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15 Essential Life Skills for Teens (Does Your Teen Have Them?)


Staff member
Dec 14, 2023
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life skills for teens
Do you get nervous thinking about the day your teens will finally move out of the house?

As a parent, your instinct is to shield your children from difficulties and hardship.

So it’s natural to feel concerned about how your teenagers will handle various obstacles in life — especially when you’re miles apart from them.

When that happens, you want them to be well prepared for the challenges that adulthood brings.

The good thing is that it’s never too late to start teaching your teens the life skills they’ll need to thrive in adulthood.

As their parent, you’re in the best position to help them develop the right values and become responsible young adults.

In this article, we’ll talk about 15 important life skills for teens and how you can impart them to your teens.

(And if you’d like your teenagers to become more motivated, make sure to download the free e-book below.)

1. Time management​

teen sleeping on his school books
Do your teens fall behind on deadlines? Maybe they often leave things to the last minute, causing unnecessary stress and panic.

Effective time management will help your teenagers to stop procrastinating and meet deadlines. Your teens will also be able to get more done in less time.

This will lead to better work-life balance when your teens become adults.

Here are some ways to teach your teens how to manage their time well:

  • Work with them to plan out a daily and weekly schedule. Encourage them to set enough time aside for homework, chores, and other responsibilities. At the same time, teach them how to balance work, rest, and play.
  • Provide them with time management tools. Some of these tools may include a digital or written planner, a to-do list, or an app to keep track of events and tasks.
  • Teach them how to prioritize. Sometimes, a birthday party may clash with a basketball game or music lesson. Help your teens prioritize based on their roles, values, and commitments.

2. Money management​

Based on surveys, 75% of young adults would have preferred to learn more finance-related topics in school.

Formal education doesn’t guarantee financial literacy or wisdom. This means that you, as a parent, play a pivotal role in helping your teens learn how to manage their money.

Financial literacy goes a long way in helping your teens avoid debt and build their savings.

You can raise financially-savvy teenagers by following these tips:

  • Encourage them to cultivate a habit of saving. For instance, when they receive their allowance, you can encourage them to put a portion of it aside for their savings. (Of course, it’s vital that you lead by example in this area too!)
  • Help them understand that credit doesn’t mean “free money.” Explain to them how credit cards work and how credit card debt can compound quickly over time.
  • Give them access to budgeting and finance tools. For example, a budget tracker app can help them keep tabs on their expenses.
  • Introduce them to the concept of insurance. You can relate it to something they’re familiar with, like a car. Explain terms to them such as deductible, premium, exclusions, etc.

3. Decision-making​

Friends hanging out

No one makes the right decision every single time, but you can help your teen make wiser choices in life in general.

Peer influence plays a big role in adolescent decision-making – in both good and bad ways.

Encourage your teens to spend time with friends who have similar beliefs and values. Teach them to establish boundaries and to be brave enough to say no.

Help them weigh the pros and cons of the decisions they’re faced with.

Provide guidance when appropriate, but avoid forcing your opinions on your teenagers. As difficult as it might be, as parents, we must sometimes take the backseat and let them learn from their mistakes.

4. Goal-setting and planning​

You might have ambitious teens who dream big.

Structured goal-setting and planning can help your teens unlock their potential. They’ll learn to leverage their talents and strengths to achieve well-defined goals.

Encourage your teens to write down their goals and ambitions. These must be their goals, not the aspirations you wish to fulfill through them.

You can also help them break down a big dream into smaller actionable steps. Ensure that each step toward the goal is measurable and specific.

For instance, if your teen wants to learn Korean, he or she might decide to spend 30 minutes studying the language after dinner every day.

And as long as your teens’ goals are meaningful in some way, do your best to be supportive!

5. Critical thinking​

Do your teenagers take things at face value?

If so, encourage them to analyze information and ideas rationally and independently.

That way, your teens can form their own opinions and conclusions that are reasonable and well thought out.

Here’s how you can help your teens practice critical thinking:

  • Ask them to come up with solutions to real-life problems.
  • Ask them open-ended questions that can’t be answered with a simple “yes” or “no.”
  • Give them opportunities to make important decisions. For example, would they like to spend the summer break volunteering or attending an educational camp?

6. Adaptability and resilience​

teenager playing baseball

How can you help your teens adapt quickly to change and bounce back from rough times?

Here are some tips to try:

  • Encourage your teens to pursue new experiences. For instance, they could try out a new sport or join a club.
  • Help your teens to focus on the positive aspects of change rather than dwelling on disappointments.
  • Remind your teens to be aware of their inner monologue and how they speak to themselves.
  • Encourage your teens to devise solutions to problems and weigh out the pros and cons of each one.
  • Help your teenagers form healthy connections with friends, family members, counselors, and coaches. These people will be able to provide your teenagers with support and guidance.

7. Becoming a self-directed learner​

Many teenagers have the mindset that they have to finish their schoolwork and projects.

This isn’t entirely their fault. They’ve learned to think this way due to the punishments or consequences they face – typically at school – if they don’t complete the work.

But having this mindset means that your teens may only finish their tasks and fulfill their responsibilities when someone is coercing them to.

So what you can do instead is to encourage your teenagers to be proactive and self-directed learners.

Help them to see the inherent meaning and purpose behind what they’re currently working on, beyond the outcome they’re trying to achieve.

Encourage them to explore various learning resources and platforms on their own. And provide them with tools to monitor the progress they’re making, such as apps like Lifetick or GoalsOnTrack.

8. Resourcefulness​

When your teens face setbacks in life, do they often give up?

Instead of quitting, help them to become more resourceful. Show them how to broaden their horizons when they’re trying to find a way through an obstacle.

Can an organization, professional, or family member offer guidance?

Or can they take a course or use an online tool that might help?

Give your teens opportunities to make significant decisions. Encourage them to reflect on the mistakes they’ve made.

9. Communication​

As teenagers develop good communication skills, they’ll be able to convey their thoughts and opinions more clearly.

They’ll also learn to listen more effectively. This can help to prevent unnecessary conflicts and misunderstandings.

To enable your teens to improve their communication skills, you can:

  • Make time to communicate with your teens. Create opportunities for two-way interactions with your teens. This may involve setting up a no-phone rule at the dinner table or scheduling weekly family time to catch up, etc.
  • Teach your teens the importance of body language in conversations. You can explain to them specific undesirable body language cues (e.g. no eye contact, crossed arms, poor posture).
  • Emphasize the importance of active listening. Model this whenever your teens or anyone else speaks to you. Teach your teens the key principles of active listening.

10. Emotional intelligence and self-awareness​

emotional intelligence

Your teens may have trouble understanding their emotions. They may also be unaware of how their moods and actions impact the feelings of others.

With greater emotional intelligence, your teens will cultivate empathy and build stronger relationships.

To build your teens’ emotional intelligence, create a safe atmosphere at home where they can talk openly about their emotions, fears, anxieties, etc.

Instead of sweeping their feelings under the rug, validate their emotions through active listening.

11. Leadership and teamwork​

The strength of the team is each member. The strength of each member is the team.

– Phil Jackson, former NBA Coach of the Year

It’s essential that your teens learn to lead and to work in a team.

Here’s how you can help your teens to foster collaborative relationships with others:

  • Teach them to be accountable for their actions. Create a culture of accountability in your home by setting up rules and boundaries. Involve your teens in the process of creating these rules and boundaries.
  • Give them opportunities to negotiate. Invite your teens to share their ideas and opinions. Leave room for negotiation in instances when you don’t see eye-to-eye with them.
  • Establish a culture of celebrating other people’s successes. Model for your teens how to support, motivate, and encourage others sincerely.
  • Teach them to resolve conflicts effectively. Share with them strategies to stay calm in the middle of tense situations. Show them how to disagree respectfully.

12. Empathy and compassion​

Teens who have more empathy will be able to build healthier relationships with others.

Here’s how you can empower your teens to develop this valuable life skill:

  • Create a safe space for them to talk about their feelings and experiences.
  • Ask them what they notice about another person’s facial expressions or body language.
  • Remind them to show honor to others, even in the midst of disagreements and conflicts.
  • Encourage them to volunteer and serve others – you can join them too!

13. Healthy habits and self-care​

teen playing basketball

One of the most important life skills for young adults is knowing how to take care of their physical and mental health.

You can try the following:

  • Set an example by practicing good sleep hygiene, e.g. putting away your electronic devices an hour before bed, having a relaxing bedtime routine.
  • Take your teens to their routine health check-ups.
  • Exercise together with them.
  • Teach them basic cooking skills.
  • Show them how to read nutritional labels.

While physical health is important, mental health shouldn’t be overlooked.

According to the World Health Organization, half of all mental health conditions in adulthood begin by age 14.

Here’s how you can help your teens to prioritize their mental well-being:

  • Destigmatize counseling and mental health support.
  • Help them create a self-care routine.
  • Spend 1-on-1 time with them regularly so you can find out how they’re really doing.
  • Learn and practice relaxation techniques (e.g. deep breathing exercises, art therapy) with them.

14. Basic first aid and emergency preparedness​

All teenagers should know how to navigate emergencies. These skills could save their life or someone else’s.

Here’s what you can do:

  • Encourage them to attend basic first aid training (and join in if you can).
  • Provide them with personal safety tools and teach them how to use the tools. Personal safety apps like Noonlight can be helpful.
  • Encourage them to have trusted family members or friends saved as emergency contacts.
  • Educate them on how to respond to fires, natural disasters, etc.

15. Basic home maintenance skills​

gutter maintenance

Teens without the necessary home maintenance skills may become stressed and overwhelmed when such situations arise.

Get your teenagers involved in basic housekeeping tasks. Teach them to use common household appliances, such as a washing machine and dryer.

It’s a good idea to teach your teens how to:

  • Clean the gutters
  • Reset the circuit breaker
  • Cut off the water supply
  • Hang shelves
  • Fix a leaky faucet
  • Unclog a sink or toilet

Get your teens involved in basic home maintenance tasks as early as possible.

You’ll be teaching them valuable skills that will come in handy when they’re living on their own!


Many valuable life skills can’t be picked up by reading a textbook.

As much as you want your teenagers to get good grades in school, it’s also important for them to become responsible and independent young adults.

By equipping them with the right skills, they’ll be headed down this path!

(If your teens sometimes lack motivation, don’t forget to download the free e-book below.)
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