I’m finding that raising a teenager offers countless opportunities to reminisce about my own teen experience. And one thing that continues to shock me is that my six siblings and I didn’t help more around the house. That was partly because my traditional Korean mother literally did not want additional cooks in the kitchen. But, that ultimately meant that my siblings and I were pretty low in the life skills department when we eventually left home.
My book co-author and podcast co-host Asha Dornfest refers to life skills as “move-out skills” and that astute framing really made me think about 10 key move-out skills teens need to learn. Kids can start learning these move-out skills when they’re young, but don’t despair if your kids aren’t so young. It’s just that it’s time to get started!
10 Key “Move-Out” Life Skills Your Kids Need to Master
One of the first everyday things kids will need to be responsible for when they leave the nest is laundry. Teach them the basics of how to run the washer and dryer (including stripping their own bed sheets) and how to put laundry away. Once they master these basics, level it up and add ironing to their repertoire.
- Money Management
It is insane to me that financial literacy isn’t part of elementary and secondary school education. When I went to college, I signed student loan and credit card applications without understanding anything about loans and interest rates. I always recommend that parents start teaching kids about money young, via an allowance that really is for their experimentation.
As kids get older, teach them about spending, saving, and donating, and ultimately, have them get a job so they can truly understand the value of money and time. Knowing how to deal with money will be crucial when they need to pay bills and rent!
I was on a meal plan during college and after four years of eating more bagels than seems reasonable, one of my favorite things to learn after graduation was cooking. However, I know it can be daunting for parents to let go of control in the kitchen. Start with the basics (e.g., toasted cheese sandwiches, pasta, eggs) and move up from there.
Jane Maynard has a wonderful series on Alpha Mom about recipes kids should know before leaving home, and Mark Bittman’s How to Cook Everything is a great cookbook both for newbies and as a standard reference for more experienced cooks.
- Everyday Cleaning
Everyone needs to know how to tackle quick, everyday cleaning. Have kids learn how to sweep the floors, wipe down surfaces, do dishes, and generally tidy up. You will seriously be living your best life when kids start pitching in on these tasks!
- Bathroom Maintenance
Seriously, everyone in the family uses the bathroom so no one person should be responsible for maintaining it! Teach kids to replace the toilet paper, scrub the toilet, and wipe down surfaces. And listen, if you’re raising a human who is big enough and old enough to clog the toilet, then they are big enough and old enough to learn how to plunge it.
- Grocery Shopping
I know a lot of parents think bringing kids to the grocery store is a nightmare, but kids need to learn that food does not magically appear out of nowhere and they’ll need to learn what things cost relative to their budget. Be sure to teach them the difference between item (face-value price) vs. unit (price by a metric such as pound, ounce, etc.) price so they can compare items!
- Home Safety
I know someone who burned down their college apartment and let me just say that that is not something for which you want your kid known. Teach your kid to check that stove burners are off, as well as how to use a fire extinguisher, identify and replace batteries for smoke and carbon monoxide detectors, and check that doors and windows are locked.
- Personal Safety
I’m kind of obsessed with personal safety right now given that my teenager is out and about on her own so much. Two basic things I repeat is to keep a close eye on personal belongings and to be “eyes up” in the world; meaning, no texting while walking! I seriously cringe whenever I see people face down in their phones out in the world because it just reads EASY TARGET to me.
- Getting Around Independently
If you have the privilege of living somewhere where there is public transportation, teach your kid how to ride the bus and train. And if you don’t, teach them how to get around on their bike and pump air into bike tires! The moment when your teen can get around by themselves instead of bumming a ride off you is AWESOME.
- Civic Stops
So many life lessons can happen right in your city or town. Teach your kid how to use your local library, post office, and bank. Show them what happens at city or town hall and take them with you on voting day to prime them for that magical moment when they can exercise their right to vote.
Over at my Boston Mamas blog and Edit Your Life Show Instagram account, I have been obsessed with what I call the Summer of Life Skills. I’ve been drilling into all manner of things parents can teach their kids this summer to help them become functional human beings and the response has been so fantastic! I mean, who doesn’t want to teach their kid to become a functional human being while also lightening their load? It’s the ultimate double-win!
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