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7 Life Skills You Should Have By 18 – A List for Teens & Their Parents

Academics, extracurricular activities, part time jobs, social life. Teens are handling a lot these days; it hardly seem fair to add to it. However, these following items are important for your future because sooner or later you’re going to want to move out on your own, head off to college, and/or get a job. You need to be able to do them to be an adult. The sooner you start to learn some of these things, the more responsible and adult-like you’ll become. And then maybe mom and/or dad will extend that curfew.

Parents: Your baby is growing up. It’s time to start letting go. That doesn’t mean don’t support them. Just do it in a different way. Stop doing these life skills for them gradually to help them transition. Because by the time they’re out on their own, you will either be tethered to them forever by continuous phone calls or they will flourish.

#1 You must be able to manage your own homework, workload, and deadlines.

Teens: Start while you are in high school, and you will have a successful college career. Believe me, poor time management and the inability to prioritize tasks has flunked more than one student out of college. Even if you’re not college bound, you will still deal with tasks, projects, and deadlines at work.

Parents: This is as basic as it gets. Start early with this one. Junior high is old enough for them to start to manage their homework and then move onto the rest of their schedule as they show competency. Parents tend to remind (and nag and badger) their kids to do their homework and manage when it’s due and how to do it. Some are even guilty of doing it for them. Don’t lose your hard earned money on their college education because they are unable to turn in assignment on time.

#2 You must be able to cope with the roller coaster that can be school, college, teachers, bosses, etc.

Teens: Life isn’t easy. It isn’t even fair. You’ve heard this. Things can and will go wrong or at least not as expected. You need to be your own advocate when this happens. What do I mean by that? Say you’re failing a college course. Take the time to talk to your advisor and ask for advice or a tutor. Ask for help absolutely, but don’t expect anyone to fix the situation for you.

Parents: Take a step back. It’s okay for them to learn that life won’t always go their way. Resist the urge to jump in and fix everything. Be there for them just don’t resolve the issue for them. Don’t finish the task for them or talk to the adults (unless your child is in physical or mental danger then jump in with both feet), especially when it comes to their jobs. Speaking of talking to adults….

#3 You must be able to talk to strangers.

Teens: Gasp! I know! Totally against everything you’ve been taught. The fact of the matter is that you will have to talk to people you don’t know like college faculty, landlords, human resource managers, your boss, your health care providers and so on. Start by making a doctor’s appointment for yourself and/or engaging the doctor in your care (It’ll help you advocate for yourself too). Or perhaps a store clerk. I’m sure you’ll find someone. That being said, still be safe and use common sense.

Parents: You meant well. There’s a plenty of bad people out there, and they certainly should be careful. However, they now may not how to approach a person they need assistance from, and they should be able to talk to their doctor or a mechanic or landlord about issues.

#4 You must be able to earn and manage money and all that comes with it.

Teens: From finding a job to taking out a loan, there’s a lot to know. Save yourself a lot of headache and get work and money smart. Learn how to find and keep a job, how to interview, how to do a resume, and fill out an application (Cayuga Works and Cortland Works can help with a lot of these!). On the money side, there’s bank accounts, budgeting, paying bills, doing taxes, credit cards, student loans, car loans. Some of these can easily lead to financial problems for years if not handled properly. In fact, more people make those mistakes than not, but you don’t have to be one of them. A local education center might hold a class in financial literacy; consider taking it.

Parents: It’s best that your kids find out the value of a dollar before the eviction notice. Here’s where you can really step in and teach them what you know. What you don’t know you can learn together. Then let them fly on their own. As for jobs, stay out of it completely. If they want a job, let them go for it but don’t interfere. As someone who has worked her share of HR, one thing that definitely disqualified any teen candidate was a parent that called wanting their child to get a job with us. All that says to a hiring manager is that the parent wants the kid to have a job; the teen doesn’t.

#5 You must be able handle household management.

Teens: I know you have a lot on your plate but when you’re out on your own you’ll appreciate that you have these skills. Know how to clean, do laundry including ironing, cook a few dishes (sure you could eat at restaurants, but that gets expensive quick), plan meals and grocery shop, etc. I know none of this sounds like a load of fun but who knows you might find that you like to cook or iron. Then you could help out around the house and your parents will be impressed.

Parents: Here’s another area where you can step in and teach. Don’t expect perfection the first time out. They’ll likely burn a meal (we all do) or put too much soap in the laundry. Let them make the mistakes unless there is the potential for real danger (like mixing bleach and ammonia). Once they find out what they like or enjoy, make that their responsibility.

#6 You must be able to find your way around.

Teens: Know how to get from point A to point B whether it’s your college campus or the city where you work or live. Know directions to important places, how to manage your car (like how to put gas in the tank), or if you don’t have a car, your transportation options and how to read a route map (or any map; you can’t always rely on your phone).

Parents: You’ve shuffled your kids everywhere from school to soccer practice to the mall. Have you stopped to think if they actually know how to get to any of these places? Let them be navigator once in a while (getting lost is half the fun!) or when they’re old enough, let them take the wheel and find their way.

#7 You must be able to take risks.

Teens: I’m not talking skydiving here. Yeah, I know, how boring. What I am talking about is trying, possibly failing, and trying again. I’m talking about making mistakes and learning from them. Putting yourself out there knowing everything may not work out as planned. You have to take some risks to get what you want out of life. The old adage of “nothing ventured, nothing gained” is absolutely true.

Parents: This one will be hard. All their lives you’ve been making sure they don’t get hurt in any way, but you can’t always swoop in and fix it. You’re not meant to, and it doesn’t make you a bad parent. Every day we take risks both small and big. Your kids will have to do the same (and do!). They will have to apply for a job. Go to an interview. Start college. All are risks. They will do these things, possibly fail, and need to bounce back. The only thing you need to do is support them if they don’t bounce and show them they can come back from a failure.

There are so many life skills, I’m sure you can think of more. Feel free to comment on others!


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