRS provides Americans with specific instructions on how to complete their taxes? It is literally a fill in the blank process. Yet most taxpayers pay for software programs like TurboTax to complete this yearly task. Whatever method they choose to complete it, make sure your kids understand the process, the due dates, and what information they will need to have on hand in order to file their taxes correctly and on time.

4. Know How to Budget

What does it cost to live? One of the most important skills to teach teenagers is how to budget. Rent, insurance, car payments, and the electric bill are obvious recurring charges, but your kids need to learn how to prepare for emergencies. What amount should they be saving for doctor's visits, car maintenance, and home repairs? Do they want to go out every Saturday night? These questions can help them plan a budget to allow them to live comfortably on their own.

Parents doing home finances with their teenager son

5. Understand Internet Safety

How does someone create a secure password? How do you delete your digital footprint after inputting sensitive information? What are signs of phishing? What information should they keep private? Internet safety is paramount for protecting your teen's identity and finances. These are essential life skills to teach teenagers will be useful throughout their personal and professional lives. Make sure they know the correct answers!

Career Skills Teens Should Know

Another aspect of adulthood is getting a job. These life skills are key to your teen landing that dream role as well as moving up in their field.

1. Write a Resume

When looking for a job, this simple piece of paper is a representation of their greatest achievements, skills, work ethic, and overall experience. A resume is the first thing an employer will see, making it a key determining factor for whether they will move forward in the hiring process. Your teen needs to know what information to include in a resume, how to format it, and how to make themselves stand out.

2. Dress for Success

Can your handsome young man tie a necktie? Does your young lady know what is appropriate to wear to a job interview? Research shows that 55% of communication is non-verbal. That means that what you wear, how you style your hair, and how you sit or stand could have a bigger initial impact than anything you have to say. Teach your teen how to put their best foot forward with the right wardrobe and posture.

3. Hold a Conversation

This skill seems self explanatory, but it would surprise you at how many adults can't start or maintain a conversation with someone they do not know. This life skill is not only important in business, but it is also key to building friendships.

4. Know When to Stay Silent

Abraham Lincoln said it best - "Better to remain silent and be thought a fool than to speak and to remove all doubt." This is one of the hardest life lessons to learn. People are going to say things that make us mad and challenge what we believe. Sometimes it's better to nod and smile than to argue. Teaching your teens to count to three and breathe before responding to these types of comments is important to help keep themselves under control and have appropriate adult interactions.

Safety Skills to Prepare Teens for Real Life

Your child's safety is the most important thing. When they are little, you focus on looking both ways before crossing the street and on the importance of not talking to strangers. However, it's important that parents also prepare their kids for less common dangers. These life skills for teens are ones we hope they will never have to use, but can make a huge difference if they find themselves in a threatening situation.

1. Put Out a Fire

When a fire ignites, many people have a knee-jerk reaction is to pour water on the flames. However, there's a huge difference between a grease fire in the kitchen and an electrical fire. Depending on the situation, water can sometimes make things worse. Thus, teach your teens how to handle these different situations, as well as how to actually use the fire extinguisher. It could save their life.

2. Perform CPR and The Heimlich Maneuver

This is another fantastic life skill for teenagers and adults alike. You never know when you or someone you know will need these lifesaving techniques. Knowing how to administer CPR and the Heimlich maneuver could make them a hero or help them save their own life when they find themselves alone in a choking situation.

Man demonstrating CPR on teen mannequin in first aid class

3. Understand the Basics of Safe Sex

No parent wants to think about their child having sex, but the repercussions of avoiding this topic are much worse. Tens of millions of teens and young adults develop sexually transmitted diseases each year and most of them fall in the 15 to 24 age range. There are also an astounding number of misconceptions surrounding pregnancy. You can get pregnant on more than one day out of the month. Birth control is not 100% effective. Knowing safe sex practices is critical to your teens' reproductive health and their personal future.

4. Know Self-Defense Techniques

Anyone who watches the local news knows the dangers that lurk right outside their door. Every parent wants to shield their kids from the ugliness of this world, but it is better to prepare them for the unthinkable. Self-defense classes are extremely helpful in giving individuals the basic tools they need to get out of a harrowing situation. These classes can also be a lot of fun!

5. Read a Map

Finally, we live in a world where the world wide web has all the answers. While this is a handy tool, if your child were to find themselves in the middle of nowhere with no cell service in sight, could they get to where they needed to go? Knowing cardinal directions and how to read a map are key to getting to where they need to go safely.

Use a Checklist to Help Prepare Your Teen for Adult Life

Use the printable teen life skills checklist above to walk through some of the skills they need to take on the real world. They may find some real satisfaction in checking off things they already know, and recognizing what they need to learn will help prepare them for a stronger future. The checklist can open up the door to talk about and teach skills they might need more knowledge of. Simply click on the document and print. You can customize it to your needs, too, and add in other skills specific for your teen.

Teach Practical Life Skills to Help Teens Succeed

Life is full of curveballs. Making sure that your teen has a few trick plays up their sleeve is key to ensuring that they are ready for anything. Remember to contemplate your teen's specific situation. There may be other skills to add to the list to help them have a leg up when they enter their next stage in life. Preparing your teen can take some time, but you'll have more peace of mind about their well-being once they leave home.

25 Life Skills for Teens to Learn Before They Leave Home