Don’t Let Your Kids Leave Home Without These Valuable Skills

While we all wish we could keep our children little and with us forever, they will someday become adults and leave the nest.

In fact, that is what parenting is all about – giving our kids the foundation to make good decisions and live independently from us.

They will go through school, learn from their experiences, and pick up knowledge along the way – but there are a few vital skills they should learn at home as they grow.

Parents are likely most focused on reinforcing values, teaching right from wrong, and raising strong, healthy kids.

But some of the basic life skills that we all need to survive throughout our lives are not taught in school.

We learn behaviors that our parents model for us during our childhoods, and we often do things as they did.  It is comfortable and familiar to make that recipe “just like Mom,” or learn how to fix a flat tire from Dad.

In this digital age of YouTube tutorials and vast online resources that can show us how to do literally anything, there is still nothing like the hands-on experience of learning by doing — especially from the people we trust and who understand us the most.

We’ve compiled a list of some of the most important life skills your child should have before they finish high school.

Whether they are leaving home for the first time to attend college or getting their first apartment and full-time job, they will always appreciate knowing how to take care of the day-to-day things that can pop up unexpectedly.

Basic cooking skills:  No, you don’t have to raise a Julia Child or even be a fantastic cook yourself to teach this important skill to your kids.

This is a skill that you can introduce when children are very young and expand upon as they get older.

Every child should know the basics of measuring, safe handling of raw foods, and an understanding of different types of kitchen equipment and food staples.

They should also learn how to read and properly follow a recipe.  (Following directions can be tough, and even adults like to cut corners — cue the burned chicken or flattened cake.)

Practice making meals – and memories – as they grow up.  Share a few family favorites so they can have a taste of home when they go out on their own.

You can take it one step further and have the kids help with the grocery shopping – choosing healthy foods, talking about getting the best value for their money, looking for sales (coupons!!), and keeping within a budget are all important skills when it comes to cooking in our homes.

Basic sewing, laundry, and ironing:  In this disposable age, it is good to teach kids the value of clothing and how to take care of it so it will last.

They’ll find out soon enough how expensive it is when they have to buy clothes themselves, and how important clothing is when making a first impression.

Around age 8-10, kids can learn how to sew on a button and do a simple fix on a tear or rip in a piece of clothing.

Kids can start helping with laundry, learning how to separate colors and fabrics and properly wash each type – and even small children can help fold and put their clothes away.  (Again, you’re not looking for perfection, just introducing the idea.)

Nobody irons their clothes anymore, right?  Well, unless your child has the disposable income to take clothes to the dry cleaners, they should learn the basics.

These skills will be especially important (and appreciated) when they go on their first real job interview, an important event, or that first special date.

Basic car maintenance:  Even before your teen starts driving, they should know how to pump gas, check their oil, and change a tire.

No, many of us are not mechanics and don’t have the first idea how to check fluids or fix a flat on the side of the road, but everyone should have these skills to keep themselves safe on the roads.

Don’t know how?  Take a class with your child.  Many local colleges and community centers offer a brief class on how to keep your car running smoothly.  A well-maintained car can cut down on costly repair bills and, most importantly, your child will be safer out there on the road.

Out and about on their own…

When the kids are young and you are out running errands, they are watching you.   They see how you interact with others and problem-solve when things go wrong.

They probably know how to keep themselves safe and how to call first responders in an emergency.

But by the time they are teenagers, every child should also know how to call for help if their car (or a friend’s) breaks down.  They should know how to get a tow truck, how to call a cab, and how and where to take the local bus.

If they are going off to college in a new town, help them plan out different situations and write out a list of important information, like the number of the local cab service or the bus schedule where they will be living.

Planning and preparing always helps make a frustrating situation better.

A few more of our favorites…

Just because we have technology at our disposal doesn’t mean we shouldn’t teach our kids some of the important things we do every day that are sadly disappearing from school curricula.

We may not think of proper manners as a skill, but unless we teach manners to our children, they will adopt the behaviors of their friends or our much-too-informal society.

Manners are vital, and you are more likely to be taken seriously and treated with respect when you use them.  (This goes for kids and adults.)  Potential employers and business people we deal with every day are probably judging your character by your manners.  It’s that important.

And manners are not just verbal, although those are the most critical.  Obviously, saying “please and thank you,” “sir or ma’am,” are the big ones, but teaching our kids table manners or being polite in our interactions with people are also at the top of the list.

Show your child how to write out a check and balance a checkbook.  Even if they use a debit card or phone app to make their purchases, they will still need to keep track of their spending and stick to a budget.

Handwriting (cursive!) has been dropped as a subject in many schools, but it is still important to learn.  Have the kids practice their cursive letters at home and, of course, learn how to write their signature legibly.  Our handwriting is unique to each of us and the skill we should keep alive for future generations.

Staying organized is tough for any of us, but it is a skill that we can teach – and it is never too late for us to learn.

Planning ahead, making lists, and keeping a calendar really does help cut down on stress – especially that last-minute panic when you have forgotten an important event or deadline.

This is another area where you don’t need to be perfect.  Simple things like knowing where the bills are and when they need to be paid, setting out clothes and school/work items the night before, and making a schedule are great things for our kids to learn.

Remember the old 50’s sitcoms where the teenage boy ends up with two dates in two different places on one night?  Avoid the chaos (and embarrassment) by keeping kids accountable for their activities and responsibilities.

Most of the time, we don’t really think about teaching these skills to our children.

Yes, they do pick up a lot of what they need to know by what we model at home as they are growing up.

But we do need to be diligent in teaching our children some basic, everyday life skills so they will be prepared to stake their claim as an independent and prepared individual.

No parent could ask for more.

Do you work on some of these life skills with your children?  Do your teens know how to take care of the little things each day?  Leave us your thoughts.