Everyday Life Skills Your Teens Should Know
Kids who can handle everyday tasks are happier and more confident. Here are the life skills your teens should know.
The Most Essential Teen Life Skills So They Can Be Independent Adults
While there's no one-size-fits-all approach, there are ways to get your kid's attention and cooperation—no matter how much he may grumble.
- Play the independence card. Nobody loves being told what to do—especially teens, says Ron Zodkevitch, M.D., author of The Toughlove Prescription and a Family Circle Health Advisory Board member. "Knowing they can handle themselves without someone directing them is very motivating." When you suggest a lesson, say to your teen or tween, "I'd like to show you how to cook a few dishes [or other item on this essential life skills list], so you can take care of yourself when you're on your own."
- Talk about safety. Every once in a while things go wrong; it makes sense to address life's realities. Say: "Stuff happens. To be safe, you need to know what to do in case of a power outage [flat tire, etc.]."
- Be matter-of-fact. When teaching even the simplest life skill, make sure your tone isn't condescending. Also try to explain the benefits of doing something a certain way. Try, "Separate the dark clothes from the light before washing or you'll end up with gray underwear."
- Get specific. Break the job into small steps and work with your teen for a few lessons until he knows what he's doing. Be very explicit about what you expect: "The lawn mower gas can has to be recapped and put back in the garage, not left on the lawn." (Score more advice about improving your communication with your teen.)
- Look for an opening. When your kids complain "Chicken again?" have them plan a meal, including putting the ingredients on the shopping list, and prepare it with your help. (This single shopping list makes five dinners easily!) Anita Blackman, who has taught life skills to Florida middle and high schoolers for 42 years, suggests making life lessons a part of your family routine. "Assign each kid a day of the week to fix dinner," she says. Or at bill-paying time, have them write the checks for you to sign, as practice for when they have their own account.
- Ask what they'd like to learn. You'll get nowhere trying to force-feed your ideas to an uninterested teen. Instead, start with something he wants to master, then build from there. For example, say, "Now that you've conquered your favorite pasta dish, how about meatballs or turkey burgers?"
- Appeal to the ego. Have your son teach you something, like how to download material to your iPad. In the glow of his success, he may be more open to listening when you bring up money management.
- Time the lessons. If he's a morning grouch, don't suggest a new essential teen life skill at the breakfast table. If she's watching her favorite TV show, don't try to recruit her as your sous-chef when it's on. Likewise, the teen who has daily swim team practices may be more receptive on the weekend than during the week.
- Know when to back off. Nobody likes to be micromanaged. Similarly, don't impose arbitrary standards. Your vision of clean, sorted and folded laundry may not match his. If he doesn't care whether his socks are paired, so be it.
- Highlight what's in it for her. Point out that if she makes her own lunch, she gets to choose what she eats. Or if she learns how to make lasagna, you'll reward her by helping pay for a dinner party for her friends. — Caroline Mullen contributed to this report.
Food Life Skills Every Teen Should Know
- use a microwave
- plan and shop for a healthy diet
- read nutrition labels and know what's good and what's not
- cook their favorite home-cooked meals
- prepare, serve and store food to avoid spoilage
- cook a well-balanced meal
- know which kitchen tools and equipment to use for which tasks
- pick out produce and keep a well-stocked pantry (all of these healthy dinner recipes are made with pantry staples)
- use kitchen appliances
- avoid health risks in the kitchen like cross contamination
Health Life Skills Every Teen Should Know
- perform basic first aid
- maintain good hygiene (shower, wash hands, brush teeth, wear deodorant, etc.)
- schedule a doctor appointment
- talk to a doctor
- prevent health issues like the cold and flu, obesity and sexually transmitted infections like human papillomavirus (HPV)
- care for their mental wellness in addition their physical wellness
Money Life Skills Every Teen Should Know
- make a weekly or monthly budget and stick to it (try these tricks to boost your teen’s money smarts)
- use an ATM
- open, use and balance a checking account
- apply for a credit card and use it responsibly
- save up to buy a desired item
- set aside money for charity
- keep track of important papers
- write a check
Clothing Life Skills Every Teen Should Know
At-Home Life Skills Every Teen Should Know
- find the circuit breaker and use it
- locate and use water and furnace shutoffs
- use a fire extinguisher
- perform basic first aid
- fix a running toilet
- do laundry, including treating simple stains
- use all household appliances, like loading the dishwasher the right way
- keeping a common space clean
- make quick fixes and installations, including how to use a screwdriver or hang a picture
Car Life Skills Every Teen Should Know
- pump gas
- check oil level and add oil if needed
- check washer fluid and add more if necessary
- arrange routine maintenance
- jump-start car
- change tire
- check and add air to tires
- produce documents if stopped by police