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12 life skills kids need to know before high school

Things you learned as a child to pass on to yours

A family doing chores together at home

As parents, we are our children’s first role models. It’s from Mom and Dad that kids learn all the important life skills they need to live independently when they head off to college or to live on their own. From eating healthy and exercising to not running up credit card bills they can’t pay off; parents impart all sorts of vital wisdom kids take with them when they leave home for the first time.

The problem is waiting until it’s time to start filling out the applications to squeeze in all those necessary life lessons. Instead, start early. Kids love to imitate adults. So, what are the major life skills your kids need to know before high school rolls around?

The essentials to teach teens how to make a budget
DedMityay / Shutterstock

Life skills kids need to know

When kids are little, they can’t wait to start helping parents around the house, such as doing dishes or making the bed. Well, take advantage of those moments. It’s actually where you start introducing life skills children need. Don’t think kids are too young to lend a hand or have responsibilities around the house. Get the kids involved in everything from food shopping to learning credit cards don’t magically pay themselves off. These are the must-have life skills your kids should have a handle on before high school.

Healthy habits

Eating healthy, having sweets in moderation, and daily exercise are all habits you certainly want kids to take to college and beyond. Then there are hygiene habits, such as washing hands, brushing teeth, and wearing clean clothes. It’s quite a lot, but in your daily life around the house, you’re modeling these behaviors. Sure, kids seem to forget what a toothbrush is for in middle school. When that happens, it’s time to remind them of the all-important habits that help you stay healthy.

Household chores

It’s usually college when teens realize the sheets don’t magically get changed and the clothes put away. Doing chores around the house, like dusting, setting the table, washing dishes, and putting laundry away, teaches kids the vital life skills they need to live on their own. Start early with your kids, making sure the chores are age-appropriate tasks. Toddlers can learn to put toys away where they belong. Chores teach life skills and responsibility.

Making decisions

Decision-making skills are a major part of life, from the small ones to huge ones. Letting kids make choices at an early age teaches them how to make more important decisions down the road. As they age, children need to understand the consequences of their choices. When big decisions come up, show kids how to make a pro and con list. Teaching kids decision-making skills will go a long way when they reach the middle and high school years.

Time management

Kids do a lot in a day, from school to homework and practice to chores. Learning how to manage their time so that they can finish their homework and chores before practice is vital. Good time management skills play a vital role in a child’s success in and out of school. As kids understand how to manage their time productively, they also learn valuable life lessons about consequences. If you didn’t finish your homework before soccer practice, there’s a trickle-down effect of a later bedtime, feeling tired the next day, and possibly not completing an assignment by a deadline.

Money management

Parents often debate about allowances, but the truth is; that having an allowance goes a long way toward teaching kids how to manage money. Kids learn how to save up to purchase a hotly desired item and have to decide whether they want to spend their hard-earned allowance on that new sweater or save it. Of course, there is more to money management. Children need to understand budgets, credit cards, debit cards, check writing, and cash apps like Venmo as well as how to make change. Strong money management skills help teach kids how to be financially responsible adults.


Many teens don’t learn how to do laundry until it’s time to go away to college. This is a life skill kids can begin getting a handle on in elementary and middle school. It’s never too early to start showing kids how to sort clothes to wash, how to take clothing out of the dryer, and how to fold clothes. By middle school, kids can learn how to wash a load, especially if there are sports uniforms that need to be washed by game day.

Making lunches

Most parents dread this weeknight chore. Get kids involved in making their own lunches for the next day. Kids learn how to make healthy choices and meal-prepping skills.


This is a life skill that is incredibly useful, especially when your kids move into their first apartment. Children love to do what mom and dad do, which also includes cooking. With adult supervision, kids can learn the cooking basics. Build on this as your kids get older, so by the time they’re in high school, teens can make simple dishes.

Order for themselves

Next time you head to a restaurant, let your child order their own food. This is an important life skill quite a few kids are hesitant about. Allowing your child to order helps foster confidence and self-esteem.

Prepping for school

Toddlers feel proud when they can dress themselves, and when kids first master shoe tying, it’s a huge moment. Showing kids how to pick out clothes the night before and packing their own school and sports backpacks teaches responsibility and accountability. Doing these tasks for your kids to speed up the bedtime and morning routine isn’t helpful in the long run.

Pumping gas

Unless you live in New Jersey, this is an important life skill for teens. The driver’s permit comes around faster than most parents are ready for. In middle school, start prepping tweens at gas stations on how to pump gas and pay, as well as other car basics.

Household maintenance

Do your kids know how to change a toilet paper roll or a light bulb? How about what to do if the toilet is clogged? Remember, kids love to help. So, when you’re doing a simple repair job around the house, you have a built-in helper.

Young girl having fun cooking in the kitchen / Shutterstock

Other life skills kids should have a handle on before high school

Sure, it’s a big list, but the more your kids know before they’re in high school, the more responsible and prepared they will be for life on their own. Here are other life skills to make sure your kids know before they’re nearing the college years or before they’re on their own.

  • Comparison shopping
  • Goal setting
  • What to do in an emergency

As role models, parents are sharing essential life skills for their children. Using a hands-on approach is a great way for kids to learn the life skills they will need when they head off to college or to move into their own apartment. Don’t try to squeeze it all in the summer before college starts or before high school begins. Start early, so your kids have a handle on these major life skills before it’s time to start looking at colleges.

Dawn Miller
Dawn Miller began her professional life as an elementary school teacher before returning to her first love, writing. In…
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