News articles about essential life skills are practically everywhere you look. While some offer tips about cooking and cleaning, others take a more introspective look at how to improve your time management and family dynamics. It’s so easy to get caught up in what we should be teaching our kids that we sometimes forget to learn these things ourselves.
These days, schools are so focused on core curriculum topics that the home economics and wood shop classes of yesteryear are long lost memories now. People around the country are rallying for schools to hold “Life Skills Day” like this high school in Kentucky. But the truth is these things cannot be taught in a single afternoon or even over the course of a school semester.
Parents hold a responsibility to set good examples and teach their children everything they know, but if parents are finding “adulting” difficult themselves, the wheels fall off the train. So we did the research for you and scoured dozens of lists, books and news articles for over 100 essential things everyone should aspire to know or do.
PRACTICAL Life Skills
- Learn how to change a tire.
- Know how to jump start a car.
- Know the proper air pressure for your tires and how to check it.
- Learn what Americans call “military time”. Most of the world reads time this way.
- Learn the military phonetic alphabet.
- Understand Roman numerals.
- Know how to make change for various bills, especially if you work with money at your job.
- Know how to read an analog clock.
- Consider learning an instrument. If you already know how to play one—practice.
- Buy a map and/or a globe and study it.
- Take better photos. Be selective about what you post online.
FAMILY Life Skills
- Know your significant other and kids’ clothing and shoe sizes.
- Stop telling girls “he just likes you” when a boy or man is teasing them. Abuse does not equal affection.
- Remember that when you marry someone, you marry their whole family.
- Set up a retirement account.
- Secure life insurance. I hate to break it to you, but you will die one day.
Proper hygiene is a must. Take time to self-care.
Don’t force your kids to hug anyone if they don’t want to.
Don’t make assumptions the person you’re talking with has a husband or wife– say “spouse” or “partner” instead.
Keep a line-a-day five year journal.
HOUSEHOLD Life Skills
- Know how a toilet works and how to fix a leaky, running or clogged one.
- Know where and how to shut off your water line.
- Know where your breaker box is and make sure everything is labeled.
- Keep an inventory of your belongings and important receipts.
- Invest in good luggage that will last a lifetime.
- Back up your computers, tablets and phones regularly.
- Learn how to clean basic stains.
- Know how to properly use power tools.
- Make a disaster preparedness kit for your home and your car.
- Build an appropriate wardrobe and invest is good quality essential items.
- Learn how to file taxes and which deductions you may take.
- Master how to sew a button and a basic hem.
- Practice tying a necktie on yourself and on someone else.
- Make a system for decluttering and go through it once a year.
Never leave valuables exposed in your car.
Only lend out items (or money) you’re willing to not get back.
KITCHEN Life Skills
- Take the time to do some meal planning. Your stomach and wallet will thank you.
- Know where your food comes from. Learn about GMOs.
- Understand the “food danger zone” to master food prep safety.
- If it suits you—learn how to can and preserve food.
- Know how to properly set a table.
- Water and grease don’t mix. Learn how to put out a grease fire.
- Knives—know which is which, learn how to chop and never put knives in the dishwasher.
- Don’t fill up on bread, especially if someone cooked for you.
- Grow something from a seed. Bonus points if it’s something you can eat.
- Learn how to use chopsticks.
- Learn how to read a nutrition facts label.
- Always ignore your phone during meals.
- Unless you’re a vegetarian— learn how to debone a chicken and filet a fish.
- Find your signature dish people will remember you for.
BUSINESS Life Skills
- Identify useful keyboard shortcuts.
- Check your credit reports regularly.
- Learn debt management and review your statements monthly.
- Know how to read a pay stub. Understand the deductions.
- There is a proper way to format a business letter.
- Have a flawless résumé.
- Practice good job interviewing skills.
- Write thank you notes or at least send a thank you email.
- Learn how to delegate tasks.
- Understand team dynamics and which personalities don’t mix well.
- Practice setting clear objectives and goals.
- Always read your contracts and documents before you sign them. If you don’t understand, ask.
- Learn how to take good notes. You will not remember.
- Repeat a person’s name after you meet them and then again in your head several times.
- Give yourself enough time to realistically complete tasks.
- Protect your identity. Don’t be careless with your passwords.
- Buy your name’s domain. Even if you don’t use it, it will be yours. Ditto for your kids.
- Learn the tricks for booking air travel. Don’t wait until the last minute.
- Always comparison shop.
- Don’t give out personal information online.
- Memorize your social security number.
Learn key phrases in the local language when traveling abroad.
CIVICS Life Skills
- Know which legislative district you live in and whom represents you.
- Learn your state senators and your U.S. senators.
- Ditto for state and U.S. representatives.
- While you’re at it, learn about your city’s mayor and city council members.
- Jot down your local non-emergency numbers so you don’t tie up 911 unnecessarily.
- Understand how to navigate a library. They are all organized exactly the same way.
- Learn your city’s public transit system. Give it a try.
- Learn how to parallel park in three steps, not ten.
- If you can’t remember how far to park from a fire hydrant or other driving skills, brush up.
- If you have the right of way, take it.
- Don’t sit in the traffic box.
- Stop for school buses. It’s not worth it. Kids are involved.
- Pull over for emergency vehicles to pass. Slowing down doesn’t count.
- If a street performer is so good you stop to watch, you owe them a dollar.
- Don’t litter.
Shop at small businesses.
Call 811 for information about where your buried utility lines are located before you dig.
SURVIVAL & SAFETY Life Skills
- Your phone will die. Learn how to read a map and a compass.
- Know how to react when faced with a bear, cougar, snake and other wild animals in your area.
- Learn how to build a fire and an emergency shelter.
- Recognize poison ivy and other dangerous plants that are local to your area.
- Assume every gun is loaded.
- The sun rises in the east and sets in the west. Know how to find north.
- If you’re lost and find a river, follow it downstream until you find a town.
- Learn how to tie basic knots.
- Learn CPR.
- Learn how to perform the Heimlich maneuver.
- Basic first aid skills are a must. Certification is even better.
- Practice creating a splint for a broken bone so you know what to do.
- Learn how to swim.
- Know what to do around a fallen power line.
- Buy fire extinguishers and know how to use them.
- Know where hospitals are located, especially when traveling.
Learn some basic self defense moves.
SOCIAL Life Skills
- Practice making small talk.
- Learn how to break the ice.
- Give (and accept) tactful criticism.
- If you’re entrusted with a secret— keep it.
- Don’t cancel plans via text.
- Apologize sincerely.
- Thank the driver.
- Thank the host.
- Say hello to the new kid.
- Learn how to say no.
- Don’t call before 9am or after 9pm.
- Understand body language.
- Don’t ask when someone is getting married or having children.
- Look people in the eye when speaking.
- Take turns talking without interrupting.
- If you’ve made your point, stop talking.
- Learn how to shuffle through a dance.
- Learn how to negotiate.
- Don’t lose your temper.
- Have a good short toast ready in case you need it.
- Memorize a few good jokes.
- Give a solid handshake with a smile.
- Conquer public speaking.
- Be vocal about consent.
- Hold the door.
- Don’t pose for pictures with booze.
- Understand the difference between sympathy and empathy.
- Understand the difference between equity and equality.
- Let go of toxic people.
- Maintain a self-care hygiene routine.
- Don’t lie to your doctor.
- If you offer to help, don’t quit until you’re done.
- Be ok with eating a meal alone in public.
- Don’t make a scene.
- Don’t linger in doorways.
- Give credit, take blame.
- Let go of the ghosts in your past.
- Research your ancestry.
Learn how to make proper introductions.
- Don’t knock it ’til you try it.
- Know when you need to suck it up.
- Hold yourself to a high standard.
- And always—make the little things count.
It takes effort, but we can all be rockstar parents and raise awesome kids by building a better community together. Let this be the year you take charge.