By Cammie Jones


Our teens may be able to navigate their smart phone, tablet or computer like no other but I worry about their abilities in the real world. Can they do a load of laundry, fill out a check, balance a checkbook or boil an egg? These are just a few of the key life skills needed by our children— especially before they head off on their own.

1. Basic Kitchen Skills

Besides navigating the microwave, it is important that your child knows how to cook on a stovetop and in an oven. Following basic instructions on the back of the frozen pizza box will only be successful if they know how to turn an oven to “bake” at the required temperature. Learning to boil water to make pasta or an egg is another basic skill every teen needs to know. Their expertise in the kitchen will eventually expand to other areas of life but knowing the basic necessary skills will start them in a good direction.

2. Doing a Load of Laundry

Separating laundry into white and color piles will help your teen keep their clothes both clean and long lasting. At least once in a lifetime, I am sure everyone has accidentally thrown in the new red shirt with a load of whites to end up with pink t-shirts and underwear. Knowing to separate clothes and what temperature to wash in is important. A good rule of thumb is to wash whites in warm or hot water and colors in cool or cold. If unsure, cold water is always a safe bet for any color clothes.

Before throwing clothes into the washing machine, instruct your child to check jean, pant, or short’s pockets for loose change, an ink pen, a phone or anything else that might mess up the load. Make sure to read the cleaning instructions on the label usually found somewhere on the inside of the article of clothing. Many things should not be put in the dryer so learning to hang dry certain items is another good lesson. Also, some apparel may be “dry clean only,” which obliges a drop to the cleaners.

3. Simple Sewing

Your kids are going to have those times when a button falls off their pants or shorts and they have no idea what to do about it. Using a safety pin for a quick fix is resourceful, but knowing how to sew a button is a permanent solution. If the hem falls out of a skirt or article of clothing, having the ability to sew a hem (even if it’s not perfect) will be helpful. And if your child is like me and really isn’t good at crafty stuff, finding a good alterations person or seamstress is a must.

4. How to Fill Out a Check

With ATM cards, Venmo and other similar apps, writing a check or even owning a checkbook is a thing of the past. However, there are many cases when a check is needed.  Make sure your child knows how to fill out a check correctly and how to cash or deposit it at the bank.

5. Car Maintenance

Today’s vehicles notify you when your car needs basic maintenance such as an oil change or air in the tires. But, does your teen know how to change a tire in an emergency? Carve out a little time one day and teach your teen how to change a tire.  Show them how to check their oil and how to put air in the tires as well.

Some colleges offer free maintenance check-ups before long breaks. If issues are discovered that go beyond the basic needs, the school can provide a list of things to be further checked out by a local mechanic before they hit the road. Know what your child’s college offers ahead of time regarding vehicle services, and take advantage of this perk.

6. Maintaining a Budget

Before it’s off to the real world, it is beneficial to have a talk with your teen regarding living within a budget. Mom and Dad are no longer right there to slip them $20 at the last minute so knowing how to budget their monthly allowance is a necessity. No matter if they are earning their own spending money for college or if you are depositing money into their account on a monthly or weekly basis, making money last is a life skill that will serve them for years to come.

7. Healthy Living Tips & Habits

Discuss healthy food choices, daily exercise needs, and getting enough sleep before they go off to college. It is essential to include healthy eating tips before the late night Waffle House and pizza eating begins. Also, emphasize the need for exercise and getting enough sleep — both of these will contribute to their overall health while at school and will fend off many illnesses.

If your teen happens to get sick at school, make sure they know where the health center is located and what services it offers. If it’s just a minor ailment like a cold or sore throat, make sure your child understands how to take their temperature and which over-the-counter medications they may need. Remind teens should they have any allergies to medications.

8. How to Clean & Do Basic Household Tasks

A box of Clorox Wipes will most likely do the trick in most cases but knowing what to use where is valuable. If your child is living in a dorm with a community restroom, this won’t be an issue yet, but knowing how to unclog a toilet with a plunger is crucial. Before your kid flies the coop, teach them some basic cleaning skills. Their roommate(s) will thank you for it!

How to iron is another useful household skill that will be needed at some point by your teen. Taking the time to show proper ironing techniques, which heat setting to use and ways to not burn themselves or their clothes are tips your teen will use forever.

9. Writing a professional email

Your child will need to know how to write a proper email to their professor or the person they are seeking a job from once they go to college. The email should be clear, concise and to the point. It doesn’t need to include emojis or unprofessional slang terms.

10. Making Wise Decisions

Making wise decisions is not a life skill only for teens but for people of any age. Trusting your instincts is a skill that will carry your teen far in his life. As a teen in high school or heading to college, there will be many instances when they will have to make a quick decision that could be life altering. Guiding your teen with the values he has learned thus far will help that decision to be the correct one, at least the majority of the time!

These basic life skills, although they seem ordinary to us parental units, will definitely help your child navigate the real world in college or on their own. Good luck and Godspeed!

This article appears in the September/October 2019 issue of Augusta Family Magazine.
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