Kimberley Gorelik on April 22, 2020
Learning 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 15 life skills we’ve gathered here:
Teaching hint: don’t assume anything and answer the questions kids ask
even if they seem like common sense.
LIFE SKILL #1: HOW TO DO THE LAUNDRY
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 fundamental basic 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
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 teen 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 why the outside aisles of the grocery store are the places to focus your
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
LIFE SKILL #3: HOW TO COOK
How to teach it: Now that your teen knows 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 teen in meal prep, cooking, and clean up.
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. Consider getting them some cookbooks geared to a teen audience.
Why it matters: Developing a cooking repertoire increases self-awareness,
decision-making, and relationship building. When teens can contribute to the
household in personalized, independent ways, everyone wins.
LIFE SKILL #4: HOW TO MANAGE MONEY
How to teach it: The more conversations your teen hears 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 teen.
Why it matters: By teaching money-management early you allow teens to
practice decision-making skills and personal responsibility before they can 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
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. Start with your teen’s traits. For example, don’t force
list-making if that’s not in someone’s nature. Instead offer up ideas like using
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.
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
How to teach it: Learning time management will literally change your
teen’s life. Time management, once mastered, helps a teen control their
destiny. Discuss what schedule works best for your teen. 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 teen 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
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 teen into an experience. Ask
your teen 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
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
LIFE SKILL #8: HOW TO SWIM
How to teach it: This is one best left to the experts, but it’s important to
find the right teacher for your teen. 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
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 teen to others you know. Instead, build upon your
teen’s strengths. Once you’ve both brainstormed strengths, come up with
local (or online) jobs 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 teen discover their identity
and practice self-management, self-awareness, and relationship building skills.
LIFE SKILL #10: HOW TO READ A MAP AND USE PUBLIC
How to teach it: Here, you’ll be teaching your teen how to navigate by
map or GPS and how to use public transportation. Paper maps aren’t as
common now as they were ten 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 teen 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 teen 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
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 your teen. 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.
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
How to teach it: Being assertive is different from being aggressive and it’s
this difference that will help your teen 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
teen might consider reacting. If your teen isn’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
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 teen’s 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.
LIFE SKILL #14: HOW TO CLEAN THE HOUSE
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 teen. 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
LIFE SKILL #15: HOW TO DRIVE SAFELY
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
Life is tough enough, let’s help our teens feel confident by teaching them
the life skills they need. We’re proud to work with The Allstate Foundation
to bring you the tools you need to help teens become more resilient.
Also, check out Free Guide for Parents: How to Help Teens Build Life
Skills for Success.
15 LIFE SKILLS EVERY TEEN SHOULD LEARN
Kimberley Gorelik on April 22, 2020