Thursday, 23 August 2018

10 Skills all Children should Learn before Leaving Home

University places are being allocated and it's time to start thinking about whether your pride and joy is ready to venture out into the world unsupervised. I'm not sure anyone is ever totally ready, to be fair, there will always be situations no one planned for and initiative will be required now and again. As parents, though, we can help by providing our children with the tools and skills necessary to survive on their own, and take on the challenges life throws at them along the way and it's never to early to start. Here is a list of the skills that all children should learn before leaving home and how to make sure they do.


We all know that cleaning doesn't come naturally to many teenagers, but it is a very important skill to learn to do properly. Poor cleaning standards can lead to issues with vermin, or possibly illness, so you can't over-emphasise the need to take it seriously. Cleaning skills can be taught from a young age and giving children chores not only teaches them the correct way to clean, but also that everyone pitches in, so that they don't become a thoughtless housemate when they're older! This post on Cleaning Short Cuts and Tricks offers some easier options for those less keen on keeping up with the housework!

Negotiating and Complaining

By complaining, I don't mean leaving a cryptic Facebook status, or moaning to anyone who will listen, I'm talking about seeking a resolution when something goes wrong. If you're are on a tight budget, something like an inedible meal or broken delivery can really eat into the finances, so it's good to have the skills to ensure things are put right. This is difficult to teach, as it relies on something actually going wrong, but you can teach confidence and interpersonal skills by always encouraging children to interact politely with other adults, such as waiting staff or shop assistants. Get them to ask for something themselves, rather than doing it for them and always encourage them to say thank you for their meal, or whatever help is offered to them. This will help them to feel less intimidated by people and make approaching someone for assistance a natural part of life, and not something to worry about. As they get older, get them used to talking on the phone too, as this is something that some adults get put off by, but it is a necessary evil. They could perhaps order a takeaway, or find out the opening hours of a shop you need to visit. Making these sort of interactions a part of every day life is a big help when they go it alone.

Cooking and Food Hygiene

Cooking actually isn't that difficult, if you can read, you can read a recipe, after all, but there are basics that most of us take for granted that are very important. These include; 

  • Making sure chicken isn't pink in the middle
  • Using different chopping boards and knives for raw and cooked meat
  • Storing food correctly
  • Reheating food to a high enough temperature

This is why cooking with children is more than just a way to pass a rainy afternoon. If you bake cakes with your child, there's no reason why you can't cook a simple meal with them too. This gets them more confident in the kitchen and, as they get older, you can move them on to more complicated recipes. They will learn all the important safety rules along the way. You can find some easy and cheap recipes in our Recipe section, our student recipes even have a free printable. 


Even university students sometimes find themselves looking for a part time job, so looking smart will always be relevant at some stage. Something as straight forward as ironing the creases out of a shirt, rather than ironing more in, can be pretty tricky until you get the hang of it, so make sure your teens get plenty of practice in, before they head off to pastures new and give yourself a day off as a bonus. 

Basic DIY and Home Maintenance

Unless you want to be called upon every time your offspring blows a light bulb, this category is as much for your benefit as it is theirs. There are certain little jobs that every household requires of us that aren't complicated enough to require a tradesman, but can seem a little daunting to the uninitiated. Examples include; unblocking a sink or toilet, adjusting the hinge on a kitchen cupboard door, changing a fuse and, of course, those pesky light bulbs. There is no need to be afraid of little jobs like these, but it's better to demonstrate how to do them properly, rather than have them rely on YouTube and potentially make things worse. They also need to know where to find the stopcock and the fuse box before either is required!


I can't stress how important this one is. Debt is becoming an increasing problem in this country and it isn't hard to see why. Mobile phone contracts, credit cards, payday loans, all relatively easy to take out and very tempting, particularly to those who've recently started earning their own money and haven't yet gained the experience that comes from running out of money a week before pay day. If you can, get your family involved in your own household budget. Take them shopping, get them used to how much everything costs, perhaps show them your monthly outgoings. If you are not comfortable sharing the details of your personal finances, you could mock up a spreadsheet with the type of bills you can expect when you run a household. 

Time Management

Some people are good at this, some people aren't, but time management is something we all have to master to some extent, if we want to hold down a job or do well at University. For a lot of your child's life, they will run to your schedule, so they don't really have to manage their own time, but that doesn't mean you can't teach them the skills they will need. If they really struggle with getting ready on time, and you find yourself using the 'mum voice' more often than you'd like in the mornings, try working out a timetable with them. Write down everything they need to do to get ready and the time they need to do this by. Make sure they can see a clock and know how to use it. Have them help you get some of their things ready the night before, so that they learn to be organised with what time they have. When they do start being more independent, let them be late sometimes. Perhaps not for very important stuff, like school, but for the non-essential elements, such as dates with friends, or after school activities. It may seem harsh, but it's the best way for them to learn how much time it really takes to get ready and will hopefully save them from a lifetime of rushing around and apologising!


This one is a little obvious, and practically impossible in some cases, but persuading young people to make healthier choices may go some way to preventing obesity and diabetes. It's tricky, because this is the time when they first have real freedom not to think about healthy choices and healthier food tends to be more expensive, which doesn't help. Learning what's in season and which are the most nutritious low cost foods can help, as well as cooking healthy meals yourself, to get them into good habits.


When young people first leave home, money is usually tight, so you can do them a massive favour by making them take care of their own laundry. Show them how to load the washing machine, so it's not too full, what the different wash cycles are for and how to read a wash care label. No one wants to be walking around in grey or pink clothes until pay day! Also, let them run out of pants now and again, better now than when they need something for work. Being organised with chores and making sure you have everything you need to see you through the week is one of the hardest things to get used to when you first leave home, so building in a bit of responsibility while it isn't so crucial is a great idea. 

Financial Pitfalls

There are specific temptations that it pays to make young people aware of. I've already mentioned pay day loans, but other money-eaters include online gambling (as well as physical gambling, particularly scratch cards), clubbing (drinks are very expensive and the more you drink, the less you care!) and impulse spending, ie; buying things you don't really need, because you can. One way to avoid these is to only use cash. It's much easier to be careful with your money when you can see how much you are spending. If you are planning a night out, take out the cash you can afford to spend and don't use your debit card. The same applies for shopping, give yourself a budget and stick to it. 


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