10 Life Skills Every Teen Should Know Before Going To College


The youngest of our 5 is about to be a sophomore in high school this year.  And as I was reminiscing about how fast these last 15 years have gone for her, I realized that I only have a few more years left to make sure she is ready to take those important steps into her own adult world.

I started going through the checklists that her brothers all had to master before heading off on their own to see lessons my daughter needs to be sure of before she’s on her own.  We’ve spent the last 15 years learning how to tie shoes, do well in school, make new friends, and care for herself.  Now she turns her eyes towards the things she’ll need to be on her own.

 Some people are very good at knowing they need to save money. But most teens have different views of what “emergency cash” should be used for.  As they get to college they are hit with credit card offers, shopping for their own clothes and food, and the temptations that we all face.

Do your teens know how to write a check? Balance their bank account? How do they keep a track of how much money they have coming in and going out?

All of my sons were very surprised at how much it actually costs to live on their own.  They priced out the cost of rent for their apartments against how much money they made.  But before signing their lease we sat them down to make sure they can also cover food, electricity, water, gas, as well as food.

Having a visual budget they could look out really helped to be able to make sure they were covering their bills and even saving for car repairs. But be ready, even though they look ready, they will still need help even after they move out. We still get calls asking for guidance and even help with bills here and there.

 One of the worst calls I have ever gotten from one of my children was when my son called after having an accident.  His first instinct was to call me, 3000 miles away. I was completely frantic as he called so upset.  In this moment of fear he didn’t know who to call or what to do. So he called home.

Now we have gone over it a few times about calling 911 if they are hurt, AAA for towing, and yes they can still call home too.  But what if we aren’t available?

Having a mental call list in case of an emergency is vital to being sure they are getting the best care when we can’t be there to help.

MEET YOUR NEW ACTING TEACHER, KEVIN SPACEY. LEARN MORE.

 From knowing how to pick the best fruit to getting the most for their money, teens need to know how to go grocery shopping and buy what they need to prepare healthy meals for themselves.

Trust me, teen boys and some girls will try to get by on Top Ramen and Doritos.  But they need to know how to know what the true cost of their item is, price per lb. And they need to know how to avoid supermarket money traps.

Tip: Once a week have your son or daughter make dinner for the family. This includes looking for the recipe, shopping and using coupons, and making a meal within a budget.

 Believe it or not, teens are losing the ability to answer the phone.  This once simple skill has been lost due to text messaging, personal cell phones, and many of us no longer having home phones to answer and take messages from.

I’ve asked my daughter to grab my phone when it rings and she looks at me like it’s on fire.  So I know that’s a skill we need to work on.   Can your teen take a message from someone they don’t know?

It’s never too late to play telephone and catch up on this life skill.

Just like answering the phone, teens are also having a hard time when someone knocks on the door.  From turning away a sales person to taking a message, there are so many good opportunities to teach teens how to be ready for the time when they answer their own front doors.

Do they know how to check to be sure if they should open the door? What if someone tries to come in without their permission?

During the summer, we get a lot of door to door sales people that are perfect targets opportunities to practice this important skill.

 Sure, they were the best on the soccer team and did great on their Bio exam, but does your child know what to do if someone grabs them from behind?

Did you know one in four women college women have survived rape, attempted rape, or unwanted physical altercations?

Hate crimes against Muslim and Jewish students has gone on far too long. Students are being beaten, tortured, and even killed here in the United States, not in back allies and dangerous areas, but on college campus locations across the country.  Does your son or daughter know what do to protect themselves?

 All young adults think they are ready for stepping out on their own.  And many of them are well prepared for this big step. However many struggle at knowing when to ask for help. They fear looking like a child or admitting they made a mistake.

From knowing when to ask for tutoring for a class to knowing when to come talk to their parents about a bad relationship, we all have to encourage our teens to have an open relationship with us.  If they feel like they can’t talk to us, do they have someone they can turn to?

It might be hard for parents to accept.  But giving your young adults a call list of other people to call might save their lives. Maybe it is clergy, a suicide hotline, or a family friend.  They all need to know who they can confide in when they need to talk or ask for help.

 It might sound simple, but how many times have you heard your teen make a Dr. appointment or call the dentist to schedule a cleaning?

Making these simple appointments regularly before they leave high school will give them the skills and confidence to do them on their own later.

This summer, have your teen make some appointments for you. These can be crossed off your To-Do list and give them time to work out how to get appointments accomplished.

When the kids turned 12 all of them started doing their own laundry. But as parents, we still try to help them and ourselves by grabbing their clothes and doing them along with ours.  That won’t help when they are standing in front of the pay per load washers and trying to understand why all of their clothes are pink or how to get out a blood stain.

As hard as it is to watch them make mistakes, it’s our job to start to take the hands off and let them do it.

Tip: Pick a day of the week and teach them how to do one load of darks, colors, whites, and delicates.  Example – Monday Darks, Tuesday Colors, ect.  Overwhelming them will make them zone out.

 Sure, they know when the car has a flat tire that it needs to be changed.  But do they know how to check the tread before it blows?  How about checking the fluids?  Will they remember when you aren’t there to remind them?

You would be surprised at how many people have no idea how to care for their own cars.  Now is the time to get them ready for their step they’ll need to take after driving away from home.

There are so many skills that they will learn along the way as well as things that we will continue to teach them as they go. These are just a few of the lessons I know I’ll be working on with my daughter this summer.

What other skills do you think teens need to know before heading off on their own?  I’d love to hear your tips and suggestions.

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10 comments

  1. This blog is so timely. I was just thinking bout this subject for my own kids last night. It’s funny how so much of what we took for granted as kids (answering the phone and taking a message, working with our hands, cooking, etc) doesn’t come as easily to our kids. They just aren’t exposed to the same things we were. Thanks for the list!

    Liked by 1 person

  2. This is great! I often think of this for my daughter, since I moved across the country from my family immediately after high school and my parents hadnt really taught me any of these important life lessons. I did not have a financial plan or safety net, had no one to call in case of emergency, and had no idea how to shop for big important life purchases (an apartment, a car, etc.). I made a lot of mistakes learning on my own along the way and I want to make sure that my daughter is better prepared for entering the world after high school!

    Liked by 1 person

  3. Agreed! We mustn’t forget cooking! I think every child, male and female should learn basic cooking skills before heading to college. Not only will it save them lots of dough but also prevents them from having to depend on others for a meal😊

    Liked by 1 person

  4. One thing I’ve done that has worked really well is to use resources with my kids. They are 12 and 16, and they don’t always want to listen to their parents.

    Sometimes I’ll find cool videos on YouTube that we can watch together and talk about. Other times I’ll find video lessons. I find videos work the best because we can all watch them together… but I think you have to find videos that are funny and short so that your kids can relate.

    I use a lot of videos from a site called preparemykid.com. My kids always like those videos because they’re funny and the topics are usually right on with what my kids are going through.

    Liked by 1 person

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