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8 Life Skills Your Teen Needs Before Starting College

Schedules and other life demands can get in the way of teaching important — if basic — life skills.
Image: A woman does laundry
A woman does laundryBlend Images / Shutterstock

When high school graduates move out of the house, many parents wonder "Are they ready?" or "Will they be OK?"

Ideally, you have been slowly giving your child more and more responsibility over the years, and they are ready to be fully independent before moving out. But in reality, sometimes schedules and other life demands can get in the way of teaching important — if basic — life skills. Here are eight things our experts say every kid should be able to do in order to be a responsible, independent young adult. Can your teen:

1. Perform Basic Apartment, Dorm Room, or House Maintenance

It may be annoying to constantly remind your kid to pick up their dishes, clothes and books, but these skills go even beyond tidiness.

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Some basic skills are required to keep a home functioning and hospitable. Can they unclog a drain, plunge a toilet, or change a vacuum bag? Do they know how to run the dishwasher? These may seem basic, but it’s worth making sure they know how to do this before you get a call at 2 a.m. when they can’t flush the toilet.

2. Do Their Own Laundry

This may seem obvious, but regardless of whether your kid ends up in a dorm, apartment, or house, they are going to have to wash their clothes. While we’ve all been known to shrink a sweater every now and then, your teen should know how to do their own laundry. Clean clothes are half the battle. Can they also iron? Part of being an adult is self-care, and this is one skill that your teen should be able to easily handle on their own.

3. Manage Their Own Schedule

If you handled your teen’s schedule, making sure they got to practice, internships, work, or appointments on time, it’s time to stop. Time-management is very important for young adults, especially if they’re headed to college or going into the workforce. They need to be able to arrive on time, plan for study time and/or meetings, and have some time for fun, too.

4. Make Their Own Appointments

Whether it’s a doctor, dentist, or job interview, your teen should be able to set up their own appointments. It sounds simple, but often parents get into the habit of scheduling on behalf of their kids.

Picking up the phone, or booking an appointment online, goes back to your teen being able to manage their schedule and be fully independent. You can still remind them to visit the dentist or go get a physical, but their schedule should be theirs to maintain. And if you’re thinking of setting up an interview for your teen, don’t. Employers will also want to know that your teen is self-sufficient and reliable.

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5. Generally Navigate Without GPS or Smartphone

We spend so much time relying on technology to get us from point A to point B, we’re all a bit guilty on this one. But there are going to be times when your teen needs to function without technology. Are they able to get from their dorm to class? Or from their apartment to work? Even if their GPS isn’t working? Do they know how to use the bus, subway or ferry? A basic understanding of how to get where they need to go is crucial for independence.

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