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6 Life Skills for Teenagers

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Academics usually take the focus of preparation for life after high school, but the teen years are an excellent time for practicing other necessary life skills. While there are dozens of skills that fall under the “necessary life skills” heading, following are six that I feel are important for most teenagers

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Filling Out a Job Application

The teen years are when many kids are seeking out their first part-time jobs. While the process of filling out a job application can seem pretty straightforward, it doesn’t hurt to practice it and make sure your teen has all the information he needs to fill one out completely and correctly.

It is helpful to make a list of standard information so that your teen has everything he needs – such as the names, addresses, and phone numbers of references – readily available.

Interview Skills

The interview process can be nerve-wracking for adults, most of whom have been through the process before, so I can only imagine how intimidating it must be for a teen going through the experience for the first time.

Role-playing can be a great way to practice the skills needed for a successful interview. Discuss with your teen points such as:

  • Proper attire – I may be old school, but I don’t care if a teen is interviewing for something as entry-level as the Chick-Fil-A cow, she should dress neatly and professionally. To me, this means dress pants and a nice shirt as the starting point. Hair should be neat and out of the face. Nails should be neat and clean. For girls, if nail polish is worn, it shouldn’t be chipped.
  • No gum, breath mints, or candy in the mouth.
  • Use a firm handshake and look this interviewer in the eye when being introduced.
  • Be on time! On time for an interview means at least 10 minutes early
  • Speak clearly.

Be sure to practice the interview questions with your teens. Do you have one that has historically been difficult for you? It may not come up, but practice it with your teen. (I always hate “Tell me about yourself.” Do they want to know about me personally? Do they want to know about me as relates to the job? Ugh!)

There are probably other interview points that I’m forgetting, but those are some good basics.

Filing Taxes

If your teen has a job, this can be an ideal opportunity for him to learn how to file taxes (or, even before that, how to fill out withholding information). I imagine that the majority of people probably use tax software now, but the paper forms for a simple return aren’t hard to figure out either. Whichever method your teen uses, tax season is a great time to explain the forms and make sure he’s prepared to file his own taxes in a few years.

Leaving a Tip

Honestly, teaching your teen how to figure a tip will probably take about two seconds. If your kids are like mine, they’ve already asked about it a few dozen times before then. However, they probably haven’t had much experience in actually remembering to leave a tip.

I’ll never forget the time a bunch of kids from my part-time summer job went out to eat after work. It was late, so the employees were probably ready to go home. I don’t remember us being purposely obnoxious, but we were probably noisy. The staff was great, as was the service.

The next day, somebody realized that no one had left a tip!

We hadn’t been purposely rude; we honestly didn’t think of it. So, a few of my co-workers went around and took up money from everyone. Then we delivered it to the servers at the restaurant with our apologies.

I worked in a restaurant for a few years myself, so I know how important it is to leave a good tip and how much it is appreciated by a server who has worked hard to provide great service! I always remind my teens to leave a tip when they go out with friends, and I’m not above texting them to remind them while they’re out.


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Preparing Meals (Cooking and Healthy Meal Planning)

I am so bad about not even thinking about having my kids in the kitchen with me when I cook. I was just thinking a couple of days ago that I should probably never be in the kitchen alone since each of my kids is old enough to handle preparing an entire meal. My younger daughter has a few meals she prepares on a somewhat regular basis, and she’s a whiz at breakfast foods. Still, I’d like to make sure she knows how to plan and prepare a healthy, balanced meal and that she does so once a week or so. 

Understanding Contracts/TOS

I’m as guilty as the next person about skimming over Terms of Service and not really reading them thoroughly, however, it’s important to know what you’re agreeing to before you click that button or sign that paper. Teens need to understand this as well, so use the middle and high school years to make sure that they understand the legalese before they click that button.

It’s also an excellent time to teach them to read the fine print on websites and contest entries. Many of them only want to get your information so they can “help” you do things like break into modeling or market your idea…for a substantial fee. Teens need to understand that most things that sound too good to be true probably are, and people really can put things on the internet that aren’t true. Bonjour!

As I said, I’m sure there are dozens of other skills for teens to practice before they leave home. What would you add?

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Wendy is one of the owners of Hip Homeschool Moms, Only Passionate Curiosity, Homeschool Road Trips, Love These Recipes, and Weird, Unsocialized Homeschoolers. She married her high school sweetheart, Scott, 31 years ago, and they live in the South. They have three adult children. Hannah, age 27, has autism and was the first homeschool graduate in the family. Noah, age 25, was the second homeschool graduate and the first to leave the nest. Mary Grace, age 19, was the last homeschool graduate. Wendy loves working out and teaching Training for Warriors classes at her local gym. She also enjoys learning along with her family, educational travel, reading, and writing, and she attempts to grow a garden every summer with limited success. (But she's learning!)

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  1. I would add pumping gas and changing a tire (that’s something that I’ve never learned, either), returning items at a store, and speaking to people when looking for assistance (my daughter, almost 15, is an introvert and HATES to talk to people she doesn’t know.) I had to smile when I read “Preparing Meals” because the same daughter once had some friends over and asked if they could make a pizza. I said okay. Then she asked how to turn the oven on. At the age of 14. You can bet she’s been helping me since then…

  2. Regarding the job interview questions, there are 2 that I didn’t spot in the article you linked; I would warn them about the “tell me your biggest fault” question that seems to be popular. An unprepared answer might actually highlight a problem, as opposed to turning it around as a positive like “I get so focused that I sometimes don’t notice I’m done work for the day”!

    I have also had some really dumb questions like “What animal would you be” during corporate interviews – it might be useful to look up answers that reflect some positive trait.

  3. It’s worth adding – job skills. An interview may get you the job but as an employer I can say without reservation that job skills are lacking in so many people we meet these days. With the desire to show up on time, take initiative and work hard you can go so far these days. Sadly I see tons of teens come into our small business (and even adults) who are badly groomed – and with friends who grumble something snide such as “You hiring?” And when we (shockingly) say “No, not at the moment” they throw out a few curse words and stalk out. We would actually be willing to create openings for the right person. So, train your kids to be good employees. If that is their path it will enable them to stand out and move up quickly.

  4. Great list! Our list might include, “how to be a friend”. I know it’s a kind of obvious one and may go without saying. But, with my houseful of teens and pre-teens, we’ve enjoyed a lot of conversations surrounding some basics about making/being friends that I had probably taken for granted. Thanks for sharing your list!

  5. A big one would be how to manage your money so you can avoid debt, balance a checkbook, how to save for vacation, retirement, etc, how to invest your money, and how to do a mortgage. My husband and I have mad a lot of money mistakes over the years and I would really like our kids to learn from them. Of course, we want to teach them that money isn’t everything, but I don’t want them to be clueless about it either. Such a great idea for a post!

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