6 Soft Skills for Every Teen

6 Soft Skills for Every Teen

As the school year revs its engine, it’s easy to get caught up in the hard skills that students need to succeed academically, like STEAM and language skills. But especially after two years of quarantines and unorthodox school routines, it’s also important to hone in on soft skills that will help teens succeed socially.


What are soft skills?

Hard skills are measurable skills related to a specific task. Your ability to use a certain kind of software or diagnose a disease are hard skills. They will get you a job.

Soft skills are a group of abilities that allow a person to be more productive in every aspect of their lives: skills like empathy, self-control, and grit. Soft skills will get you promoted.

Just like academic skills, soft skills, especially social ones, build on themselves over time. Don’t try to cram them all into one conversation. But look for opportunities to model and teach good habits like these that will point your teenager toward long-term success in school, in business, and in life.


Here are 6 lessons that every student can benefit from.

  • A handshake and a smile go a long way.
    I didn’t learn this until I went to college, where I was fortunately surrounded by others who had learned and showed me the way. I’m sure you’ve experienced this too, but I’m often surprised at how quickly a situation can go from awkward to fun when I offer my hand and introduce myself.
  • Limit the time you spend on people who bring more drama than joy to your life.
    It’s not that things don’t happen or that you shouldn’t support your friends. But if you find yourself constantly trying to figure out why your friend is mad at you or how you can make reparations, reconsider the amount of time you have to dedicate to that friend.
  • “You don’t make friends. You find friends.” Dr. Lisa Damour
    This one is two-fold. If you are busy finding friends, you don’t have as much time to worry about whether or not you’ll be left out. Also, find the people who inspire you. Hopefully, they will help you become your best version of yourself too.
  • Don’t be afraid to fail. It’s a valid step on the path to success.
    As a recovering perfectionist, I fail at this regularly. However, I vividly remember a conversation with my dad during the college selection process, which rendered me a nervous wreck, where he told me it was ok to choose one and decide later it wasn’t for me. I can’t tell you how much better that made me feel. Sometimes we all need a reminder.
  • Ask for help when you need it.
    More people are willing to help you than you think; everyone needs help sometimes! When we learn to ask for help, we build relationships and emotional support, too. It even makes it easier for others to ask for help when they see it modeled for them. It’s a win-win-win.
  • Make eating healthy and sleep priorities. There’s no substitute for good health.
    There are countless studies on this one. Lack of sleep hinders your ability to make good choices, remember things, drive a car, and so much more. You cannot replace sleep with caffeine, good hydration, exercise, or pills. There is no substitute.

Of course, there are many other soft skills that we hope your teen is learning! Time management, healthy screen habits, and managing emotions are a few that come to mind.

Be sure to tell us in the comments which soft skills you have benefitted the most from! Which ones are you teaching your teenagers?

Kelly Fann

Kelly Fann

Digital Media Manager

Kelly has lived in three countries and worked with teens across the world, encouraging them to pursue their passions and to be kind. She’s been refining messages and telling stories for brands and non-profits since 2009.

Moving in the Right Direction

Moving in the Right Direction

Moving is the worst. It’s stressful, expensive and downright exhausting!

My husband and I just moved into a new house. We have spent months planning, looking for the perfect home, packing and finally moving. Now that we are in our new home, I have a chance to catch my breath and reflect on the moving process.

As much as I dislike moving, there are some great benefits to going through a big move. Benefits that can even be applied to real life! While I hope to stay in this house for quite a while to avoid another move, I plan on using this experience to purge and clean up my own life.

With this move in mind, here are 5 simple ways to start moving your life (and the lives of teenagers) in the right direction:


  1. Plan ahead.

A move would not be successful if you decided to throw everything together last minute. The same goes for life! Plan ahead, set goals, think before acting.

Obviously, not every part of life can be planned or controlled. In fact, most of life is made up of unexpected moments and incontrollable circumstances. But it is important to set goals for where you want your life to go. It is hard to make a move in the right direction if you don’t know where you’re headed!

In all of our support groups, we ask students to share where there lives are now and make a goal for where they would like to be in the future. These don’t have to be big goals; in fact, we encourage small, simple things at first. Maybe it is getting a few extra hours of sleep, having a more respectful attitude towards adults, or replacing a bad habit with a better coping skill.

Write down a plan. Be willing to be flexible, but don’t compromise on your goals!


  1. Get rid of clutter.

We had so much to move…lots of boxes, décor, clothes and more! But before we started packing, I took the extra time to purge clutter and items that I knew we wouldn’t use in the new house.

This was time consuming and frustrating in the moment, but now that we are in the new house, I am so glad that I got rid of the clutter! I was not interested in moving broken, old or useless things in this new home, which gave me a better chance to start fresh.

We have clutter in our lives that we need to get rid of before we start moving to the place we want to be. Clutter could include something like a bad habit, or clutter could also be something good that is taking up too much time or space.

The best way to get rid of clutter is to list the things that take up our time and energy. Once this list is complete, ask yourself, “What are the things that I dislike doing? What are the things that I could get rid of?” Not all clutter is bad. But it is important to free up space in your life for the things that help you reach your goals!


  1. Before you make a big move, start cleaning.

Total transparency – I learned this lesson by doing the opposite. Before we moved, I thought, “Why clean when we are about to move anyway? It’s silly to clean, pack and then clean again!”

Wrong, Wrong, Wrong.

When we moved, our furniture was dusty and the rugs were gross. Instead of being smart and saving energy on the front end, I created more work for myself and brought dirt from our old house into this new home.

It is hard to have a clean start when you are bringing dirt and mess from your past. Similar to removing clutter, it is so much better to clean up your life before trying to make a big life move. Clean up your language, your time management skills, any grudges you are holding on to, or the way you handle stress. It is so much better to make a move knowing that you aren’t bringing dust from past experiences.


  1. Surround yourself with the right people.

There is no way we could have made this move without friends and family. They helped us pack, gave us advice, and even gave up a Saturday afternoon to make sure we were moved in to our new house. I can’t imagine how much more stressful this situation could have been if we did not have the right people around us encouraging us the whole time.

The same is true in life. Connection and relationship are vital to success, especially when you are trying to tackle something new and big. When trying to reach a goal or make a life change, don’t do it alone! Reach out to those around you for support and encouragement.

According to the CDC, teenagers who feel connected are less likely to engage in risky behaviors and more likely to have higher grades and better attendance at school. That is no coincidence! Positive, life-giving people make all the difference.


  1. Relax and celebrate the small accomplishments.

I am still telling myself this as I stare at the mountain of boxes and stacks of things to be put away around my house. It is so easy to get overwhelmed when going through a big move. You see a To-Do list a mile long and often don’t take the time to properly celebrate how far you have already come. Last night, we unpacked the study. It is one small room, but it is an accomplishment that doesn’t need to be overlooked!

Especially with students and teenagers, we need to celebrate the small accomplishments when they happen – this encourages continued growth and forward motion.

So maybe they haven’t made straight A’s yet, but celebrate that they passed their last test! Do they still have an anger problem? Celebrate when they handle one situation in a healthy way. Give them credit for helping out around the house even if their room isn’t completely spotless.

Celebrate the little moments. This doesn’t mean that you have to throw a party or lower your expectations, but stop for a reward when you make steps toward your goal. Go out to your favorite restaurant. Give yourself permission to spend a fun weekend with friends or relaxing in the bathtub. Take the time to be proud of the progress you are making.

Moving houses or moving directions in life can be frustrating, overwhelming and simply not fun. But let’s encourage each other to continue to move to a healthier place!

Karlie Duke was in one of Teen Life’s original support groups and now is our Communications Director. She is passionate about encouraging students to live better stories.
Seeing is Believing…Think Different

Seeing is Believing…Think Different

So earlier this month, I had an amazing opportunity to go to the BMW Ultimate Driving Experience. It was just that – an amazing driving experience.

Part of the event was that they (of course) have a hashtag so people can follow on social media. #DrivingIsBelieving was their hashtag and man is it ever! Getting a chance to drive an x4 on an autocross track and test drive models from the 228i to the 750Li was incredible, but it also got me thinking…

This thinking really started with a book I just finished by Kelly McGonigal called The Upside of Stress: Why Stress is Good For You and How to Get Good At It. It was amazing and I highly recommend it, I was even able to take one of the principals she talked about and share it with some teen-aged parents we are working with. Here is the idea, if we choose to see stress as positive (because we will always have stress in our life), it literally changes the responses from our bodies and minds. For example, when we get to the end of a day and feel tired (and who doesn’t), we have a choice. Until hearing this, I simply believed I was just always tired and drained. But what Kelly suggested is that being tired indicates you have expended all of the energy you have to accomplish the tasks you needed to today. This is HUGE! If I see being tired as evidence I have worked hard and accomplished much, it changes everything.


So, I have started looking for other things that this can apply to. Here are just a few ideas I have (and I would love to hear yours too):

Rather then being frustrated by detours, traffic or even traffic lights (maybe I’m the only one here), I see this as an extended opportunity to listen to a PodCast, audio book, or nothing – allowing me to learn or focus my thoughts, preparing for what I will encounter when I arrive at my destination.

Exercise – this is a tough one. I in no way want to justify my lack of exercise, but I also am at a stage in life where I am using my energy in other ways and getting up early any day (or staying up late enough) to run or Crossfit just isn’t happening. So, hearing Kelly Mcgonigal talk about a study published by Psycological Science on how fit hotel housekeepers are was a huge help. I see the energy I burn chasing my kids, cleaning the house, mowing the lawn as my exercise. But here’s the important part, this belief has as much impact on my physical health as the actual activity itself. Crazy, right?

How I spend my time is huge at work too. This goes beyond belief because I do need to make sure that what I am doing is adding value to the work we do. But one struggle I have had is seeing reading as valuable. Well as Michael Hyatt has often quoted, leaders are readers and readers are leaders. Once I started actually believing this, I have found myself reading more (or in my case listening). I have kept an Audible subscription now for almost a year. The money I have spent on this is way more valuable then a cable bill or just about anything else I can think of, honestly.

I left out one detail about the teen parents I mentioned above. As we ended our group, I asked what they felt the most meaningful part of group was today. They all said it was being introduced to the idea that their beliefs about life matter. Specifically, we had talked about seeing being tired as evidence you have used all your energy for what you needed to do and it is time to rest.

I hope to hear from you about ways you start to use this “believing is meaningful” attitude. Share it with us, but more importantly share it with those right around you.


Ricky Lewis is our Executive Director and has been with us since the beginning. As a father of 4, he seeks to help parents and their kids Live Life Better. 


Working with teens for the last 10 years I have heard a lot about how hard it is to get along with parents. (I’ve also heard about dealing with tough teens but that’s another post). The crazy thing is many of the underlying issues are the same. Things obviously look very different now then 100 years ago. Still the way we interact and handle relationships hasn’t changed all that much. If we can realize this it will make it much easier to know what to do.


This post is for the teens but should help parents as well. Reality is seeing the other persons side is often the hardest part of relationships. Understanding what teens may be trying to do will help parents interact more positively too.