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8 life skills your teen needs before moving out: Here's what to know

Explore what experts say every kid should be able to do in order to be a responsible, independent young adult.
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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, books, etc. but these skills go even beyond tidiness. 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 2AM 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 handle 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.

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.

6. Manage a budget

Whether you are still involved in your teen’s financials or not, having a basic understanding of budgeting will help set them up for success now and in the future. This includes an understanding of balancing a checkbook (or checking account) and credit if they are using credit cards. Identifying where their income is coming from and how much income they will have is only one part of the equation. What bills are they responsible for, how much are they spending on fun and entertainment, and how much for groceries? And perhaps the biggest question, what will they do if their income is less than their planned spending?

7. Prepare and cook simple meals

They don’t need to be Martha Stewart, but having a basic understanding of how to provide for themselves is a big part of being independent. Smoothies, eggs, salads, and sandwiches are all easy to make and typically healthier than hitting the drive-through. They can’t survive on pizza and soda forever.

8. Solve their own problems

A big part of being independent is the ability to solve your own problems. If they find themselves with a clogged toilet and plunging hasn’t worked, are they able to troubleshoot other options without calling you for help? If they fail an exam or turn in a paper late, will they go to the professor and see if they can do additional work to make up the grade? If their boss gave harsh feedback on a project, will they be more prepared next time?

It can seem like a lot of items to master, but if your teen is showing progress in all of these areas, they’ll be able to fend for themselves. And you can worry less, and instead be proud of the work you put in to get them to be capable adults.

Parent Toolkit resources were developed by NBC News Learn with the help of subject-matter experts, including Faye de Muyshondt, Founder, socialsklz:-) for SUCCESS; Sharon Sevier, Missouri School Counselor Association; and Julie Lythcott-Haims, Former Dean of Freshmen, Standford University.