Life Skills Every Teenager Should Know by the Time They Graduate
Are you worried that your teen isn’t ready to live on her own? Here are some life skills every teenager should know before they leave the nest.
My first year of college, I was driving back to school late at night after Christmas break. Suddenly, I heard a horrible thumping sound and felt my car grinding on the road. Oh no! Was that my tire? I pulled over and got out to take a look. Yup. Completely flat. Well, good thing my dad taught me how to change a tire!
Loosen the lug nuts before jacking up the car. Check. Then, put the jack under… what exactly? Oh my God oh my God. Where do you put the freaking jack?! I realized I had only watched my dad do this. I hadn’t actually done it myself. This wasn’t exactly a trial and error kind of thing. What was I going to do, just wing it and hope the car didn’t fall on my face?
It was 1am in the middle of the state. There were no houses, cars, or lights anywhere. I didn't own a cell phone. Now what? I saw headlights in the distance and jumped up to wave the hopefully-not-a-rapist down. Whoosh! Really?! What kind of person doesn’t stop to help a teenage girl with a flat tire?
Apparently all kinds of people. Every few minutes another car sped past me. I was close to tears, jumping up and down, waving my arms like a crazy person, but nobody stopped. A sheriff even sped past me. Desperate, I packed up the trunk, grabbed my jacket, and set out to find a call box.
After a very long, cold, and scary walk, I finally spotted one. Thank the Lord! I carefully read the instructions on the box, which said that a tow truck would arrive in 30 minutes. Relieved, I jogged back to the car to wait. 45 minutes passed. An hour. Oh God, what if no one was coming?
It was now 3 am. I was exhausted, scared, and I really had to pee. Oh no. I had to pee! I tried to hold it as long as I could, but I became absolutely desperate. I got out of the car and looked both ways. I saw one truck that quickly passed. Alright, now! I ducked behind my car, pulled down my pants, and… Spotlight!
The truck that I’d just seen pass had apparently made a U-turn and come to my rescue! Luckily, the man was not a thief, rapist, or serial killer. He changed my tire in a matter of minutes and even had the decency to pretend that his headlights didn't just catch me squatting by the side of the road. I arrived safely back at my dorm before the sun came up.
Y'all, being an adult is hard! 18 years really isn’t that long when you consider everything a person needs to learn to be a self-sufficient, productive member of society. Ready or not, your daughter will be on her own soon. If you don't want her to get caught with her pants down (see what I did there?), make sure she has mastered these life skills every teenager should know before you send her off into the world.
1. Write a check
This seems straight forward and surely she’s seen you do it before. But I completely blanked the first time I had to write one myself! Just let her fill one out to make sure she’s got it.
2. Create a budget
This is an important life skill that plenty of adults haven’t quite perfected! Don’t send your daughter off without knowing how to live within her means. Let her practice with your income and bills or with the money she’ll be receiving while she’s away at school.
3. Read and negotiate a contract
Who actually reads all that fine print? She should! She’ll be signing leases and credit card agreements soon and she needs to know what she’s binding herself to. Make sure she knows not to sign anything she doesn’t understand or agree with. And make sure she knows that she can often negotiate the parts she’s not comfortable with.
4. Make a doctor’s appointment
This probably sounds basic, but Millennials tend to have anxiety about talking on the phone. Have her call to make her annual appointment so she’ll be comfortable doing it for herself when her whole dorm comes down with the stomach flu.
5. Every teenager should know basic first aid
Does she know how to remove splinters, stingers, and treat minor burns? Would she know what to do about something scarier like a broken bone? If not, there are first aid courses she can complete in just a few hours. Small price to pay for piece of mind!
6. Cook basic meals
Eating take out for every meal just isn’t practical. Make sure your daughter can make at least a few basic meals like eggs and pasta. Make her your sous chef while you cook, or even better, put her in a charge of a meal once in awhile.
7. Use household appliances
When she’s in college she’ll have to juggle class, homework, and keeping her place clean. So she might as well start now! At least make sure she knows how to operate all of the appliances in the house like the washer/dryer, dishwasher, and oven.
8. Basic household repairs
Would your daughter know what to do about a clogged sink or toilet? Can she reset a fusebox and relight the pilot? I can tell you from experience that those are not fun to learn in the moment!
9. Basic hand sewing
Sure you can take clothes in to fix a button or hem. But more than likely, they’ll just end up in the back of the closet, no? Hand sewing just takes a few minutes and can save her favorites from closet purgatory.
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10. Every teenager should know basic car maintenance
Make sure your daughter can pump her own gas and knows how to check her oil and fill her tires. She may have seen it done, but as my story in the intro illustrates, watching is not quite the same as doing it yourself.
11. Roadside car repairs
While you’re at it, make sure she knows how to change a tire, fill her radiator, and jumpstart her car. Luckily everyone has cell phones now, but the worst breakdowns always seem to happen in dead zones, do they not?
12. Apply for a job
Make sure your teen knows how to find job listings. Show her how to fill out an application to highlight her strengths and relate them to the job she is applying for. Also teach her how to create an attention grabbing resume and cover letter.
13. How to ace an interview
An important life skill every teenager should know is interview etiquette. Make sure she knows how to dress for an interview, respond to common interview questions with confidence, and give a handshake that exudes confidence.
14. Every teenager should know to send thank you notes
This is an important but often forgotten bit of etiquette. Get her in the habit of sending thank you notes for gifts, interviews, and letters of recommendation. It’s a great habit to instill now.
15. Celebrate family members
Parents usually buy the gifts for special occasions and sign cards for everyone in the family. Once your teen is an adult though, she should start taking the initiative herself. Make sure she makes note of important birthdays and holidays before she takes off.
16. Advocate for themselves and say no
This is something even adults often have difficulty with! Make sure your daughter knows that it is okay to speak up and say no. These are life skills she will need repeatedly in her personal and professional life and it only gets easier with practice.
17. Manage feelings in a healthy way
We know that life is full of ups and downs. Glorious moments and heartbreaks. Make sure that she knows how to handle stress, disappointments, and the occasional crisis. People who don’t have healthy coping skills usually discover unhealthy ones.
Sending your child out into the world to live on her own is surely a nerve-racking experience for you both. Making sure your daughter has these life skills down will decrease the anxiety for both of you, allowing you to actually enjoy the excitement of her next stage of life.
Does this list seem a bit overwhelming? Follow this FREE checklist and your daughter will be able to master all of these skills by the time she graduates.