Parenting Parenting Tips Teenagers

10 Essential Life Lessons Every High School Student Should Learn

10 Life Lessons for High School Students
Explore essential life lessons for high school students, preparing them for success beyond academics and fostering lifelong learning and growth.

Whether your child is a wide-eyed freshman nervous about attending high school or an 18-year-old graduating this month, they will need your parental guidance. And you’ll need to know you’ve prepared them well for whatever the next stage of their life brings their way.

My son just walked across the stage last week to accept his high school diploma. He’ll be headed to college in two short months – something I’m still struggling with. To ensure he’s ready – and that I’m prepared to let him go – I’m focusing on teaching him valuable life lessons and reinforcing ones I’ve instilled in him for years.

Learning Doesn’t End

This is something I’ve tried to teach my children since day one. Learning is more than just getting an A on a test and moving on. It’s a lifelong skill and mentality that should be embraced. Even if your child isn’t going to college, they’ll need to learn new skills in the workforce, how to address problems or challenges that come up, or new hobbies to entertain themselves with.

I’m always learning something new, and I hope my children see how my curiosity and love of learning have served me well. For more on this, check out the University of Idaho’s resource on ‘Principled Thinking: Life Lessons for High School Students’, which encourages students to become better principled thinkers.

Pay Attention to Your Finances

teen looking at her walletWhile I was growing up, no one taught me about finances.  It’s still not addressed much in school, if at all, and many parents don’t talk to their kids about it either. This was one of the life lessons I wish I learned a lot earlier. I want my kids to know that finances are an essential part of life because having enough money will make them more comfortable and allow them full access to medical care if they someday need it. In short, money gives a person options, and having choices about how and where my kids live their life is something I want for them.

So far, my kids and I have covered basics like having checking and savings accounts, saving money for college, 401ks, and buying individual stocks in the stock market. We also discuss things like how to be a responsible employee and how to think like a boss. These lessons will continue long after my youngest is out of high school because I never want my kids to experience the uncertainty of living paycheck to paycheck like I did in my younger years.

Embrace Moving Out of Your Comfort Zone

When my youngest was entering high school, I strongly encouraged her to join the cross country team that her brother was already on. My daughter isn’t a speedster, but I knew that running three miles at a time would be good for her overall health, and the girls’ cross country team needed one more runner on its roster to be able to compete as a team. While she dreaded the idea, she joined the team so it would have the numbers it needed.

In some races, my daughter finished last. But her own mile time improved by minutes, and she realized she loved the friendships she made and feeling strong after a run. She has decided to be on the team every year in high school and recently admitted to me that she misses it when the season is over for the year. Now, I use this example every time I encourage my kids to do something outside their comfort zone – I remind them of how something that seems overwhelming can become a favorite activity.

Your Life Can Change in One Minute

While it’s wonderful to remind kids about the positive aspects of life, it’s equally important to let them know what can happen after one bad decision. Since my son will be heading to college soon, I have ramped up the number of drug and alcohol talks we’ve had.

I want him to fully understand how one spur-of-the-moment decision – like trying drugs or getting in the car with someone who has been drinking – can completely derail his life and everything he has worked for in just one minute.

Surround Yourself with Good People

Of all the life lessons, this is something that everyone should keep in mind. It will have the most impact. The people you choose as friends can either help or hurt you. They can inspire you or cause you to lose motivation. You should always strive to surround yourself with people who have good hearts, have a great sense of humor, and cheer for your successes, not those who try to drag you down because of their jealousy or insecurities.

When my kids bring home a new friend, I can tell if they will positively or negatively influence my children. If they’re a negative influence, I don’t discourage the friendship, but I do limit the time they spend together, or I encourage them to invite over their more like-minded friends as well. Life can be tough at times, and you can make the journey easier with the company you keep.

Making Mistakes Is Okay

Some people shy away from any mistakes they have made, choosing to blame it on someone else or pretending it didn’t happen. I own up to my mistakes and work hard to learn from them, but it took me years to become that emotionally aware. I hope by discussing failure and how to learn from it with my kids, they’ll better navigate their lives and choices. Mistakes can make you bitter, or you can learn and grow from them. It is important to learn from your mistakes and not let them own or affect your future.

Comparing Yourself is a Bad Idea

Being a teenager was hard enough before the days of social media, and I truly believe it’s even more brutal now. Whether you’re comparing yourself to the star athlete, the prettiest girl at school, or the smartest kid in class, you’re bound to come up short.

Kids need to realize, though, that feelings of inadequacy can be a permanent trap. For some of us, it never really goes away. It can take some training and positive self-talk to turn off that little voice inside you that makes you feel inferior to others, but it is so worth the effort. Make sure to point out to your child that no one’s life is all sunshine and rainbows, so comparing your bad day to someone else’s good day that is worthy of an Instagram post is pointless and unfair.

Make the Most of Your Opportunities

One of the life lessons to learn is making the most out of once opportunities. You never know when you might be walking right by the biggest opportunity of your life without realizing it. To make sure my kids don’t miss their opportunities, I tell them to seize every one they can while they’re young because you never know where it may take you.

My 15-year-old has been a softball player since she was old enough to swing a bat. Her love of the game recently led to her becoming a paid umpire for the summer recreation organization and local travel teams in our city. She was initially nervous, but now she enjoys it – and she loves getting that weekly paycheck and watching her savings account grow.

Know Who You Are – And Act Accordingly

While it may not feel this way to teenagers, their parents won’t always be around. Whether it’s during their school day when we’re at work or when they’re on a college campus hours away, parents count on their children to remember how they were raised and know what drives them.

We don’t want them to make decisions based on looking cool or walking the path everyone else is because it’s what is expected. We want them to stay true to themselves and be the unique person we raised and loved.

Before my son goes away to college this summer, we’re going to have yet another discussion about who he is and what makes him special. We’ll also discuss making sure his decisions align with who he is and his goals. Actions speak louder than words, and that’s something every child and teen needs to realize.

Stay or Become Physically Active

The teenage metabolism that allowed you to stay thin while eating whatever you wanted in high school is going to slow down someday. If you’re headed to college, you risk gaining the dreading Freshman 15 as you’re exposed to unlimited servings of food at your college cafeteria and late-night, pizza-filled hang-out sessions.

teens running and staying activeWhile there’s nothing to be ashamed of if you’re carrying extra weight, it’s important to develop and stick to a regular exercise schedule. Regular exercise or sports helps you avoid unwanted weight gain, gives you energy, helps improve your mood, and can ward off serious health concerns like high blood pressure, stroke, arthritis, and many types of cancer. While it’s great to promote body positivity, I want my kids to be strong and fit so they’ll enjoy good health for decades, which is why I’ve always stressed the importance of regular exercise.



As we guide our high school students through these formative years, it’s our responsibility to arm them with these important life lessons. These lessons are not just about acing tests or making the team, but about shaping them into well-rounded individuals ready to face the world. Remember, the high school years are a journey of discovery, growth, and learning that goes beyond textbooks. So, let’s ensure our children are well-equipped with these life lessons, ready to seize every opportunity that comes their way. After all, these ‘Life Lessons for High School Students’ are the stepping stones to their future.

Life Lessons for High School Students Frequently Asked Questions

Why is it important to teach life lessons to high school students?

High school is a critical time in a young person’s life. It’s a period of transition, growth, and self-discovery. By teaching life lessons during this time, we equip our children with the tools they need to navigate the world beyond the classroom. These lessons can help them make informed decisions, handle challenges, and lead fulfilling lives.

How can I help my child understand the importance of continuous learning?

The best way to instill a love of learning in your child is by example. Show them that you’re always eager to learn something new, whether it’s a skill, a hobby, or a fascinating fact. Encourage them to see learning as a lifelong journey, not just something that ends when they graduate.

My child is not interested in finance. How can I make it relevant to them?

Finance might not seem exciting to a teenager, but it’s a crucial life skill. Start by relating it to things they care about. For example, if they want to buy a new video game or save for a car, help them understand how budgeting, saving, and investing can help them reach their goals.

How can I encourage my child to step out of their comfort zone?

Encourage your child to try new things, even if they seem daunting at first. Share your own experiences of stepping out of your comfort zone and the benefits you gained from it. Remember, it’s not about being the best; it’s about personal growth and discovery.

How can I help my child understand the impact of their decisions?

Open conversations are key. Discuss potential scenarios and the possible outcomes of different choices. Let them know that every decision, big or small, can have consequences and that it’s important to think things through before acting.

Shannon Serpette on LinkedinShannon Serpette on Twitter
Shannon Serpette

Shannon Serpette is a mother of two and an award-winning journalist and freelancer who lives in Illinois. She spends her days writing, hanging out with her kids and husband, and squeezing in her favorite hobby, metal detecting, whenever she can. Serpette can be reached at

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