12 Surprising Skills Teens Need to Know

skills teens need to know

My husband is a college professor and we both love having college students over to our house.  We have students over for dinner and for bible study, and the conversations we have are great!  Some of the best ones have involved huge mistakes they’ve made when they tried to do things they took for granted because their parents did them when they lived at home instead of learning how to do those things themselves.  We’ve had some pretty funny laughs hearing their mishaps, but in all honestly, as parents, it’s our job to teach our kiddos how to do these things BEFORE they go to college and turn all their laundry pink! 

Here’s a great list of things to teach your teens before they leave the house.  They’re not hard, but if you do them for your child, how is your kid ever going to learn?

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1. How to do laundry

We’ve all turned our own laundry pink or blue because we washed the lights with a red shirt or a pair of jeans.  As adults, WE know the laundry should be separated into lights and darks (we have a no dry basket too!) so the colors don’t run, but do your kids know to do that?  Do they know how to turn on the washing machine and choose the correct settings do they don’t shrink your wool sweaters?  Can they tell the difference between fabric soap, fabric softener, and bleach?  Let me tell you, you DON”T want them using bleach instead of soap!!  Teach your teens how to wash, dry and fold their own laundry so when they get to college they’re not stuck wearing pink clothes every day.  If you or your teen hates the laundry process, I’ve got a great article HERE on how to stop hating laundry.

2. How to clean the kitchen

When your kids move out, will they know how to load the dishwasher?  Will they know how to turn it on?  Do they know what kind of detergent goes in a dishwasher versus what kind of detergent they should use to handwash dishes?  There are lots of steps for cleaning a kitchen, including knowing what dishes need to be placed on the top rack and which can go on the bottom and which dishes shouldn’t go into the dishwasher at all!  Kids should know to wipe down counters and start the dishwasher after they’ve loaded all the dishes, and if there are other steps you take every day, teach your kids those too.  We’ve delegated most of our kitchen chores to the kids now, and this article explains how we did that.

3. How to clean the bathroom

I despise cleaning bathrooms, and I’ve delegated this task to my 10 year old and 15 year old already.  They both know how to clean a countertop, how to clean a toilet and a shower/tub, how to sweep and mop the floor, and how to clean the countertops.  They also know the bathroom rugs need to be washed on a regular basis as well.  Can your kids clean a bathroom to your specifications?  Bathrooms can be tricky to get sparkling clean, so practicing is a must.  Otherwise, your children just WON’T clean the bathroom at all and we all know how disgusting that could get FAST!

4. How to read a recipe

Can your child read a recipe?  Like, more than the directions on the mac n cheese box?  Do they know what the acronyms C, Tb, and Tbsp mean?  Do they understand they need to read the ENTIRE recipe first, to know all the steps, before they start?  At some point your child will grow weary of eating boxed ramen and mac n cheese and want to cook their own meals; make sure they can read and understand what the recipe is saying when they decide they want to start cooking.

5. How to cook

Speaking of starting to cook, does your child know HOW to cook?  Like, can he or she even make a box of mac n cheese?  Do they know how to boil water?  Yes, that is a cooking basic, but if your child doesn’t know what “boil” means, how can they do Step One on the mac n cheese box?  Teach your child to cook simple meals before they leave the house.  Teach them the vocabulary of cooking, and teach them how to buy food that is ripe and healthy for them. 

I have a Better Homes and Gardens Cookbook that I really love, and I’ve never found a recipe I didn’t like in it.  It has a vocabulary section, a section that explains what the different cuts of meat are, and tips and tricks throughout the book that are hugely helpful for cooking including how to double a recipe and recipe substitutions.  It’s a great basic first cookbook and I highly recommend it!

6. How to write a check

I know, I know.  Checks are “old school.”  But, we still have at least ONE good reason to have checks – for employment direct deposit!  You’ve GOT to have a check stub to attach to your direct deposit form when you start working, so it’s still a skill that kids need to understand.  Writing VOID across the check might be a sufficient lesson, but it would probably be wise to also teach them at a minimum where to find the account number and the bank routing number too. 

7. How to use a debit card

Along with knowing how to write a check, teach your kids how to use a debit card.  Show them how to swipe the card on the correct side, or how to insert the chip end into a card reader.  Teach them how to check their bank account balances and how to balance a checkbook and keep track of their expenditures.  Some simple accounting skills are crucial to enabling your child to have healthy finances.

8. How to make a budget

Along these lines, teach kids how to make a budget.  If you use a budget, show them how your budget works.  Talk about what the line items mean and how you keep track of income, expenses and savings. 

If you don’t use a budget, find a great financial curriculum so your kids can learn how to be wise with their financesFinancial Peace University by Dave Ramsey is a wonderful financial philosophy and curriculum that my husband and I use.  When we went through the class, we definitely learned a ton and adjusted the plan to fit our finances and it was 100% worth every penny we spent on the class.  They even have a new Financial Peace Jr that helps teach children the principles for financial management as well as a book called Smart Money Smart Kids which is written with teens in mind.  The Financial Peace University course was totally eye-opening for me and I would highly recommend it for teens or really anyone who needs some help or would like to become better with their finances. My oldest daughter read Smart Money Smart Kids too and she said it was a really great foundation for financial skills and she liked it at lot.

9. How to pump gas

Pumping gas – easy, right?  You probably pump gas on autopilot now, just wishing to get it over with as quickly as possible.  But what if you’d NEVER put gas in your gar before?  Would you know where the gas tank is?  How do you open the gas tank?  What do you do to get the gas to start pumping?  Do you pay first or pump first?  What’s the process?  Pumping gas is a routine chore that we adults do, but make sure you teach your teen how to pump gas – preferably BEFORE they run out of gas and are stranded on the side of the road!

10. How to manage their time

Time management is a critical skill that some excel at more than others.  If you have an orderly, organized child who enjoys planners, that child will have no problem with time management when they get to college and have tons of reading and homework to do.  If you have a scatter-brained, messy creative child, it would benefit that child greatly to have some intentional teaching on time management and how it can help them live a better lifeSmart but Scattered Teens is a book written for exactly that child and teaches parents how to development their child’s organizational and management skills.  There are also worksheets and planners that can be used in conjunction with the book.

11. How to use Microsoft Office

If you’re a working adult, you probably use Microsoft Office on a regular basis.  You are familiar with Word and Excel, and some of you are comfortable with PowerPoint and Access.  Almost everyone who uses a windows computer is also familiar with the Outlook email and calendar system too. 

But your child isn’t.  They might understand how to use Word, and be able to do some simple formatting, but most likely they’ve barely used any of the Microsoft Office programs if at all.  But when they get to their first office job, or into their first English class, they’ll be expected to produce reports, spreadsheets and check their email.  Teach your child to use Microsoft Office before they leave the house.  There are free tutorials available online or on YouTube to turn your teen into an Office whiz.

12. How to Be Emotionally Intelligent

Emotional Intelligence is the ability to identify how you feel and to manage your emotions as well as being able to communicate those emotions. I shared my thoughts on emotional intelligence here and some good reading resources include Emotional Intelligence by Daniel Goleman and Raising An Emotionally Intelligent Child by John Gottman.

There are lots of skills adults employ without thought every day, simple things that are necessary to function well in this world.  Being intentional to teach your child these skills before leaving the nest will help them succeed when they’re out on their own.   

Are there other skills you think teens need before they leave the house? What else is on your list? I’d love to know! Drop me a comment below and let me know what you’d add to this list.

All the best,


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