Everyday Life Skills Your Teens Should Know


By: , SparkPeople Blogger
  :  26 comments   :  26,802 Views

By Margery D. Rosen, Family Circle

To help our kids become happy adults, we have to give them the gift of competence. Kids who can handle everyday tasks, from laundry to banking, are happier and more confident. Whether they're still under your roof or heading off to college, it's never too late to start teaching them how to be self-sufficient.

Food Skills
  • use a microwave
  • plan and shop for a healthy diet
  • read nutrition labels and know what's good and what's not
  • prepare, serve and store food to avoid spoilage
  • cook a well-balanced meal
  • know which kitchen tools and equipment to use for which tasks

Money Skills
  • make a weekly or monthly budget and stick to it
  • 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

Clothing Skills
  • sew on a button
  • mend a seam
  • iron garments
  • fold and put away clothing
  • follow fabric-care labels
  • do laundry, including treating simple stains
  • wash and dry items by hand
  • fold clothes
  • pack a suitcase

At-Home Skills
  • 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

Which other skills do teens and young adults need to learn? Find out at FamilyCircle.com.

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Did you learn these skills on your own or from your parents/teachers/etc.?

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  • 26
    Great checklist! My mother was a homemaker, but that didn't mean she did everything for us. When I moved out to go to University, I realized it was not the norm to know how to run a household.

    On the other hand I will soon be a stepmother to twins, aged 22. Both live on their own with boyfriends and literally can't boil an egg, let alone balance a checkbook. Frankly, I find it disgusting and I have called my parents and thanked them for my upbringing. - 4/17/2012   9:40:33 AM
    I have a sixteen year old daughter and I am trying to make sure she has those skills. - 4/7/2012   9:01:19 AM
  • 24
    When our daughter bought here first house, in Raleigh, North Carolina, I was surprised and amused to receive a phone call one evening, in Baltimore, Maryland, "Daddy. I don't have any water."


    "What do I do?"

    "Call Raleigh public Works?"


    "Don't they provide the water?"

    "We're on a well."

    "Call a plumber?"

    "I don't know any."

    "Open the Yellow Pages for crying out loud!"

    Honest to God, I raised her better than that. - 3/6/2012   11:47:40 PM
  • 23
    We had a nice young man stay with us last year as a foreign exchange student from Austria last year. His mother was shocked that I required this 16 year old to do his own laundry ... exactly as I do my own sons who are of a similar age. And when he wanted something simple to eat like lunch or a snack or treat, I showed him what was in my kitchen and pantry. He told me his mother always did those things for him. I was later told that German (and Austrians are a brand of Germans) mother tend to spoil their children ... a lot. - 3/6/2012   11:42:29 PM
  • 22
    Lucky for me, I was raised in England and in our schools almost all of those were taught to me. Including being able to call 999 from a pay phone none of our family had telephones back then. I wish more US schools taught life skills to better prepare our young people. Many are from homes where their parents still have not learned to balance a check book or read a nutrition label. Lets not let the schools say it is not their job because we should be preparing kids to lead healthy lives as well as SPORTS, SPORTS, SPORTS, Academics, art and music in that order. We should start to reprioritise for the masses. Pat in Maine. - 12/26/2011   11:41:01 AM
  • 21
    I learned some of these skills from my dad but most of them I learned on my own. Really love the checklist. - 11/14/2011   8:48:10 AM
  • 20
    I have great parents and they passed all these skills and many more onto me. Things not on the list are basic tool use. One of the best high school graduation gifts is a basic tool kit. One made my sister the most popular girl in her dorm. I am still using mine from 35 years ago! - 10/30/2011   4:12:18 PM
  • 19
    I thank God,my mother who worked outside and inside the house and my father who was a carpenter all his life and had mad skills could fix EVERYTHING.Luckily being the baby girl and apple in his eye I was his apprentice so needless I picked up his mad skills.I'm loving it. - 9/27/2011   2:40:12 PM
  • 18
    I learned most of these growing up, the eldest of 5, with both parents working so we sibs did the bulk of the household duties. I was embarrassed when babysitting and the kids I babysat showed me my first dishwasher and how to load it. I still don't know how to find the furnace or water shut-offs or how to fix a toilet. Never had access to a microwave until my mid-30s. I would not do well in primitive conditions, so can't pass those skills to my kids. My adult daughter has far better skills in some areas. My son was a Boy Scout so has the survival skills I lack. I'd like to see some of these skills taught in schools. I believe countless parents are in a similar situation to mine and cannot pass on what they do not know.

    I disagree about a teen having a credit card. No credit until working and able to pay it fully him- or herself. I had my daughter work on household bills with me and see the amount of interest etc so she could understand how it worked. My kids also got a reward if they helped keep the electric bill down below a target amount. I can't speak to vehicle skills because I don't drive. - 5/25/2011   8:36:13 PM
  • 17
    I learned a lot from my parents, but also learned a few on my own. I think that kids who are old enough to drive should learn how to change a flat tire, check the oil and all other fluids in the car and know what to do if there is a problem with the car. I wish I would have taught my son more about cooking and cleaning! - 5/25/2011   6:14:13 PM
  • 16
    I can do 95% of those - mostly my parents made sure we all learned how to cook, sew, fix things around the house.

    DH can't do at least 25% of those items! On the other hand, he probably could change a spark plug, and I have no idea where to find one, LOL! - 5/25/2011   1:34:18 PM
  • 15
    Looking at the checklist made me realize that I know several adults (not me) who can't do several things on this list!! - 5/25/2011   8:12:59 AM
  • 14
    Interesting. - 5/25/2011   2:28:55 AM
  • 13
    I learned most of those things from my parents; I helped my mom cook at an early age, because it was something that interested me. Since she worked in a bank, I learned about money from her too. I also loved to follow my dad around when he was fixing stuff around the house.

    I took home ec. in high school, and also a "life skills" class that was very helpful. - 5/24/2011   4:16:52 PM
  • 12
    Great Blog with 3 kids 2 being teens they need to know all of they thing to live .. you can show them and teach them but some time they have to do things on there own - 5/24/2011   2:08:58 PM
    This would make life easier for a lot of young people!!! - 5/24/2011   11:33:49 AM
  • 10
    I'm old...when I was really little I got a weekly allowance of 25 cents...out of that I was expected to save some for those times when I wanted to buy gifts for others...Christmas & birthdays, & for luxury stuff for me...as well as have 'pocket' money. I learned to budget early & I learned the value of money.

    When I was in high school, I made my own prom dress...as did a number of my friends...

    From an early age, my sister & I made cookies on Saturdays...for use in packed lunches during the week...we started with ironing tea towels - no seams, no darts...graduated to pillow cases & eventually moved on to clothes.

    Like ArchimedesII...I know how to change a fuse...& by the time I was 16, I was teaching basic first aid...as part of teaching Red Cross & Royal Life swimming lessons...

    My friends came from similar backgrounds...we didn't want for necessities; we worked for & earned privileges & luxuries...& we all ended up capable, productive adults.

    So...yeah, I think it is really important for people to be given the opportunity to develop the skills to become independent adults. - 5/24/2011   11:14:37 AM
  • 9
    I agree ... this is a great checklist. - 5/24/2011   11:09:59 AM
    Very good checklist! - 5/24/2011   11:07:50 AM
  • 7
    I am sad to admit that I can't sew or fix a ripped seam. :( - 5/24/2011   10:11:52 AM
  • TSF1264
    In light of what is going on in Joplin, MS, I think this list is painfully incomplete! Teach your children what to do in the face of tragedy as well. Teach them how to cook a complete meal on a charcoal grill, store foods in a cooler, utilize a library where books can be your entertainment when electronics aren't available. There are lots of skills missing from this list. I see too many teenagers not sure what to do when there is no internet, television or even atm/credit card machines available. The average teen doesn't even know how to make change for a basic dollar. I am glad that I have taught my now adult children how to cook without basic electricity, how to survive 'camping' without a motorhome, and what to do to entertain themselves when the internet and television are not available, and how to cook from complete scratch! THOSE are truly useful skills that are missing from this list! - 5/24/2011   9:46:48 AM
    I agree with Mandyisfitat40 that this is a great checklist (although knowing how to use a microwave seems odd to me) and I also agree with Nacolesworld about adding 'how to clean' to the list. I learned many of these things and more from my parents and my siblings, but there were many (like the money stuff and how to fix a leaky toilet) that I learned on my own. We taught most of these skills and more to our daughter and SOME of them stuck. Thanks for the blog. - 5/24/2011   9:32:45 AM
    Gee, I guess I was brought up during the Dark Ages. Instead of circuit breakers, I grew up knowing how to replace a fuse/plug !! LOL !!!

    However, I could do everything on the list. I could cook my own meal before I was 10. I could do laundry, sew, knit and even help wax the car. In fact, I knew a lot about how to fold, press, etc... my relatives owned a laundry and I got stuck helping out.

    We didn't have an ATMs, microwaves or nutrition labels to worry about.
    - 5/24/2011   9:28:50 AM
  • 3
    My parents raised five girls, so our mom taught us all to be independent. I couldn't make my way around a kitchen very well, but I could change a tire and the oil in my car :)

    I'm raising my daughter the same way. I love that my parents gave me the skills they did. I'm 43 now, but when I left my parents' house, I was ready for the world. - 5/24/2011   9:21:42 AM
  • 2
    I could not agree more!! My mom did pretty well on some of these things, but I felt so lost when I moved out!! I didn't know how to do 1/2 of these things! I plan on teaching my kids so they don't feel like they are floundering when they are on their own!

    The only thing I feel like isn't on this list and REALLY should be... how to clean. You would be surprised how many people leave home and don't know how to clean! - 5/24/2011   9:08:21 AM
  • 1
    This is a great checklist... I will work with my 13 year old this summer to make sure he knows and/or can do these things. - 5/24/2011   5:56:25 AM

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