Life Skills Every Teen Needs Before Leaving Home

Moving out of home, whether for further education, a big overseas adventure, or going flatting, is the biggest change in your child’s life – and no doubt it will have a huge impact on your own too.

Just as we equip our children with skills needed to grow and develop throughout their early life, there are also skills that teens and young adults need to start this next phase of their life successfully, ie without the need to run home to mum when they need some washing done!

Whether you start building these skills up from their tween years (or earlier), or you do a last minute dash before they fly the coop, here’s some of the life skills that will stand them in good stead.

Cook a meal or two – preferably more!

Anyone can throw a ready meal in the microwave, but actually cooking a nutritious balanced meal is a whole different thing. If your child has had food technology classes at high school then that’s a great start. Encouraging your teen to cook for the whole family once a week can be a gateway into them discovering new recipes and cooking techniques, while being mindful of dietary requirements and nutrition.

Food boxes are a great way to get them into cooking with a set plan, and ingredients and instructions on hand.

Teens should also be able to:

  • Operate a microwave (ie knowing what NOT to put in it)
  • Use an oven and elements (positioning pots safely, pre-heating, etc)
  • Load a dishwasher correctly (or near enough to correct, because we all know how pedantic we can be about this one!)
  • Use measuring cups, vegetable peeler, grater, food processor, etc
  • Store food safely (cos leftovers are king when you’re on a budget)

Buy groceries on a budget

Most young people won’t be flashing the cash when they move away from home so learning how to make a meal plan and shopping list, compare prices, and stick to a budget is essential. Give them a few trial runs at it with the weekly shopping budget!

Get from A to B

Without their private chauffeur to call on, and a job or school to get to, teens need to be familiar with their transport options (depending on what is available). Do they know about safety around trains and tracks? Can they understand a bus timetable? Can they read a map?

Drive with know-how

Getting a driver licence is only the beginning of being an independent driver. Drivers also need to know:

  • How to pump gas (seems obvious but sometimes parents forget to take a back seat on this)
  • Change a tyre
  • Check tyre pressure
  • Jump-start a car (including IF they should jump-start their own car, or someone else’s)
  • When to get a service
  • Checking oil and water
  • What to do if they breakdown or in an emergency
  • How to pay for parking
  • Registration and WOF requirements

Stay healthy

“Don’t come running to me when you break your leg!” But also, don’t come running when you’ve left home and have a cold. Knowing how to look after themselves when they are ill is a necessity. They should be able to take their own temperature, put on a plaster, do basic first aid, know the basics of which over-the-counter medications to take, as well as understand the importance of hygiene, rest and hydration. Most importantly they need to understand when and how to seek medical help – or when to call mum to find out if they need help!

Fill out a form

This is a BIG one. So many people, even grown adults, are bamboozled when it comes to filling in a form with the correct information. Get your kids into the habit of doing this for themselves as early as you can. Signing them up for sports or applying for an after school job? Get your child to fill in the form as much as they can on their own. This applies to online forms as well (with supervision when required). Work on those reading comprehension skills so they know what is being asked as well as how to answer.

Your child should also be able to write a professional email (drop that text speak!) and know the basics of staying safe online.

Be financially savvy

Money definitely makes the world go round, so your newly independent child needs to know how to control their finances. As well as having a good understanding of what things cost (a couple of dollars will not fix a broken down car), they should know how to:

They will also need to have at least basic understanding of credit, savings, insurance, and income tax obligations.

Basic home care and maintenance

Whether they’re flatting, room-sharing, or out on their own, knowing these basic skills will go a long way to helping their independence:

  • Keeping a clean and hygienic home, ie vacuuming, mopping, surface cleaning
  • How to clean a toilet
  • How to change a lightbulb
  • Turn off water or gas
  • Reset a fuse/circuit breaker box (when safe)
  • Wash dishes by hand
  • Sort recycling
  • Operate a washing machine (as well as hanging out laundry, or knowing how to use a laundromat)
  • Weed a garden
  • Plant and care for a few veggies
  • Mow a lawn
  • Use basic tools, ie hammer, drill
  • Sew on a button

Social and emotional skills

These skills will help your child in so many situations, whether it be engaging with professors, employers, housemates, or new acquaintances. Many of them are things that we begin teaching our children from their very early years and continue to build on as they grow older.

  • Use good manners (please, thank you)
  • Show consideration for others (give up your seat for another, hold open a door, etc)
  • Be punctual
  • Listen and engage in conversation
  • Show empathy
  • Build healthy relationships
  • Ask for help when needed and offer assistance when they see a need
  • Understand peer pressure
  • Know when to remove themselves from an uncomfortable or unsafe situation
  • Be able to admit when you’re wrong and make amends
  • Develop routines and organise their time
  • Set goals and prioritise
  • Problem solve (use pros and cons for decision making)
  • Build resilience
  • Cope with emotions and anxiety or know when to seek help

What skills, if any, were you missing when you left home? Or what do you still need to teach your teen?

See more:

her world julieWritten by Julie Scanlon

Julie is Editor for Kidspot NZ and our MVP. Her hobbies include laughing uncontrollably at her own jokes, annoying her family by asking questions about movie plots, and never taking anything too seriously. She speaks a little Spanish and a lot of Yorkshire. 

Favourite motto to live by: “It ain’t nothing but a thing”


  1. Alezandra 02/08/2019 at 10:59 pm

    I feel bad since I think I don’t have some of the life skills that is written here – change a tyre for example and the basic tools such as drilling. This is a good one to keep and life will definitely get messier from here on, with technology coming up faster than ever, the next generation need to still rely on yourself and not just on technology. Once electricity is our or batteries run out, what would you do then?

  2. candyjanenz 01/08/2019 at 3:31 pm

    I think that these skills are all very important to know before leaving home. I think not buying on hire purchase or credit is important as I think so many people don’t realise how expensive things can be this way. Also job application and interview skills is another good skill to know before leaving home.

  3. MuddledUpMolly 30/07/2019 at 9:46 pm

    I have saved this article because I think it is so invaluable for helping to prepare teens for a future that is more likely to be successful through independent living. For our children we are already teaching them age appropriate skills and have different expectations of them, depending on their age.

  4. SarahBlair 25/07/2019 at 5:01 pm

    I started off feeling rather confident and chuffed with myself and my parenting of my teens but the more I read the more I felt that I might have some serious work to do, with a 19 year old and my big girls turning 18 and 16 next week I think that I will have to make a “things to teach the kids” checklist!!

  5. Micht 19/07/2019 at 12:28 pm

    Love the list and attention to detail. There is so much i would want my kids to know and learn… i have a way to go before the teen years but i would hope that training now will prepare them and being an example to them daily in how we live can really help them too.. the importance of God is high in priority for us and the skills above really do go a long way to prepare them..ive met many teenagers who miss this foundation and become so lost.

  6. Mands1980 15/07/2019 at 5:27 pm

    This is a great list to slowly teach the kids before leaving home. I love how detailed it is right down to changing a light bulb as we know it and just think it’s easy but to someone who has never done something before it can be hard. Also when you get a car all the things you must check regularly such as water and oil. I hope they see what we do and take it in like doing washing all the time, washing your bed sheets, towels the things we find easy but they need to learn.

    • Shorrty4life1 18/07/2019 at 8:42 pm

      I needed to learn to budget my money better and clean up after myself lol I hated any sort of housework when I left home. It was only when I had my first child my clean freak instinct kicked in lol. I believe my child will need to learn to cook and budget her money. And maybe have a glory box ready with stuff she needs before she moves out of home.

  7. Jen_Wiig 12/07/2019 at 2:17 pm

    Love the Full put a form one…I actually hadn’t even thought of that myself so will be definitely start doing that with my two older boys.
    There were alot of things I wished I’d known before leaving home, when I did move out I was overwhelmed and stressed out …but I was also stubborn and wanted to prove I could do it so I’d ask older mates and more often than not they’d just say here I’ll do it so not really learning anything ….I think the biggest thing I wished I’d been shown or taught was how to shop on a budget …I often take my boys shopping with me and always talk to them about shopping sensibly and then sometimes give them a tangible example like expensive baked beans vs budget brand we will buy a can of each and then get home cook it, try it and compare…majority of the time there’s no real difference …..personal Hygiene will be a big one for me to teach my boys I don’t want them to be typical stinky dirty teen boys and want them to know how to wash their clothes and their bodies/hair.

  8. Bevik1971 12/07/2019 at 10:35 am

    Definitely very important for your teen to be a bit savvy before they leave home! I know that it can sometimes be “easier” for the parents to do things for their kids, however they really need to be able to function on their own. As much as we don’t want to let go, they will at some stage want to move out 🙁 These are all really good points – my hubby is a chef and is cooking with our 6 year old already (I bake with her often too), so she will know the basics. I am big on admin related things so will teach her about forms and legal things when she is old enough. We will definitely be drilling in the need to pay bills on time and to keep your house clean (messy and dirty are two different things haha).

Leave A Comment