10 Things to Teach Teens Before They Move Out

If you’re a parent of a recent high school graduate, there’s a good chance your child may be moving out in the upcoming months. 

Wait! What? This is the same kid who is incapable of getting dirty socks into the hamper. 

How will he keep up with his own laundry? 

She has no idea how to read a map or manage her time. 

How will she navigate campus along with her newfound freedom? 

I’m still his morning alarm and breakfast cook! 

How will he make it to class fed and on time? 

If any of these questions have crossed your mind, then now’s the time to teach some valuable life skills to your teen. Here are ten skills to get you started:


Remember the old saying, if you give a man a fish, you feed him for a day. If you teach a man to fish, you feed him for a lifetime? Well, the same goes for laundry. Take the time to teach them how to handle lights, darks and delicates before they have to tackle laundry on their own. Be sure to explain the hazards of spilled bleach, the less-is-more theory for detergent, and to not eat the Tide Pods. 


Teach your teen the basics of cooking. Encourage them to shop the perimeter of the store for the healthiest choices, compare prices, and read labels. Show them how to boil an egg and make macaroni and cheese from scratch. Don’t forget to cover food safety, such as how to handle raw meat to prevent cross-contamination. If they are dorm-bound, teach them how to use a can opener (seriously!) and create a list of simple microwavable meals that they can prepare on the days they don’t make it to the cafeteria. 


If you’ve been doing most of the driving, your teen likely hasn’t paid much attention to directions. It’s time to put them in the driver’s seat—literally and figuratively. Teach them how to navigate a bus or subway system, an airport, and a campus map. Be sure they know how to contact a cab or Uber and what the protocols are for tipping. Then set them loose! Let them make a wrong turn and have to ask for directions. It’s how they learn.


If your child is taking a car to college, be sure they know how to fill the gas tank, get an oil change, check tire pressure, and where to go for maintenance. Discuss what to do if they’re ever in a fender-bender: call the police, take photos of any damage, and exchange insurance information. Remind them safety comes first! And, of course, to call home after the fact so you know they’re okay and can start the proper insurance notifications as they are likely still insured under you.


This one is often forgotten by well-meaning parents who are used to handling the family calendar. But knowing how to pick up the phone (or log into a computer system) instead of relying on mom to make an appointment is a necessary life skill. By the time your teenager is in high school, require them to book their own dental, doctor and hair appointments. In addition, be sure to have them fill out the necessary paperwork at medical appointments (while you’re still there to guide them) so they learn the family medical history, insurance protocols and how to manage their own healthcare visits. 


Your child should know a few medical fundamentals so they don’t have to call you for every little sniffle. Educate them about both prescription and over-the-counter medicines (aspirin, cold and cough medicines, burn creams, etc.). Teach them how to read labels for proper dosage and safety. Be sure to discuss when it may be appropriate to seek medical assistance—or when to phone home for some TLC and advice.


Today’s spending decisions can have potentially huge consequences on life after college, so be sure to spend adequate time teaching your student about responsible day-to-day money management. Before your teen leaves home, they should know how to create a budget, track spending, pay bills, and manage a credit card. In addition, teach the bigger picture of the role loans and payment plans have in adult life. 


Teach them to own their choices and subsequent consequences—good and bad. Coach your teen toward accepting responsibility by banishing the blame game and by expecting them to vocalize what they did and what they are doing to correct the situation. This will serve them well in college and help them take correction in the workplace.


Part of adulting is knowing when and how to effectively advocate for oneself. Teach your child to recognize the difference between wants and needs, aggressiveness and assertiveness. Show them that self-advocacy involves effective communication, respect and taking personal responsibility. You can start now by letting your student take the lead at school conferences and health care appointments, giving them the freedom and confidence to ask questions and to speak for themselves. 


Being independent requires the ability to troubleshoot and to solve problems. But today’s teens are so used to having parents available at the touch of a screen that they do not naturally develop these skills. Now is the time to let them figure out a plan of action when a problem comes up. That doesn’t mean you can’t advise, but please don’t fix! Whether a friend issue or an academic one, give your teen the opportunity to troubleshoot without you getting involved. If they do seek your advice, listen and ask open ended questions, allowing them to process and formulate a workable solution.

Don’t wait! Introduce these life skills now and help prepare your teen so he or she can be confident and successful in the next phase of life.


For more practical tips and advice on preparing for the launch, get yourself a copy of Out to Sea: A Parents’ Survival Guide to the Freshman Voyage. 

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

For security, use of Google's reCAPTCHA service is required which is subject to the Google Privacy Policy and Terms of Use.

I agree to these terms.