Adulting 101: Essential Life Skills for Your Teen

Adulting 101 Life Skills For Teens

Adulting 101: Essential Life Skills for Your Teen

Published January 14, 2020 | Last Updated July 27th, 2023 at 10:50 am

Adulting 101 Life Skills For Teens

The diploma is in hand and the thank-you notes sent. You’ve spent way too much at Target buying dorm necessities. Suddenly, it hits you: Your child is actually LEAVING your house.

Are they ready? I mean, just last week they stood in the wrong line at the DMV for two full hours, then called you in a full-on meltdown!

You’re freaking out a little now, second-guessing the entirety of your parenting career. Have you done your job? Can your child survive on their own? The answer is: probably.

I know, that’s not the level of certainty we want as parents, but it’s reality.

Sure, your kid is smart. They graduated with honors and was accepted to a great college. They have good friends, maybe a girlfriend or boyfriend, and help out around the house when asked. But is that enough?

Making a successful transition from high school to college can depend more on life skills than pure intelligence.

Life skills—you know—looking people in the eye, feeding yourself, and solving everyday problems. How does your child fare in the area of life skills?

What Are Essential Life Skills for Teens?

The answer to this question definitely depends on your definition of “essential.”

Is it critical that your child look fashionable when he leaves the house? Be able to pay for purchases? Independently handle a minor car accident? Every child is different, and you are the expert on your young adult.

Critical Life Skills for Teens

Communicating Your Needs

The top of the life skills list is having the tools to get what you need, whether it’s changing your dorm assignment in college or clarifying responsibilities on a job. Your child will be communicating with professors, financial aid workers, and many others who can help them in their college career and beyond. Telephone skills are a necessity, and monitoring emails is imperative.


If your child goes away to school, this might be more obvious, but even someone going to a state college needs navigation skills. Your child should know how to find their way around, how early to leave in order to be on time, where and how to park and pay for parking, and how to manage mass transit.

Financial Literacy

This is a skill that impacts many facets of life, basically forever. Your child should know how to set up a bank account, the difference between debit and credit, and how to apply for scholarships. Additionally, your child should be able to set up and stick to a budget and save money in an emergency fund.

Medical Issues

Definitely part of adulting 101, medical issues can be very stressful. Your child should know when to go to the doctor, how to make an appointment, how to take over-the counter medication, how to call for prescription refills, and how to navigate billing. Your child should also be able to determine which doctor is in-network and which doctor is not.


One aspect of being a grown-up that adulting classes should address is insurance. It permeates our lives. Health insurance is obvious, but once your child becomes employed (even part-time) they may be offered insurance as a benefit. In addition to health insurance, your child should know about auto insurance, life insurance, renter’s insurance, travel insurance (if going abroad), and disability insurance.

Auto Maintenance

Cars can make or break your day. Car maintenance is a life skill for teens even before they go off to college. Your child should know how to get gas, what to do about a warning light, along with when, where, and how to get oil changed, how to change and put air in a tire, and how to handle a fender bender.

Home Maintenance

Regardless of whether they’re living in a dorm, renting, or buying, it’s important that your child knows how to plunge a toilet, sink, and shower. It will also save time and money if they know how to change the washer in the faucet. And don’t forget to empty the dryer’s lint trap—major fire hazard!

Basic Cleaning Skills

Living in squalor is not cool. Your child should know how to clean all the rooms in the house. They should also know how to do laundry and dishes, including using all appliances safely.


Life is basically one big job interview. Your child should know that every person they come into contact with can potentially help or hinder their future. It’s important to show people your integrity and values. Be friendly, put yourself out there, and PLEASE use common sense on social media.

Interviewing For A Job

Practice improves everything, and interviewing is no different. The basics of interviewing for a job include researching the company, being clear about your value and skills, making and maintaining eye contact, providing a firm handshake, dressing professionally, and arriving early.

A Key Takeaway For Parents

If you’re reading this as the parent of a five-year-old, my advice is, please, let your kid fail!

Each time you rescue your child (intentions be damned), you are preventing them from learning a critical lesson in survival. Problem solving skills are necessary throughout life, not only when one goes off to college.

A parent’s job is to be building life skills slowly and steadily, hopefully resulting in a young adult who is competent, confident, and independent.

While this is true, it’s important to realize that YOU CANNOT TEACH YOUR CHILD EVERYTHING. You can try, but it will exhaust both of you—and probably won’t even sink in. Much of becoming an adult is on-the-job training. So yes, prepare your child. But don’t lose sleep over it.

Life Skills vs. Adulting 101

What’s the difference between Life Skills and Adulting 101?

Again, much of this comes down to perspective and experience. Some life skills may be more general, while adulting might be more specific.

Regardless of semantics, your child will be more successful in life if they go in with knowledge of a few basic skills.

Are Adulting Classes a Thing?

Adulting classes are ABSOLUTELY a thing.

These classes are being offered across the country in varying formats, including high school clubs, privately run groups, and college workshops. There are online options too, with classes ranging from traveling abroad to DIY projects. The cost is modest, and a few are even free!

Interested in more self-paced learning? There are also books on Adulting, like this popular one: Adulting 101: #Wisdom4Life. So many possibilities for gaining practical knowledge about the real world!

A good piece of news, again, for parents of five-year-olds, is that elementary teachers are getting into the Life Skills game. Many elementary teachers do lessons on Executive Functioning Skills (being responsible, focusing, staying organized) as tools to encourage success in their students. There’s quite a bit of overlap between EFS and what we’re calling ‘life skills,’ so this is good news for everyone.

Really though, let’s face it. Regardless of their ability to independently make a dentist appointment, your child will eventually be packing their bags and be on the way out of your house. Maybe not for good, but hopefully.

Rather than fretting over the tragedies awaiting them, know that there will be a few bumps in the road, but they’ll be fine. Then take a deep breath and try to find the joy and excitement in the adventure ahead.


Use R2C Insights to help find merit aid and schools that fit the criteria most important to your student. You’ll not only save precious time, but your student will avoid the heartache of applying to schools they aren’t likely to get into or can’t afford to attend.  

Other Articles You Might Like:

Your College Student May Need Help After Graduation: Are You Prepared?

Checklist for Setting Your High School Senior Up for College Independence

High School Transition to College: A Parent’s Guide




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