10 Life Skills Every Teen Needs to Know

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Guest Post by Holly Duquette

I left home when I was 15 years old and lived with family and friends until I was able to obtain my own apartment at 17.  I had to learn a lot of skills very quickly without any help.  I was raised by my father, for most of my life, and he didn’t really teach us the basics of how to cook, automotive care or home maintenance.  I am determined to teach my children these important life skills so they don’t find themselves in the same position I was in.  I want them to feel confident to handle all of life's little hiccups. Since it is our job to teach our children to be self-sufficient, here are my top ten life skills that every teen needs to know by the time they move out of your home.

1.    How to do laundry

Teens need to know how to use a washing machine and a dryer when they move out or go to college.  Teach the importance of separating clothes and what cycles to use for different fabrics.  If you teach them before they leave the nest they won’t be wasting money buying new clothes all the time due to shrinking or colors running.

2.    How to use simple kitchen appliances

The Keurig is pretty hot right now, which is very easy to use, but they need to know how to clean it to ensure its longevity. Another appliance that seems simple enough to use but can sometimes be confusing is the blender.   Explain to them all the settings and uses of each one.  Smoothies are a lot better than the drive thru, as well as much more cost efficient!

The stove is also something that we often forget to teach our children to use.  A lot of newer stoves can be a little tricky and there are a lot of buttons and setting that can get confusing. Try to show your child to use both an electric and a gas stove.  This might be difficult, but you could use a friend’s stove or ask another parent to show your child. When I was growing up I always had electric, so when I moved into an apartment that had gas, I had no idea what to do and was afraid to cook! 

3.    How to cook a basic meal

They cannot live on Ramon Noodles alone!  They need to be taught easy, cheap meals that they can prepare on their own.  When they move into their first apartment money will likely be tight and they won’t be able to order out as often as they think.  Going home to their parents’ house every night is definitely not an option either.  They will need to know how to follow a recipe and measure ingredients. Grocery shopping is also an important part of living on your own.  Share your grocery list and teach them how to find sales, how to store different food items and how to read labels.

4.    Basic cleaning skills

Even in the dorm room teens need to know how to keep their room clean.  It will be especially important to have good cleaning habits once they get their first apartment. They need to know how to dust their furniture and scrub the shower.  They need to know how to vacuum and do dishes. Hiring a housekeeper or a maid is highly unlikely, so teaching them the basics on how often to deep-clean and everyday tidying is important.

5.    Hanging a picture

Everyone hangs pictures in their homes.  Finding a stud and hammering a nail into the wall is a simple skill that is very beneficial for anyone moving into a new place.  It’s also important to know how to fill nail holes when they are ready to move out of an apartment.

6.    How to plunge a toilet or a sink

Having a clogged sink or toilet is a fact of life and it happens more than we care to admit.  Plunging a toilet can be tricky sometimes and it is important for teens to know how to plunge it effectively to avoid the calls for help while we are at work or in the middle of the night.  Trying to explain to someone how to plunge a toilet over the phone can be difficult; it is a lot easier to teach them ahead of time.

7.    Money Management

Getting your child a bank account and showing them how to balance it is very important. They also need to know how to budget their money to ensure all of their bills are getting paid, as well as understanding the difference between a debt and credit card. (Especially how credit cards can get them into trouble if not monitored carefully!) The concept of saving for emergencies or vacations may also be a new concept, so instilling this in them now can save a lot of headaches down the road.

8.    How to Pump Gas

Likely your child will have started driving way before they move out. This one is usually taught already, but it is important to not only teach them how to pump gas, but when to pump gas.  Let them know they can’t wait until after the car is on empty to fill it.  No one wants that call in the middle of the night to bring gas to their child.  Explain to them the difference between the types of gas available and about diesel.

9.    Basic Car Maintenance

Learning the basics about taking care of cars cannot only save a lot of money, but also give your teen the skills to be independent. I don’t mean learning how to change their own oil (though I plan to teach my children this skill), but they should know when to get an oil change.  They need to know how to change a light bulb in their vehicle, which is something simple and takes minutes, but could cost them a lot more if they take it to a shop.  They could also put this off due to ignorance and end up with a ticket. 

Changing their windshield wipers when they get worn is another simple skill that is very useful.  Have you ever been driving and had one of your windshield wipers fly off in the middle of a storm?  I have and it is awful.  However, it can be a lot less stressful if your child can pull into a store and know how to find the specific windshield wiper for their car. Then they can go out and change them out within minutes. They don’t have to wait out in the cold and watch someone else do it; they can be self-reliant and get it done quickly.

10.  The importance of insurance

Most likely your child has been covered under your health and auto insurance for a while. Do they know the importance of having insurance and the different options that are out there?  It is important to know the different types of insurance that are must-haves and which ones are nice-to-have.  The first time they sign up for benefits can be terrifying and confusing.  However, if you prepare your child for all the different options out their like health insurance, car insurance, life insurance, short-term disability and long-term disability, it may not be so scary.

We’ve been adults for so long and much of this stuff is ingrained in how we function. Did you learn all of these tips before you left the nest? If so, you are one of the lucky ones. For many of us, some of these skills were learned the hard way. Hopefully this article will be a good first-step in thinking about what you want to share with your teen to best prepare them for living independently. Please feel free to share more life skills that teens should learn in the comments section!


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Humorous Holly is a married mother of two teenagers, living in a small town in central New Hampshire, in the middle of the woods, which they love. Her blog https://www.humorousholly.com/ is about how she raises her two children to be respectable, independent people.  She share techniques on how to deal with the daily struggles of raising teens and how to survive parenthood. She focuses on the humor in raising teens and finds that laughing is a great way to deal with the ups and downs of the tween/teen stage. Follow her on Facebook, Instagram, Pinterest and YouTube.


PLEASE NOTE: The writers of this article are not medical professionals. The information in this column is not intended and should not be construed as providing medical or psychological advice, but rather to offer readers information and provide a perspective to better understand the lives of themselves and their children. Articles on this website may be opinion based. The articles are not intended to provide an alternative to professional treatment or to replace the services of a physician, psychiatrist, psychotherapist or other licensed medical professional. If you do have health or safety concerns, please get in touch with a healthcare professional.