Before They Leave Home

When children are born it often feels like we have all the time in the world to teach them basic life skills. Unfortunately, time speeds up and before we know it, our babies are adolescents and on the brink of adulthood. Suddenly, we find ourselves wondering if we’ve taught our kids what they need to know to thrive on their own. 

Of course, this is a broad subject, but there are some practical skills it behooves all young adults to have. Summertime, when the schedule is more relaxed, can provide the perfect opportunity for teaching and practicing a few new capabilities. Here are a few ideas you might want to consider…

The  “Before They Leave Home” Checklist:


  • How to plan a healthy diet (understand nutrition labels)
  • How to grocery shop
  • How to prepare a few favorite meals
  • How to use/clean a microwave, oven & stove
  • How to store food safely
  • How to use basic kitchen tools (can opener, knives, mixer)


  • How to make a budget
  • How to use a checking account, debit card, credit card and ATM
  • How to record & track expenditures
  • How to pay a bill
  • How to save money
  • How to give to charities
  • How to plan for a large purchase
  • How to file & keep track of important papers
  • How to process health insurance claims
  • How to complete a basic tax form


  • How to sew on a button
  • How to do basic mending
  • How to wash & care for clothing (how to follow care labels)
  • How to iron
  • How to store clothing


  • How to drive
  • How to pump gas
  • How to check oil level & fill if needed
  • How to check washer fluid & fill if needed
  • How to jump start a car
  • How to change a tire & how to check tire air pressure
  • How to store & produce paperwork to the police if stopped
  • How to track and care for car maintenance
  • What to do in case of an accident


  • How to find & work a circuit breaker
  • How to locate and operate water and furnace shut-offs
  • What to do in case of a fire (how to use a fire extinguisher)
  • How to perform basic first aid
  • How to fix a running/clogged toilet
  • How to hang a picture
  • How to change a light bulb
  • How to use basic tools (hammer, screw driver, drill)
  • How to clean & vacuum
  • How to set the table
  • How to organize belongings


  • How to plan their time
  • How to say “no” respectfully
  • How to behave at a formal event
  • How to pack a suitcase and travel in an airport/train station/subway
  • How to be a respectful houseguest
  • How to express condolences
  • How, when and how much to tip
  • How to write a thank you note (and know when to do it!)

You might find it helpful to print this list and hang it on the inside of a kitchen cabinet door where you can periodically refer to it. Also, add to it as you think of other skills that you wish to pass on.

Equipping your children is a gift you can start giving now which will pay great rewards and ease the transition to independence.

What do you wish your parents had taught you before you left home?

17 thoughts on “Before They Leave Home”

  1. While my kids are still pretty young, there will come a day when they will indeed need most of not all of the above. So, this list is definitely an awesome resource for all parents to have to help them teach their kids as they are growing up. Thanks for sharing with us ?

    1. I hope you can hang it up and glance at it now and then. Your girls could definitely tackle a few of them. I wish I had started sooner with my kids, before they got so busy with school and activities that we no longer had margin to spend time on them!

  2. Your life skill list is impressive! I can see a book in the works here, Seana. Did you have that in mind? Our daughters are grown and out of the house now. As I look over the list, I recognize that while many of these things we taught them before they left the house, others, they learned on their own.

    I remember asking them both before they left for college if there was anything they wanted to learn that we hadn’t taught them. They both wanted to go over laundry rules and had me write out instructions.

    What continues to amaze me is how capable they are and how much they know how to do on their own. I recognize too that life and growth is a continual process. There will always be more to learn and understand, and that goes for me also.
    Linda Samuels recently posted…What Are Today’s Interesting Finds? – v24My Profile

    1. There is definitely always more to learn! It’s funny how, when you get out on your own, you realize what you don’t know. One person told me she didn’t know how to cut a grapefruit in half the “right” way and had been embarrassed by that. I wished I had learned more about the various types of plants and flowers, which all of my friends seemed to know and I didn’t. That said, it is helpful to have a list you can refer to periodically to help trigger thoughts on skills you might want to pass on. Young people can certainly learn on their own, but it is nice to learn/make mistakes in a homey setting I think.

  3. Great extensive list! “What to do when there is a fire” is something we learned recently. Did you know you shouldn’t open the windows when there is a fire? The air fuels the fire and it can get out of hand. It’s best to call 911 right away. And make sure your home’s fire extinguisher is up-to-date. You can only use them once.

    1. I recently renewed our home’s fire extinguishers. It took me awhile to realize that they expire, and that I needed to do a refresh. I also took a few moments at that time to read the instructions on how to use it, which I never had before. There is always more to learn, right?

  4. This is a great list! I have to do a little self-promoting here – I cover much of this in my book: Now What? A Simple Organizing Guide (available on Amazon). I even have a section on how to write a good thank you note and why writing one with pen and paper is important!

    1. I’m a huge fan of the “pen and paper” thank you note. Guess I don’t need to write the book because you already have:) This can be the version for the “executive summary” people, right? Great minds think alike!

  5. This is a great list. Even if you learn half of this, it will help you to be more independent and responsible. I started early with my boys; doing their own laundry, planning and cooking easy meals. I found money lessons where harder since they almost never used cash or checks. It was more abstract for them.

    1. Money is a tough one for sure. When they are little, they can’t really grasp the concept. Having a list like this can be nice because you can keep working on aspects that are age appropriate. The trouble comes if you try to cram it all in at once in the summer before they leave:)

  6. Excellent advice. These are things we often don’t think of until our child has hit a problem. Much is learned by experience but having a heads up is valuable information for every child to have. It’s a very good list. I can’t say I did all those things but if I’d had a list like that I would have done better.

    1. I can think of a few things on that list that I missed with my own girls, Dianne! Summer, when the schedule is a bit more relaxed, can be the perfect time to work on a few!

  7. Oh my gosh – I love this. I want to keep it forever, or at least until they’re adults.
    My situation was a little odd with the parental loss and remarriage but still, we had time to settle in. I wish I had learned to cook even the most basic foods.

    1. Few of us learn all of these skills, regardless of their familial situation. In the case of a loss of a parent, I can only imagine that this gets harder. I’ve definitely ruined my fair share of food in cooking “trial and error” :)!

  8. Pingback: Organizing By Age | The Seana Method Organizing & Productivity

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