Practical Things Your Teen Should Know How To Do Before Leaving Home

Janice Crow

Self-reliance is an important key to living independently. To become self-reliant, one must master a basic set of independent living skills. Over the years I have discovered many students do not have the basic life management tools and skills one needs in order to successfully leave home and adjust to college life as an independent, self-directed, responsible, resourceful person.

These are practical things all parents should teach teens while in high school:

  • How to take care of their health – Most teens depend on parents to make appointments with their doctor. Your high school students need to practice making appointments now, so it will be easy to do when they move away from home. They must also learn to take all necessary medications as prescribed.

  • How to deal with an emergency by being prepared (accident, bad weather, etc.) Help your student prepare an emergency kit for the car and another for the dorm or apartment. Also, your teen should already have emergency numbers in his/her phone. Teach your teen to be aware of weather forecasts and warnings.

  • How to Swim – Swimming is a basic survival skill for everyone, and it is never too late to learn to swim. On the most basic level, swimming can save your life and may help you save someone else’s life. The YMCA offers low-cost swimming lessons and probably has a location near you. Many colleges also offer swimming lessons to students at the campus Student Center.

  • How to wash, dry and iron clothes - Allow your child to be responsible for doing laundry while at home, so you can demonstrate how to properly care for clothing when cleaning it.

  • Cook basic meals such as spaghetti, hamburgers, eggs, and salads - Practice cooking favorite meals with your teens, and make meal preparation a family event one night a week.

  • Brew a pot of coffee or tea – Even though this seems easy enough, everything seems easier after doing it the first time. Allow your teens to practice at home.

  • Get up and get to class on time by themselves - If your teens do not learn to wake up to an annoying buzzer now, they may sleep through most of their freshman classes later.

  • How to write a quality thank you note - It is simply a kind thing to do and will reflect on your teen’s character in both professional and personal situations. Teens need to know how important it is to make and keep social and personal connections to form a network of support.

  • Open and manage a bank account - This is necessary for your teen to feel responsible for his/her money.

  • Live on a fixed budget - If teens don’t know how much money they are required to live on each month, they will not learn how to adjust spending habits and make good decisions.

  • How to sew on a button and mend clothing - Remember no one will be there to do the mending for them.

  • How to change a tire and jumpstart a car - Honestly, these are two skills everyone should learn as soon as they get a driver’s license.

  • How to make a good first impression – This includes making eye contact, making the other person the center of attention during conversation, and dressing appropriately for any occasion.

  • How to keep a clean “Online Presence” - Being appropriate on the web is just as important for grad school admissions as it is for finding employment. Teens need to know how to control their own social privacy settings and how to restrain from littering their friends’ Facebook walls and Twitter feeds.

Hip-Hop artist Webbie once posed the question: “Independent—do you know what that means?” “It means figuring out this kind of stuff by yourself.”