21 Essential Life Skills For Teens To Learn

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Life passes by quickly. Before you know it, your little ones will grow up into adults with a life of their own. And when they do, you would want them to be ready for life. Education gives your children the knowledge they need about different subjects, but it does not necessarily equip them with essential life skills.

MomJunction takes you through the list of a few basic life skills your teenagers should know before they leave the nest and how parents can help children acquire these skills.

Essential Life Skills for Teens

Life is full of surprises, both pleasant and unpleasant. To make your child ready to face anything in life, you should help them acquire these basic life skills as a youth.

1. Money or Budgeting Skills

Money may not be the most important thing in life, but it certainly is vital for a comfortable life. That is why financial discipline is an important skill to learn as a teenager.

Budgeting skills help teenagers learn the value of money, conscious spending, as well as planning for the future.

The important financial concepts that you can help them learn to include:

  • Make a budget and stick to it. Your children should know when to spend and when to save.
  • Every teen must know how to open a bank account, use the ATM, transfer money online, and write a check.
  • Apply for a credit card, how to use it, and how not to get into debt using a credit card. The most important lesson your child should learn here is how credit works and how quickly they can get sucked into a whirlpool of debt if they are not careful.
  • Save money to buy or invest in something for emergencies.
  • Give money to charity without going overboard.
  • Maintain financial records.
  • Assess the basic market value of goods.

2. Cooking or Food Skills

Knowing how to procure food or cook food is one of the primary life skills for teenagers. Teach them the below basic food skills so that they can survive in any part of the world.

  • Buying groceries is essential to cook. One of the important skills here is to be able to identify different ingredients and know where they are available.
  • Using kitchen appliances like microwave, coffee maker, dishwasher, and toaster, among others.
  • Knowledge about utensils, cutlery, and how to use them.
  • Being able to prepare a healthy meal with the ingredients available. Teach your teen the basics of cooking a decent meal using simple ingredients.
  • Storing food in the right way. You want your children to know where and how to store different food products like fresh produce, packaged food, and liquids.
  • Besides knowing about the importance of having nutrient-rich food every day, they should also be able to read food labels for nutrition and ingredient information.
  • They should be aware of the health hazards of eating too much junk food.

3. Dress Sense or Clothing Skills

Your teenagers might change their style completely owing to external influences, but the chances are they may get influenced by the wrong people. So, here is how they get one of the everyday skills right.

  • Picking the right-sized clothes, a decent outfit.
  • Choosing the right kind of clothes for the right occasion.
  • Sewing is a skill both men and women can benefit from.
  • Iron a shirt, trousers or suit. What is more important is to distinguish between clothes that need ironing and those that don’t (we don’t want them ironing their jeans now, do we?).
  • Do the laundry. Teach your teen to wash clothes by hand or using a washing machine and to deal with simple stains.
  • Fold clothes and put them neatly in their cupboard. You do not want a messy closet when they are at home or away.
  • Pack a suitcase.
  • Read and understand fabric labels.
  • Gently tell your teen what their clothes say about them and the level of respect they would get in certain situations such as interviews or among the opposite sex.

4. Personal Grooming

Grooming is a skill that children need to learn early on. Personal grooming is important to stay healthy and also have a good social or romantic life.

  • Teach them healthy habits like brushing and bathing daily.
  • Explain the importance of keeping their bodies clean. They must know how to care for their skin and hair.
  • Boys should know how to shave or maintain facial hair in a hygienic way.
  • Teach girls to stay clean during their periods, proper disposal of sanitary pads, etc.

5. Cleanliness and Hygiene

Cleanliness is one of the tenets of hygiene. Teach your children to keep themselves as well as their surroundings clean and tidy. This is part of their grooming and home management skills. Some of the basic things that your teen could do include:

  • Dusting and vacuuming.
  • Mopping floors and getting rid of cobwebs.
  • Keeping bathrooms and toilets clean.
  • Keeping the kitchen clean.
  • Clearing garbage regularly.
  • Eliminating clutter from time to time.
  • Knowing how to clean dishes by hand, not all homes come with a dishwasher.

6. Personal Healthcare and Basic First Aid

Among the critical things that teens should learn, as part of taking care of themselves, is to take care of their health. Important points to remember here are:

  • Knowledge of personal health and over-the-counter medications that can come in handy.
  • Knowing when to go to the doctor.
  • Taking proper care of self, through proper diet and environment, in the case of illnesses like common colds, fever, or the flu.
  • Health insurance and how it can help them. Teach your teenager to keep track of health insurance payments to ensure they get aid when needed.
  • Handle medical emergencies, like calling 911 or the emergency number in your country.
  • Get your teen to learn basic first aid skills like how to clean a wound, use bandages, and other first aid in case of medical emergencies, which may enable him to save a life, should such a situation arise in the future.

The best way to teach your child about these everyday living skills is to help them take care of themselves when they are at home. Avoid doing everything for them.

7. Social Skills And Manners

Teaching your child skills and manners that they would display in a social setting is essential for them to have a smooth social life.

A few social skills that might help them include:

  • Exploring and pursuing hobbies, recreational interests and activities to meet like-minded people.
  • Learning how to develop and maintain friendships.
  • Valuing relationships and people in their lives.
  • Teach them how to maintain healthy family relationships.
  • Learning party etiquette, including how to be host and guest.
  • Respecting people and their views, regardless of what they think about others.

8. Organization skills

Lack of organization is one of the factors that lead to poor time management. A poorly organized person is almost always searching for something. Sounds familiar?

Here is how you might help your teenager stay better organized.

  • Teach them the simple rule of Kaizen – a place for everything and everything in its place. Help them implement this rule, and they will not have to ‘search’ for something the next time.
  • You can help them use an organization tool or system to arrange their books, clothes, and other things.
  • Organization also helps declutter a room and makes it easier to find something in less time.
  • Explain to them that they can avoid making blunders when they are more organized.

9. Domestic Skills – Managing A Home

Imagine your pampered little child finally finishes college and starts a life of their own. But they might hate every moment of it if they do not know the basic home management skills. It is better if all teenagers learn these life skills early on.

  • Teach them how to find the right accommodation or housing options.
  • Manage utilities, pay bills.
  • Basic maintenance of the house. Teach them to vacuum, dust, and clean the house.
  • Simple things like fixing a broken circuit, locating a water furnace and turning it off or on, and addressing the basic plumbing issues might help them to manage their house better.

10. Driving and Auto Maintenance Skills

Driving is one of the most important life skills for teenagers to be self-dependent. But knowing how to drive a car is not enough. Your teenager should also know about road safety, auto care, and what to do when there is vehicle trouble. Teach them to:

  • Buy a car and insurance.
  • Registration of the vehicle.
  • Have important vehicle records and documents like driver’s license, registration papers, etc. while driving.
  • Pump gas and change oil for maintenance.
  • Change a tire using different tools.
  • Know and follow traffic rules for the safety of self and others.
  • Teach them the importance of wearing a helmet and a seat belt.
  • Also, make sure they are aware of the dangers of speeding and rash driving.

11. Navigational Skills

Basic navigational skills are more important so that even if they do not have a car, they will be able to travel from one place to another. Some things they could learn include:

  • Being able to read bus, train or flight schedules, and timetables.
  • Read maps to go from point A to point B.
  • Understand directions – north, south, east, and west; left, right.
  • Know traffic and road terms like curves, exits, freeways, highways, etc.
  • Be aware of information about the different transport options to reach different places.

12. Communication Skills

Communication may seem more like a business skill. But think about it, won’t your teenager need to communicate in his personal life? Teaching your teen how to get his or her message across without offending another person is important. Communication is a critical skill that your teenager will need to master for interpersonal relationships in personal and professional lives.

Try Talking to your teen about these important skills when it comes to communication.

  • People are different, and all don’t speak the same language.
  • There is a need to understand the individual’s temperament before determining how to communicate with them.
  • Nobody likes being told what to do. Even your teenager does not appreciate that.
  • Explain to them the importance of listening skills in communication.
  • Empathy and the importance of understanding another person’s perspective are necessary.
  • Negotiation skills to create win-win situations.
  • Different forms of communication, like writing, talking, and non-verbal behavior.
  • Using different modes of communication like a telephone, letters or email, etc.

13. Behavioral Skills

The character of an individual shows in the way they behave. Help your teenager build a strong personality by helping them develop healthy behavior. Here are a few basic things you could consider teaching them.

  • Accepting a mistake, admitting a mistake, and taking responsibility for their actions are perhaps the first things you can teach your teen.
  • Most teenagers have a problem apologizing. Teach them to say ‘sorry’ and not feel embarrassed about it.
  • Teach them to be polite and say ‘please’ and ‘thank you’ when needed.
  • Morality is a concept that you should introduce to your teenagers early on. That teaches them to stand up for what they believe is right, conscientiousness, and a sense of responsibility for the less fortunate.
  • Teach them to stay true to themselves and others. This can be done by making them explore the values that are most important to them. Honesty is a trait that teenagers should be encouraged to develop.
  • Teach them to ask for help when needed. It is important to be self-reliant, but there are times when we all need help. Explain to them that it is ‘okay’ to ask for help.

The only way to help your teenager learn about moral behavior, honesty, and character is through practice. Parents should guide children through their growing years to inculcate healthy behavioral traits.

14. Skills to Stay Safe:

When your teenage children are out in the world all by themselves, it is important to know how to stay safe. In fact, staying safe is one of the most important life skills for teenagers. Here are a few pointers that might help your teen to stay safe on the physical plane as well as the virtual plane (online).

  • Stay safe on the road when alone. Teach your teen to use their common sense and avoid secluded parking lots, deserted roads, and empty plots away from civilization.
  • Teach your teens what to do if they get a flat tire in the middle of the highway or the car breaks down at night on a deserted road. Encourage them to call for help and avoid venturing on their own at night.
  • Avoid traveling with strangers or picking up hitchhikers when traveling alone.
  • Ask your teen to get a ride at night always or have someone meet them on the way.
  • Keeping someone posted about their whereabouts is a good idea.
  • Carry extra cash just in case they need to take a taxi.

15. Coping with Emotions

Teaching teens to cope with emotions will allow them to see both sides of a situation. Coping and self-management skills that you could teach your teenagers are mentioned next.

  • Self-management or control, this allows them to set the pace to how they react to different situations, people, and things in life.
  • Teens will have to cope with loneliness and being away from their loved ones when they go to college. It can be a difficult time for them if they do not learn how to deal with the change.
  • Avoiding impulsive decisions that can have severe consequences, mostly negative.
  • Managing feelings in a healthy way. Teach your teen to think and act rather than react. Reactions can result in negative consequences, but thoughtful action seldom does.
  • As an adult, your teen will have to deal with stress at work, home, in personal relationships, and so on. Coping with stress is an important skill you should help your teen acquire.
  • A critical skill that you should help your teenager with is accepting their emotions. Tell them that no emotion is bad or good, and it is okay to feel happy, sad, afraid, angry, aroused, silly, jealous, and even guilty. The trick is not to dwell on a particular emotion.
  • Teach them different ways to deal with their emotions, such as physical activity, meditation, listening to music, or just by talking about it.
  • Spirituality can also help in coping with major changes in life.
  • Remember, teenage brains are going through a major change. Therefore, empathize with them where possible and understand that they are still learning to manage emotions and stay calm.

16. Problem-solving Skills

Among the main life skills for youth is problem-solving. You cannot expect your children to come back to you for help every time they have a problem. What you could do is teach them to deal with problems like mature adults.

  • Teach your children to face problems rather than run away from them.
  • When your teen comes to you asking for advice, try not to jump in and resolve the problem for them. Ask them what they think they should do and help them work through possible options. This will help break the habit of coming to you.
  • The first step to problem-solving is identifying the problem. The key is to find out exactly what is bothering them and why it is a problem. Help them narrow down their problem by asking a simple question: “Is my current situation different from how I would want it to be?”
  • Once they pinpoint the problem, help them come up with a list of possible solutions to it.
  • Analyze each solution to know which option gives you the desired result, or something close to it.
  • Once they shortlist the options, your children will have to use their decision-making skills to pick an option they think is best for them.
  • Then they can apply the chosen solution and check if they are right.

17. Basic Educational Skills

Education is essential for living a comfortable and healthy life. There is no dispute about it. Your children would have learned to read, write, and speak at home. But they might also need to know how to use a computer, a phone, and other gadgets.

Usually, children tend to understand digital technology faster than their parents. But they may not understand all things analog. Also, the use of smartphones and instant messaging has also changed the way they use their language skills.  You might encourage your children to:

  • Write in complete sentences. They cannot use shortcuts and slang when they write their papers in college or send business emails.
  • Read to understand, not just skim through the text.
  • Write letters, maintain a journal, or just make notes to improve their language and communication skills.

To stay safe online, remember these tips:

  • Use passwords that aren’t easy to guess.
  • When browsing online, it is safe to use a VPN to protect personal information.
  • Avoid accessing banking accounts using public networks.
  • Avoid talking to strangers or sharing personal information and photos with them.
  • Alert you if someone makes sexual overtures online.

18. Goal Setting – Knowing how to prioritize

Teach your children to identify their skills and set goals that can give them personal gratification as well as professional success. You could teach them to:

  • Figure out what they want to do and where they want to be in a few years’ time. Help them gain clarity.
  • Set realistic goals, or else they will end up disappointed sooner than later.
  • Focus on their goals and chalk out a plan to achieve them in a realistic manner.
  • Identify resources that can help them achieve their goals.
  • Change goals or modify them if needed. Goals can be changed or adjusted to suit the changing needs of a person. Your teenager may also change, as an individual, which can lead to changes in their personal or professional goals.
  • Eventually, you can guide your teenager to a position where she or he can set bigger goals, paving the way for a more meaningful and purposeful life.

19. Time Management

How often have you heard your teenager complain about not having enough time to do all that they want to? We all have 24 hours in a day. How we manage it makes a world of difference in what we achieve. Essential skills that your teen might need for better time management include:

  • Start by modeling good time management habits. If you are always wishing for ‘more time’ and doing things in a hurry, chances are your children will learn to do that too.
  • Teach them to organize their time using a simple timetable or a planner.
  • Let them create a schedule and stick to it. Even the slightest deviation from the plan can leave them crunched for time.
  • Teach your children to prioritize their tasks to use their time responsibly. Help them identify important tasks and differentiate between what is important and what is urgent.
  • Developing a routine makes it easier to manage time.

Encourage them through model behavior, but do not nag them about wasting time.

20. Decision-making Skills

Your teenager will have to make decisions, make a choice at every step of their adult life. From something as simple as what to eat for dinner to making a significant career move or marrying a person they love, everything is a decision.

  • The first step to teaching your teenager to make a decision is to stop making decisions for them. However, you should not leave any major, life-changing decisions in the hands of an adolescent.
  • Rather than telling them to do something, give them choices. Let them choose.
  • Also, emphasize that every choice they make comes with a consequence. That way, they will learn to take responsibility for their decisions.
  • Help them make the right choices by weighing the pros and cons and determining what the outcome of their decision would be.
  • You could also teach them to make a list of options first and then evaluate each to make the right decisions.

21. Employability Skills

To be employable or be noticed by potential employers, a person needs to have more than just credentials on the wall. Here are a few skills you may encourage your teenager to develop for better career opportunities.

  • Communication skills.
  • Thinking and analytical skills.
  • Work ethics and integrity.
  • Ability to value and use the available resources.
  • Knowledge and application of technology.
  • Adaptability to adjust to new work environments and coworkers from diverse backgrounds.
  • Willingness and ability to learn new skills. Teach your child to be open-minded.
  • Ability to evaluate their own skills and identify weaknesses.
  • Willingness to rectify faults to deliver better.

These are only a few among the list of life skills for teenagers they need to learn before beginning the journey as an adult. The key to a happy life is to sustain two key skills – the willingness and ability to learn new things, unlearn skills that are not useful and relearn them with a new perspective. Agreed that teaching life skills to teenagers is not easy, but if you can do that, you will have done justice to your job as a parent.

What life skills do you think teens should learn? Share your views about it in our comments section.

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