I had a realization this last summer that I only have 3 more summers with my oldest before he will be moving out….and I realized how much he still needs to know. (HA!) There is so much growing up that happens in these last teenage years and I know I am not ready for it all. Yes, there are the big ones like learning to drive, date, school and relationships, but I have realized there are so many more smaller things that I am over looking. So, I’ve started making a list of 25 things to teach teens before they move out. These are small and simple things that I want my teenagers to know before they move out. I know some of these are basic….but they are important to start practicing early (even with kids that aren’t teens yet) and practice often.
25 Things to Teach Teens Before They Move Out
1. Learn to look at peers and adults in the eyes while talking. I know when I was a teen and an early adult this one was hard for me. And I have noticed that with some teens this skill comes naturally, but with others it needs to be learned. Practicing just walking through the school hallways with a head up and looking at people’s eyes can help. This was one that we started practicing at the beginning of the school year with a goal to say “hi” to three new people every day at school and it’s made a world of difference.
2. How to Make an Appointment over the phone. Again, this skill may come naturally to some, but not to all. In this day and age of texting some teens aren’t used to talking to adults on the phone or even proper phone etiquette. Asking teens to make their own dentist appointments or even setting up their own carpools with other parents is great practice.
3. How to do their own laundry. I have discovered this is a hit or miss in our house. Both my teen and tween know how to do laundry but still sometimes throw in colors that shouldn’t go together and we’ve had some accidents, but again it’s a learning process. Even teaching simply how to get a stain out is great for when they are on their own.
4. How to Balance a Checking Account. This is one that I feel like I am late to the game on and wished I would have opened a checking account earlier for my kids to start practicing paying for their own things (to realize how fast money goes) and to be able to balance a checking account. I know most of our kids probably won’t write checks the way I use to in college but they need to know how much is in their account and how to avoid paying back fees for overdrafts.
5. Get up on Time and Get Ready. I overheard a conversation the other day while I was standing in a grocery line between a teenager and a parent. It went a little something like this, “why were you late this morning?” “Well, you didn’t wake me up.” I think it is so important for tweens and teens to be able to get up and ready for things without a parent telling them. The rule in our house is that if you don’t get up on time to your own alarm, there is a “no phone, no friend” rule for the rest of the day. It’s worked for us (we start this in 7th grade) but you may have to tweak it for your own family.
6. Cook 5-6 Basic Meals (that aren’t microwaved 😉 I swear sometimes if my teen doesn’t see a hot pocket in the freezer he thinks we have no food. So, this is one tip that I am failing at so far but I am determined to do better! I have heard of families scheduling days where teens cook meals for the whole family which I think is a brilliant idea. I need your help with this one, so if you have any good ideas–please leave me a comment.
7. Solve their own Problems. As a mom there is nothing more I want to do than step in and help my teens solve their problems, but I keep telling myself that I need to take a couple of steps back and let them solve their own problems. I always tell them that I am still here for a sounding board but that problem solving decisions need to be their own.
8. Read a Map. This summer when we were on vacation I asked my teens to help me navigate where we were going so then I heard them in the back together trying to figure out google maps together. It was a funny conversation but it’s a good reminder that getting around independently is a learned skill.
9. How to go Grocery Shopping. I have started making my teens take turns running into our smaller grocery store if we need a few things and plan to do more when each has a driver’s license. Grocery shopping takes practice, especially to stay on budget.
10. How to Say No (when appropriate). Saying no is a skill that has taken me a long time in my life to learn and I feel like I am still learning it. But learning to say no, not just to negative things like drugs and alcohol, but even saying no to some good things when the decision isn’t right for that teen. It’s important to start practicing it early and in a variety of situations.
11. How to Clean Up After Themselves. The rule in our house is “leave a room better than you found it” and I am pretty strict with this one. Some children do better than others but every child needs to learn how to do dishes, clean a toilet and dust and vacuum a room.
12. How to Figure out a Tip at a Restaurant. This skill is another one that I hadn’t thought to teach until our son asked a question about it when we were out to dinner as a family the other week. He asked us how we would figure out a tip when the check came. It’s one of those things I hadn’t even remembered about.
13. How to Pay a Bill. Paying bills online is a big step for many teens. Have them sit by you as you pay bills to learn the process and have them try it out. This skill can be confusing at first, but becomes a lot easier the more they practice doing things like this on their own.
14. How to Make and Stick to a Schedule. Schedules for adults are a must and this one can be hard for teens when they move out. This skill also includes going to bed at a reasonable hour and not staying up all night. I think this one is a practice early and practice often one! (And one that I still need practice with 😉
15. Use Proper Manners in Social Situations. This one might seem basic but saying please and thank you, respecting wait staff, and being kind to cashiers and customer service agents is a big one and a skill that needs to be taught both by example and on a daily basis. And waiting your turn in line is a big one here! There are so many adults who still have trouble waiting patiently in line.
16. Organize and Store Important Documents. Organizing papers and bills can take some practice to learn what works for you…and in college teens will have to hold on to more things such as personal medical histories, social security cards and other important documents. Learning a solution for keeping all those papers organized early can help.
17. Write a professional email. Understanding how to write a professional email is a key life skill. Practice with have teens write emails to relatives and also to teachers to communicate school assignments and to organize help if needed. It will be crucial for them in many future jobs.
18. Address an envelope. Because everything is done electronically these days I think addressing an envelope is a lost art, but also a necessary skill.
19. Write a Thank You card. Handwriting cards is becoming a lost art in our world but I think thank you notes are so important. Buy some cards at the dollar store and leave them out on your counter and start modeling by putting a nice note on everyone’s pillows…they will catch on and learn a life-long skill.
20. Deal with a Stressful Situation. Stressful situations are even difficult for adults to handle but teaching teens coping skills can help. Talk to them about finding a coping strategy that will work–taking a walk or exercising, finding a friend to talk to, hugging a pillow, taking a hot bath, or writing out fears or feelings in a journal are all coping strategies that can be modeled or practiced as early teens to plan for more stressful situations later on in life.
21. Understand and Obtain Credit. I didn’t realize that establishing credit early is important until I set up the kids checking accounts and the bank suggested getting them a specific kind of debit/credit card to help them establish credit. It has limits on it so that we could start out securely teaching about budgeting but it will help them to at least start down the road to a good credit score and understanding the importance of that.
22. How to Have an Adult Conversation. Learning how to make “small talk” with acquaintances and strangers is also an important life skill. Have teens practice a few subjects to talk about can help with some of the social awkwardness of talking to strangers.
23. How to Be Their Own Advocate (or how to talk to teachers!) My tween and teens have had a super hard time with this one and I keep telling them that honestly their teachers want to help them succeed but that they have to be the ones to initiate it and to learn to advocate for themselves. And this one takes years of practice to master but it is so important for educational success.
24. How to Handle a Fender Bender. This skill is one that sometimes even adults forget how to do mostly because thank heavens it doesn’t happen that often. But I did get into a fender bender when I was a teenager (thankfully not my fault) but it was a frightening situation. Teach teens to gather insurance information, call a non-emergency police number and to always tell parents if a fender bender happens.
25. How to Sew on a Button. You knew this one was coming from a momma who sews but I do think this is an important life skill. All of my kids have taken sewing lessons and I don’t want to sew on their buttons for the rest of their lives…so they need to learn!
I am sure there are some that you have thought of that are not on this list….will you leave them in a comment so that I can keep adding to this post? Thanks a million!!!
Kim Funk says
My husband does the cooking in our house. He put all our kids on a make dinner once a week schedule. The kicker for this was if the cook for Wednesday made plans to be away at dinner time for Wednesday, the kid was still responsible for dinner. That’s when they learned about the crock pot.
The results are as follows: Eldest son married a chef, so he’s taken care of really well. Eldest daughter got married, had kids, and so far no one has starved. Younger daughter’s friends are all very impressed with her cooking skills. Youngest son still lives with his mother, but has been known to cook over there.
Enjoy your time with your children this Thanksgiving.