Here Are the 33 Life Skills Your Teen Needs to Know to “Adult”

People think of learning as something that happens primarily in the classroom. Still, our children learn how to “adult” by watching and being with us while we do our errands and by taking note of how we behave in any given situation.

When they go off to live their lives, we wonder how they will figure everything out. The following are thirty-three basic life skills that hundreds of parents agree young adults should have mastered by the time they leave us to lead their own lives.

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What young adults need to know to live other own.

Life skills teens need to master

1) They should know how to craft a handwritten note, place it in an envelope, address it, stamp it, and mail it. And, while we are on the mail, they should be able to pick up a package from the post office.

Tip: If you are mailing something oversized or heavy, it may need extra postage (let the nice mailperson at the post office weigh it).

2) They should know how to find their polling place and vote; if they are out-of-state, they should be registered to vote by absentee ballot. This will require their mailing, addressing, and stamping skills.

3) They should know how to use a phone for making phone calls, like calling to make a reservation at a restaurant. Texting is great but not always available, and knowing how to communicate over the phone is an important life skill.

Tip: If you text someone that you are standing at their door and they don’t respond, try ringing the doorbell.

4) They should know how to get cash because sometimes you need it. We all use less cash than we used to, but having a bit of cash on you is always helpful.

Tip: You can get cash back from the grocery store using a debit card.

5) Some food items are sold by the pound, fish, deli meat, and cheese. A young adult should have a rough idea of what a pound of sliced deli meat looks like.

6) They should know where the car manual is kept and that if there is an issue, they should refer to it for guidance. They should be able to fill their tires with air, pump gas, and know what to do in the event of a flat tire.

Tip: The manual is usually in the glove box in front of the passenger seat.

7) They should be able to read a map and follow directions without using GPS.

8) They should know that if their stomach is upset or they are recovering from the stomach flu, it is best to eat a bland diet for a few days, which may mean no Doritos. They should be familiar with the BRAT diet (bananas, rice, apple, toast).

Tip: Hot water with lemon is very soothing.

9) They should be able to write and deposit a check which would require them also to know where to endorse a check.

Tip: Endorse the back of the check above the line provided.

10) They should know how to do laundry (darks-cold, whites-warm) and where the detergent goes.

Tip: Cotton shrinks in the dryer and colors bleed in hot water.

11) They should know the basics of the dishwasher; liquid dish detergent is not for the dishwasher, and certain items can’t go in the dishwasher.

Tip: Most items say somewhere on them if they are dishwasher safe.

12) They should know how to sweep with a broom.

13) They should know how to pack a suitcase and check the weather for their destination, so they know what kind of clothes they need.

14) They should know their social security number by heart. They will need it often.

15) They should know that Tupperware is NOT disposable but reusable.

16) They should have a copy of their insurance card and carry it with them at all times. You should have a conversation with them about your deductible.

17) They should know that if they park in a tow zone, there is a possibility that their car will be towed.

Tip: Leaving a note on the windshield asking the police not to tow your car will not work.

18) They should know the basics of over-the-counter medications. Advil, Tylenol, and Motrin are analgesics (they will treat mild to moderate pain and reduce fever). None of them should be mixed with alcohol. Follow the dosage directions on the bottle and take the smallest dose that helps you.

Tip: If you have any questions, the pharmacist is a great resource and always happy to help.

19) They should know how to fill a prescription.

Tip: Once again, the pharmacist is a good resource.

20) They should know how to tie a suit tie.

Tip: YouTube is a great teacher.

21) If they live in an apartment off campus, they may have to pay for their utilities (electric, heat, air conditioning).

Tip: Utilities can be expensive, so pick a reasonable temperature for winter and summer, and don’t leave all the lights on.

22) They should know the basics of cooking, like how to bake a potato, boil water, open a can of soup, and heat it in a pot on the stove.

Tip: You must remove the soup from the can and put it into the pot to heat.

23) They should know the basic shelf life of foods. A meal you cooked and refrigerated three weeks ago should be tossed.

Tip: If in doubt, throw it out.

24) They should know how to change light bulbs and batteries.

25) They should understand that they may have to apply to many internships/jobs to get one.

Tip: Get your resume done early.

26) They should know what does NOT go in a microwave (especially foil and metal).

27) They should know not to sit in an unventilated, closed garage with the car running. This life skill is life or death.

28) They should know that when you put something hot or wet on most surfaces, you should use a trivet.

29) They should know when you tip and what percentage is the standard for what service.

30) They should be able to book their flights, check their baggage, and check in to their flight.

31) They should know that “U” is not an acceptable form of “you” in the work you hand in for your classes.

Tip: Words in your academic work need to be spelled out.

32) They should somewhat know how to do their taxes or at least know what paperwork they need to collect for someone else to do their taxes.

Tip: There are a lot of online programs that make figuring out simple taxes easy.

33) They should know that the bathroom sink is not the place to toss food. It gets clogged easily.

Tip: It’s always helpful to have a plumber’s number handy.

Have we left life skills out?

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50 Things You Can Do at 18 (Who Knew?)

When they go off to live their lives we wonder how they will figure everything out. The following are thirty-three basic life skills that hundreds of parents agree young adults should have mastered by the time they leave us to lead their own lives. #lifeskills #teenagers #collegekids


About Helene Wingens

Helene Wingens has always been passionate about painting pictures with words. She graduated from Brandeis University with a degree in psychology and three years later from Boston University School of Law with a Juris Doctor. In a year long clerkship for an appellate judge Helene honed her writing skills by drafting weekly appellate memoranda. She practiced law until she practically perfected it and after taking a brief twenty year hiatus to raise her three children she began writing a personal blog Her essays have been published in: Scary Mommy, Kveller, The Forward, and Grown and Flown where she is Managing Editor. You can visit Helene's website here

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