Life skills for teens: what do they need to know?

Do you worry that your teenager lacks important life skills? Personally, I think that one of the positives to come out of COVID-19 and the subsequent lockdown period, has been a chance to build on a range of life skills with children of all ages.

I incorporated life skills into the tasks we did everyday during this period, using the time to try to teach the children some of the things that I normally just do for them due to lack of time.

Not everyone agrees with this clearly, as six in 10 parents worry their teenage children lack essential life skills, according to research.

The survey of 1,000 mums and dads of children aged 13 and over found many are concerned their teen doesn’t know how to deal with a range of things deemed ‘life skills’.

One fifth of mums and dads said their teen would not be able to deal with a broken heart, while 16 per cent know they can’t stand up for themselves in the real world. Surely though, these things are simply learnt through experiences? You can’t reach that as such can you?

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‘How to say no’ if they don’t want to do something, public speaking and how to exhibit confidence are also among the skills modern teens lack as is ‘how to be independent’.

On the practical side, many parents still don’t think their child can sew on a button, read a map, eat a balanced diet or iron a shirt. These, I consider to be in a different category, these are some of the things we can teach our children.

Working as part of a team, knowing how to be empathetic towards others and having resilience are also skills parents wish their teen was armed with – but fear they are not. Personally I think COVID-19 has contributed to building resilience.

Claire Round of National Citizen Service (NCS Trust), which carried out the study in conjunction with its programme to help 16-17 year olds build confidence and learn life skills, said: “There are a multitude of ways in which youngsters today can learn essential life skills for their future. While it is so important for parents to have a hand in teaching qualities such as politeness, trustworthiness and confidence, they can’t be held responsible for shaping their child’s entire personality and characteristics.”

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The study also found one in six parents don’t think their teen can manage their own time effectively, understand interest rates, cook a roast dinner or have the first clue about building a good credit score.

Having the ability to shave, make the bed, build a fire and clean a toilet also feature on the top 50 list of skills parents fear their children don’t have.

It also emerged 63 per cent of parents think schools have a responsibility to teach things like how to save money, how to speak publicly, and how to be a good friend.

Today’s teens are learning the majority of their life skills from their parents (61 per cent), followed by their experiences (seven per cent) and friends at school (six per cent).

Seven in 10 parents said it is most important for their children to learn financial skills, while 63 per cent want them to be able to manage their emotions effectively.

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Personal hygiene, cooking and health and fitness are other areas a third of parents would like their teen to get the hang of.

And 73 per cent of mums and dads agree their child needs to go through challenging experiences as a teenager to build character, according to the OnePoll study.


1. How to deal with stress
2. How to budget
3. How to deal with a broken heart
4. How to save money
5. How to pay bills
6. How to drive a car
7. Understand what a mortgage is
8. How to look after yourself on a night out
9. How to change a car tyre
10. Be independent
11. How to build self-esteem
12. How to understand interest rates
13. How to stand up for yourself
14. Time management
15. Confidence
16. Cook a roast dinner
17. How to build a good credit score
18. How to say no
19. How to iron a shirt
20. Perform CPR
21. How to spot fake news
22. Washing different clothes at the right temperature
23. Public speaking
24. How to sew a button
25. How to get ahead at work
26. How to clean a toilet
27. Resilience
28. Be self-aware
29. How to grow fruit and vegetables
30. Critical thinking
31. How to make a fire
32. How to stay safe online
33. Be solution-focussed
34. Reading a map
35. How to eat a balanced diet
36. Mindfulness
37. How to be empathetic towards others
38. Folding sheets/clothes properly
39. How to work as part of a team
40. How to respect your elders
41. How to shave
42. Be trustworthy
43. Making the bed
44. Be polite
45. Personal hygiene
46. Coding
47. How to tie a tie
48. How to be a good friend
49. How to swim
50. How to use a smartphone / tablet

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