100 Essential Life Skills Teens Need to Learn at Home

Do you ever wonder if you’ve taught your teens enough life skills to go out into the real world and succeed? School fills them with facts and numbers, history, math, writing skills, and rudimentary sciences. But do our teens have the life skills to function daily? If you could craft a series of 15-minute “you need to know this to function in the world” lessons, what would they be?

mom and son cooking
Have I done enough to prepare my teen for college? The answer is probably “yes.” (@klovestorun via Twenty20)

Here are 100 of the most common life skills teens and college students need but don’t always have. While they are still home, we can help them by teaching them to:


 100 life skills to teach teens and college students

  1. Say “no”
  2. Set and manage a goal, with a timetable and milestones
  3. Communicate with and get to know professors and teaching assistants
  4. Manage their time with a calendar
  5. Read a bank statement and monitor an account balance
  6. Create a lifelong habit and plan for saving money
  7. Use ride-sharing services safely
  8. Make a phone call rather than texting (some things require a conversation)
  9. Understand, improve, and maintain your credit score
  10. Mail a package
  11. Address an envelope
  12. Figure out postage/buy stamps
  13. Make, change, or cancel an appointment
  14. Deposit, withdraw, or move funds in an account (either by ATM, phone app, or teller)
  15. Find medical care in an emergency and how and when to call an ambulance
  16. Get involved in their community and help others
  17. Understand how compound interest impacts savings or borrowings
  18. Memorize their social security, credit card, and student ID numbers
  19. Turn off an overflowing toilet
  20. How to wisely borrow and lend money
  21. Manage peer pressure
  22. Walk away from…anything
  23. Utilize a meal plan and not waste money
  24. Do laundry
  25. Shop for groceries (lists, budget, coupons)
  26. Read nutrition labels
  27. Tip
  28. Make a list of favorite recipes
  29. Write a check
  30. Understand the terms when applying for a credit card
  31. Use any form of transportation, including navigating and ticketing
  32. Choose a doctor
  33. Fill and refill a prescription
  34. Manage subscription services
  35. Correctly use over-the-counter medications
  36. Maintain scholarships and financial aid
  37. Eat healthily and resist unhealthy food choices
  38. Fill out health insurance forms
  39. Do their taxes
  40. Clean anything and everything
  41. Administer basic first aid
  42. React and what to do in a lockdown
  43. Be prepared for a weather/power emergency
  44. Find and work with a study group
  45. Find academic help/tutors/mentors on a college campus
  46. Cope with feelings of stress or being overwhelmed
  47. Decide between a doctor’s appointment, urgent care, and the ER
  48. Understand medical coverage
  49. Write a resume
  50. Dress for an interview
  51. Complete a LinkedIn profile
  52. Stay in touch with friends and family
  53. Consume alcohol, safely
  54. Get and use birth control
  55. Live with a group of strangers
  56. Plunge a toilet
  57. Stay safe
  58. Get the right amount of sleep and exercise
  59. Know when to seek professional medical or mental health services
  60. Prepare if you are pulled over when driving
  61. Store and prepare food safely
  62. Read and understand a credit card statement
  63. Use basic tools for minor repairs
  64. Create and stick to a budget
  65. Deal with unexpected expenses
  66. Turn off a smoke alarm
  67. Stay healthy, including hand washing
  68. Use a fire extinguisher
  69. Recognize fraud in emails, phishing, and phone calls
  70. Write a professional email
  71. Stay current with the local and national news
  72. VOTE, because it matters
  73. Advocate with and ask questions of medical professionals
  74. Apply for jobs, internships, and on-campus positions
  75. Locate routing and account numbers on checks
  76. Remember and recognize important dates in other’s lives
  77. Complete important forms like HIPAA, FERPA, Power of Attorney
  78. Get renter’s insurance
  79. Aid a friend who has drunk too much
  80. Deal with a car accident
  81. Be clear about consent and the wishes of a romantic/sexual partner
  82. Be your own strongest advocate in a positive way
  83. Manage if a credit card is lost or stolen
  84. Write and send a handwritten thank-you note
  85. Pay bills on time and set up automatic payment
  86. Understand the expense and responsibility of owning a pet
  87. Follow an auto maintenance schedule
  88. Understand auto insurance and coverage
  89. Save money on textbooks
  90. Change bed sheets
  91. Manage social media presence
  92. Change a flat tire
  93. Sew a button
  94. Iron, or at a minimum, steam an item of clothing
  95. Cope with loneliness
  96. Greet someone respectfully, with eye contact and a handshake
  97. Use jumper cables
  98. Research potential career paths
  99. Put yourself out there and make friends
  100. Move homes

But the most important thing we want to teach our teens is that this is a process, and we are here to support and guide them as they move toward their independence. Some of these lessons are quickly taught. Some life skills teens need take years to absorb. Many involve asking questions, getting it wrong, trying again, and learning.

We made mistakes, lots of them, and they will too. They can come to us for advice, counsel, or just an ear; we will not judge them, nor will we grow weary of answering their questions. That’s our job.

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About Lisa Endlich Heffernan

Lisa (Endlich) Heffernan is the co-founder of Grown and Flown, the #1 site for parents of teens, college students and young adults, reaching millions of parents every month. Lisa is a New York Times bestselling author.
She started the Grown and Flown Parents Facebook Group and is co-author of Grown and Flown: How to Support Your Teen, Stay Close as a Family, and Raise Independent Adults (Flatiron Books) now in paperback.

Read more posts by Lisa

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