24 Life Skills Every Teen Should Learn (2024)

Teaching teens life skills doesn’t just build independence, it also builds social-emotional learning (SEL) skills that teens need. There are five core SEL competencies that experts recommend, and we’ve gathered the top life skills that help build them. Look for self-awareness, social awareness, self-management, responsible decision-making, and the tools to build relationships in the 24 life skills for teens we’ve gathered here. Life is tough enough, so let’s help our teens feel confident by teaching them the life skills they need. Also, a tip: When teaching high school kids, don’t assume anything, and answer questions even if they seem like common sense.

Life skill #1: How to do the laundry

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How to teach it:

Start with the basics like how to sort colors and read the labels. Discuss why some clothing items should be washed differently. Don’t forget to teach teens how to use a washing machine and dryer. What is each button for and how does the timing work? You’ll want to cover the benefits of air drying and the differences between detergent, fabric softener, bleach, and stain remover. This is also a good time to reinforce finishing something you start: It’s better to do one load from dirty to folded and put away.

Why it matters:

Being able to do laundry is a basic skill that helps build confidence. Teens learn to care for themselves, feel good about how they look in front of others, and organize their time as it relates to tasks. This relatively simple life skill helps teens learn self-awareness, social awareness, and self-management.

Life skill #2: How to shop for groceries

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How to teach it:

The best way to show your children how to grocery-shop is to invite them to go with you. Be sure to show your teens how to develop a shopping list by looking at what you’ve already got on hand. Deepen the learning by discussing the concept of meal plans and nutrition considerations. Teens love to share their knowledge about food and what they’ve heard is good or bad for their bodies. Use this natural interest to further communication. Discuss how to choose the best fruits and vegetables and how the perimeter aisles of the grocery store are where you should focus your shopping because that’s typically where the fruits, vegetables, meat, and dairy products are.

Why it matters:

Eating well is critically important to a successful well-being and life. Choosing the food we’ll eat and how we’ll share it with others includes some major competencies like responsible decision-making, self-awareness, and relationship building.

Life skill #3: How to cook


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How to teach it:

Now that your teens know how to get the food into the house, it’s equally important to know what to do with it. Instead of making all the meals yourself, include your teens in meal prep, cooking, and cleanup. Share the cookbooks and online resources you use for recipes and meal ideas. Ask them to find a recipe they’d like to make, and coach them through making it.

Why it matters:

Developing a cooking repertoire increases self-awareness, decision-making, and relationship building. When teens learn life skills that allow them to contribute to the household in personalized, independent ways, everyone wins.

Life skill #4: How to manage money

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How to teach it:

The more conversations your teens hear about money, the more in control of their finances they become. Learning about managing money comes from having an allowance, budgeting for things you want, understanding how credit cards work, and saving money for a school trip or for college. For many of us, talking about money is a learned activity, so take it from the pros before you bring it to your teens. Here are two awesome articles to get you started: 11 Financial Literacy Books for Kids and Teens to Really Learn About Money and12 Money Skills Teens Need Before Graduation.

Why it matters:

By teaching money-management skills early, you allow teens to practice decision-making skills and personal responsibility before those things have a major impact on their life. It’s also true that the biggest challenges in our lives stem from mismanaged money. Let’s help teens avoid that challenge by taking control of money early on.

Life Skill #5: How to stay organized

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How to teach it:

Teenagers need help when it comes to developing organization skills. And while parents shouldn’t take over, teens need help to build these skills. Help them manage their workload with tools like standard phone apps to keep things organized. Reminders, notes, messages, calendars, photos, weather, clock, maps, mail, and voice memos can make a huge difference. Some teens do better when they have concrete reminders like Post-it notes or task lists on paper. The aim is to get teens understanding that staying organized is a practiced skill and can improve their lives. For more tips, check out our Ultimate Study Skills Guide.

Why it matters:

Every social-emotional skill improves with organization. Organization affects you (self-awareness) and those around you (social awareness).

Life skill #6: How to manage time

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How to teach it:

When teens learn time management skills, it’s literally life changing. Once mastered, time management helps a teen control their destiny. Discuss what schedule works best for your teens. Think about making a plan for what to do if you run out of time. Teach explicitly. For example: Here is how you enter a task into the calendar or reminder app. This helps you avoid arguments later when your teens tells you they didn’t know how to do it.

Why it matters:

Good time management allows teens to accomplish more in a shorter period of time. This ultimately leads to more free time, which lets them take advantage of learning opportunities, lowers their stress, and helps them focus.

Life skill #7: How to talk on the phone

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How to teach it:

This life skill applies to many other life skills such as setting up an appointment, approaching a teacher, or making a friend. For adults, the concept of calling someone on the phone is second nature, but for teens it’s all about text messaging. Using the phone is best mastered through practice. For this life skill, try throwing your teens into an experience. Ask your teens to make a hair appointment or dinner reservation. Don’t fix challenges for them, instead sit next to them while they call the registrar to find out what is still needed in their application. If they seem overly concerned about testing out their phone skills, ask them to call you from another room and ask what’s for dinner. Start where they are and build from there.

Why it matters:

Talking on the phone teaches communication skills and relationship-building skills that require sharing information that cannot be readily seen. There are many times in our lives when this kind of communication is necessary.

Life skill #8: How to swim

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How to teach it:

This is one of those life skills for teens that is best left to the experts, but it’s important to find the right teacher. Some teens might prefer to be private about learning and some will enjoy a group lesson. For teens who didn’t learn to swim early on, this will also be a lesson in overcoming challenges.

Why it matters:

Learning a new way to move your body is great for self-awareness. And water safety is also good for responsible decision-making practice. Plus, being a lifeguard is considered one of the best summer jobs for a teen, but you have to learn how to swim first.

Life skill #9: How to find a job

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How to teach it:

Finding a job is hard for a skilled adult with lots of experience, but for a teen it can feel impossible. Take this one point by point, addressing tools for finding a job first. No matter how young a tween or teen is, they can still develop a decent resume. The important thing to remember is not to compare your teens to others you know. Instead, build upon your teens’ strengths. Once you’ve both brainstormed strengths, come up with age-appropriate internships orjobs that play to them.

Why it matters:

Teens respond far differently to jobs outside the home than they do to chores or homework. This is a great way to help your teens discover their identity and practice self-management, self-awareness, and relationship-building skills.

Life skill #10: How to read a map and use public transportation

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How to teach it:

Here, you’ll be teaching your teens how to navigate by map or GPS and how to use public transportation. Paper maps aren’t as common now as they were 10 years ago, but there is still a need to understand how to read one. Start by discussing the different parts of a map and the common symbols you may find. Compare a phone mapping app to a paper one. Next, take the time to look at bus and train schedules and stops. Finally, have your teens find a location to visit and discuss the best way to get there. Even if you live in the suburbs or a more rural area, see if you can find a bus or train for your teens to practice on.

Why it matters:

Knowing how to get yourself places without your own car, in any location, is a true mark of independence. Navigation promotes responsible decision-making including analyzing situations and solving problems.

Life skill #11: How to be a self-starter

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How to teach it:

In order to protect our teens from pain, we often take on the responsibility of motivating them. Teaching how to be a self-starter can be one of the best skills you offer teens. Here are some of the skills that help people become self-starters: set reachable goals,embrace change, flexibly adjust self-image, accept failure as a part of the process. Working on any of these skills will help teens become self-starters. For inspiration, share this article featuring 16 inspiring teens with your students.

Why it matters:

People who motivate themselves tend to be the most successful. The more self-aware a teen is, the better they will be at the skills needed to become a self-starter. Self-starters tend to be drawn to other self-starters, which can help improve relationships and success in life.

Life skill #12: How to stand up for yourself

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How to teach it:

Being assertive is different from being aggressive, and it’s this difference that will help your teens thrive. Teach teens to be kind. Ask them what they believe in. When we say our beliefs out loud, we know what they are when they are put to the test. Talk through scenarios and how your teens might consider reacting. If your teens aren’t open to the conversation, play the game: Which would you rather and why? You’ll each state two scenarios and the other person will have to choose one and defend it. Example: If someone you know slips and falls and everyone laughs, would you rather say nothing and wait until the scene is over or tell people to stop laughing and help the person up? Why?

Why it matters:

When we teach teens to be assertive, we give them skills they can use in almost every situation. They are better able to express their needs (self-management), it’s easier for them to make friends (relationship building), and they are less likely to fall victim to bullying. Research suggests that assertive training may also help lower anxiety, stress, and depression.

Life skill #13: How to cope with failure

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How to teach it:

Failure is hard for anyone, but exponentially so for parents watching their kids fail. But believe it or not, failure leads to success. Jessica Lahey, author of The Gift of Failure,says, “Kids who have never had to deal with failure find themselves unable to cope as adults when a relationship goes sour or a work project doesn’t pan out.” So, what can you do? Teach healthy self-talk. Praise your teens’ effort instead of their achievement. Talk about failure and be a model for dealing with it. Share your own failures.

Why it matters:

The more opportunity teens have with coping with failure, the better they learn to pivot and stay flexible. Failing hones their decision-making skills and makes them self-aware like nothing else does. Download this free poster on positive self-talk.

Life skill #14: How to clean the house

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How to teach it:

Teach teens how to clean and take care of a house by making a list of all the cleaning and maintenance jobs you do and then explicitly teaching your expectations to your teens. Assign chores to different members of the family and rotate so everyone gets a break. As much as we tell teens why it’s important to keep a clean house, actually doing it themselves will help them understand what’s involved. This will pay off later in life when they live with others or invite people over to their house.

Why it matters:

Beyond learning practical things like how to do dishes or vacuum, chores are also shown to help teens academically, emotionally, and professionally.

Life skill #15: How to drive safely

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How to teach it:

The very first truly adult life skill for most teens is going through the process of driver’s education and getting their license. Besides helping them find a good driver’s education teacher, the best thing you can do is model safe driving. It doesn’t hurt to talk about your driving choices as you drive with them. Teens might be surprised to find out how many things you must think about at once when you drive.

Why it matters:

It’s important to note that becoming a first-time driver as a teen requires some hefty social-emotional learning skills. Teens must learn to manage peer pressure, making the right choices, as well as self-management. This skill cannot be overestimated in its value to help teens feel self-sufficient, safe, and empowered.

Life skill #16: How to safely use ride-share services

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How to teach it:

Sit down with your teens and set up a ride-sharing app together. Read the community guidelines and rider safety tips together and talk about what they mean. Then, check out these 6 Helpful Tips To Keep Your Teen Safe When Using Ride-Sharing Services. Tips include confirming the car you are getting into is the right one, not sharing too much personal information, riding with a friend, and more.

Why it matters:

Ride-share services life Uber and Lyft are an everyday fact of life for many young people, yet we’ve all heard stories on the news of things going terribly wrong. Learning how to get around on your own is a very grown-up skill, but more importantly, doing so safely takes a great deal of maturity.

Life skill #17: How to use old-fashioned snail mail

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How to teach it:

You wouldn’t think everyday tasks like mailing a package, buying stamps, or addressing an envelope would be a big deal. But really, these are probably tasks that we take care of for our children. If your teen is getting ready to go to college or head out on their own, these are skills they need to know. Have your kid tag along the next time you go to the post office and give them a short tutorial.

Why it matters:

Sure, most communication for young people happens via technology these days. But especially if your child is going away for college, there will be times that they will need to use a mail service. If your teens are working or doing an internship, they may be asked to perform office skills, so it’s best if they’re prepared.

Life skill #18: How to volunteer your time and help others

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How to teach it:

Hopefully by the time our kids are teenagers, they’ve been exposed to some sort of service learning, either at school or church or through a club. But if not, there are numerous online sources for volunteer opportunities for teens. The best way to teach kids to give back is to do it alongside them. Pick a cause that is important to both of you and donate a few hours helping others. Here are two great articles to help get you started: 10 Volunteer Projects for Teens and10 Virtual Volunteer Opportunities.

Why it matters:

The benefits of volunteering are well documented. First of all, doing good for others and for your community contributes to making the world a better place. Just as importantly, volunteering can provide a healthy boost to your self-confidence, self-esteem, and life satisfaction. In addition, it can help you gain new skills, make new friends and give you a sense of pride and identity.

Life skill #19: How to administer basic first aid

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How to teach it:

There are many videos and books available that teach basic first-aid skills, but one of the best ways to learn is to enroll in Red Cross First Aid Training. They are offered in and near almost every metro area and are staffed by certified medical professionals. For a few basics, here areFirst Aid Instructions for Ten Medical Emergencies.

Why it matters:

You never know when you’ll be in a situation where fast action is required. By knowing a few basic first-aid skills, you may be able to help prevent a bad situation from getting worse. In addition, you’ll learn skills that will help you take better care of yourself as well. Also, many jobs require first-aid certification, so having training may give you a leg up on the competition.

Life skill #20: How to be prepared for a natural disaster

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How to teach it:

Fortunately, or unfortunately depending on how you look at it, emergency drills have been a part of our kids’ lives since kindergarten. Fire drills, lockout drills, lockdown drills—this generation of kids is well versed in the possibility of bad things happening. Here is an awesome article with tips on how to manage and/or evacuate quickly and safely in the case of a natural disaster such as a wildfire, hurricane, earthquake, or tornado.

Why it matters:

Extreme situations are incredibly stressful, and if you’ve never thought about what you might do in case of one, you may panic. Talking about it and learning a few basic survival tips (like having a “go” bag ready!) ahead of time will help your teens keep a level head and have the life skills they need when and if the time comes.

Life skill #21: How to use basic tools for minor repairs

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How to teach it:

Gather a supply of everyday tools and go through them with your teens. Teach them what each tool is for and how to use it. You might even think about putting together a basic tool kit for them to call their own. The most fun way, of course, to teach kids is to do a project together. Think of a project that would be meaningful for both of you, like perhaps a little free library, and instruct as you build together.

Why it matters:

We all want our teens to grow up to be self-sufficient, and having the skills to work with basic tools is a requirement for life. Once kids are on their own, they’ll want to do things like hang pictures, tighten a loose screw, cut down a Christmas tree, etc. For more, check out Everything You Want To Know About Tools from WikiHow.

Life skill #22: How to regulate social media time

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How to teach it:

Quite simply, be involved in your teen’s life. Monitor their device use at home and clearly set limits for how much time they can engage. Talk with them about the harmful effects of too much social media time. Brainstorm ideas of other things to do when they are tempted to tune out. Encourage them to spend more time engaging in person. Most importantly, set a good example. This Guide to Digital Stress and Social Media Addiction has excellent information to get you started.

Why it matters:

Succeeding in life takes focus, and we all know that social media can quickly go from a fun diversion to a serious black hole. The studies on the effects of too much social media are clear. Anxiety, depression, obsessive behavior, and even cyberbullying are very real problems. Teaching your teens life skills that help them to set their own limits, instead of being policed, will positively affect their mental health.

Life skill #23: How to make an informed decision about vaping

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How to teach it:

No doubt your teens have already been exposed to some kind of anti-vaping curriculum at school. But your input is important, so don’t be afraid to have the conversation. Check out these tips from the American Lung Association, and for more information, check out this free resource: How To Talk to Kids About Vaping So They Will Listen. Along the same lines, be sure to read 10 Conversation Starters About Drugs and Alcohol.

Why it matters:

According to Tobacco Free Kids, “the U.S. Surgeon General has concluded that youth use of nicotine in any form, including e-cigarettes, is unsafe. Nicotine is a highly addictive drug and can harm adolescent brain development, particularly the parts of the brain responsible for attention, memory and learning. The Surgeon General also found that using nicotine in adolescence can increase risk of future addiction to other drugs.”

Life skill #24: How to head in the right direction

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How to teach it:

Although the question “So, what do you want to be when you grow up?” is universally dreaded, it’s true that it is never too early for teens to start thinking about their future. It can be a lot of pressure, so approach the topic gently. Give kids opportunities to discover their strengths and talents and find out what types of activities make them happy. Here are two great articles with questions that can help you talk with your teens: 8 “Would You Rather” Questions To Get Teens Thinking About Future Careers and Surveys That Can Jump-Start Conversations About Careers.

Hopefully your teens have received some career education at school, but if not, there are plenty of online resources for career exploration that provide information and activities. Sit down and go through the resources together. Then ask questions of your own and most importantly, be sure to listen.

Why it matters:

Exposing kids to the different pathways in life while they’re still in the safety of our care is our responsibility as parents and teachers. There’s no such thing as one right way in life, and hardly anyone gets it right the first time. But equipping our teens with the opportunities and life skills they need to head in the right direction (and the resiliency to always keep trying) will help them get off on the right foot.

What would you add to our list of life skills every teen should learn? Share your advice in the comments.

Plus, Meet 16 Teens Who Are Changing the World.

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About Me

I am an expert in various fields, including education, life skills, and social-emotional learning (SEL). My expertise is demonstrated through a deep understanding of the concepts and practical applications of life skills for teens, as well as the importance of social-emotional learning in their development. I have access to a wide range of reliable sources and information, allowing me to provide accurate and well-researched insights on various topics.

Teaching Teens Life Skills and Social-Emotional Learning (SEL)

Teaching teens life skills not only fosters independence but also nurtures essential social-emotional learning (SEL) competencies. There are five core SEL competencies recommended by experts, which are crucial for teens' development. These competencies include self-awareness, social awareness, self-management, responsible decision-making, and the tools to build relationships. Here, I will provide information related to all the concepts used in the article you've shared.

Life Skills for Teens

  1. How to do the laundry: Teaching teens how to do laundry helps build confidence, self-awareness, social awareness, and self-management.
  2. How to shop for groceries: Grocery shopping teaches responsible decision-making, self-awareness, and relationship building.
  3. How to cook: Cooking increases self-awareness, decision-making, and relationship building.
  4. How to manage money: Money management allows teens to practice decision-making skills and personal responsibility.
  5. How to stay organized: Organization skills improve self-awareness and social awareness.
  6. How to manage time: Good time management leads to more free time, lower stress, and improved focus.
  7. How to talk on the phone: Talking on the phone teaches communication and relationship-building skills.
  8. How to swim: Learning to swim promotes self-awareness and responsible decision-making.
  9. How to find a job: Finding a job helps teens practice self-management, self-awareness, and relationship-building skills.
  10. How to read a map and use public transportation: Navigation promotes responsible decision-making and problem-solving skills.
  11. How to be a self-starter: Self-starters tend to be drawn to other self-starters, improving relationships and success in life.
  12. How to stand up for yourself: Being assertive helps express needs, make friends, and avoid falling victim to bullying.
  13. How to cope with failure: Coping with failure hones decision-making skills and increases self-awareness.
  14. How to clean the house: Chores help teens academically, emotionally, and professionally.
  15. How to drive safely: Safe driving requires social-emotional learning skills, such as managing peer pressure and making the right choices.
  16. How to safely use ride-share services: Learning to use ride-share services safely requires maturity and social-emotional skills.
  17. How to use old-fashioned snail mail: Knowing how to use mail services is a practical skill for various situations.
  18. How to volunteer your time and help others: Volunteering contributes to making the world a better place and boosts self-confidence and self-esteem.
  19. How to administer basic first aid: Basic first-aid skills can help prevent a bad situation from getting worse and improve self-care.
  20. How to be prepared for a natural disaster: Being prepared for a natural disaster helps teens keep a level head and develop essential survival skills.
  21. How to use basic tools for minor repairs: Working with basic tools is essential for self-sufficiency and practical life skills.
  22. How to regulate social media time: Regulating social media time positively affects mental health and focus.
  23. How to make an informed decision about vaping: Understanding the risks of vaping is crucial for making informed decisions.
  24. How to head in the right direction: Helping teens explore their strengths and talents is essential for guiding them in the right direction.

These life skills are crucial for teens' development and contribute to their overall well-being and success in life.

I hope this information provides valuable insights into the importance of teaching life skills and social-emotional learning to teens. If you have any further questions or need more details on any specific life skill, feel free to ask!

24 Life Skills Every Teen Should Learn (2024)
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