Parents of teenagers often struggle to control their children. Teenage independence is a strong urge or driving force that may often make them act out. So how can you provide them their independence while ensuring safety and control? Continue reading to find out.
Adolescence is a time when children go through different changes. They typically want to spend more time alone or with friends than family, which is normal. However, they may go astray at times and end up in compromised situations.
Instead of constantly trying to control them, set up some simple rules they should follow while enjoying their freedom and autonomy. However, mutual trust and respect between you and your children are required for this to work out.
Read on to know about some effective ways and tips to help your teen become independent and responsible at the same time.
How To Help A Teen Become Independent?
As your child enters the teenage years, he will ask for more and more independence. You will see his need for independence in small activities and even in simple routines of day to day life. This is the time when your teen will start understanding more about the adult world and how it feels to take responsibility. This is also the time when your teen is most prone to getting into risky behavior. Trying to find a balance between independence and safety is often a challenge. This is the time when teenage independence comes into focus.
Here are a few pointers that can help maintain the relationship between independence and safety, keeping both your teen and you happy and safe:
1. Show your teen that you love and support them
This is one of the main pointers that will help you through the teenage years of your child. At this age, your teen will shy away from all acts of physical love and public display of parental love. They will desire to be self-standing and self-ruling. But there are other ways to show you care.
- Be interested in what your teen is doing.
- Show an interest in your teen’s friends.
- Show an interest in the hobbies and activities that interest your teen.
- Be a good listener.
- Give advice when you feel your teen is confused, but do it in a light and non-preachy way.
- Tell your child that you love him. Try and say it as many times and at as many instances as you can.
- Give your teen his privacy but make sure you include him in family activities and seek his opinion too.
- Don’t be judgmental or opinionated.
- Do not ridicule your teen in front of anyone else.
- By doing all this you will help make your teen self-confident and happy. This will in turn make your teen more responsible.
2. Respect your teen’s emotions and needs
Your teen may not be an adult but that does not mean you don’t need to respect them. It is important to remember that during the teenage years, your child will be facing a lot of emotional, physical and psychological turmoil. This means that your teen will be confused, anxious, and angry most of the time. But this is entirely natural and a part of growing up to become a self-reliant adult.
- Respect your teen by hearing him out.
- Let him feel valued by listening to his opinions or asking him about his views on important family matters. You don’t always have to do exactly what he says, but you should definitely give him a chance to share his views too.
- This will also be a good way to show your teen that there may be differing views but there is still a way of reaching a conclusion that can work for all.
- This is also a good way to be interactive with your teen. Your teen will feel respected and loved. This will encourage your teen to speak with you in an honest and fearless way.
3. Privacy and safety concerns
When your child hits the teen years, it is natural for them to feel the need for their own space. Even the smallest thing you do may feel like overbearing to your teen. This is a time when you need to make it very clear about what is allowed and what is not acceptable.
- Setting some family rules at this stage will be helpful for your teen, as he will know what is expected. It is important you are fair while creating these rules. While imposing a curfew past ten pm is understandable, asking your teen to be home by seven pm each night may not be a good idea.
- Set the rules for driving. Tell your teen that you are okay with him driving once he has his driver’s license. But be sure to tell your teen that speaking on the phone, texting or driving under the influence of alcohol will not be acceptable behavior.
- This is a time when your teen will start exploring love and relationships. It is crucial you sit with your teen for an open and age-appropriate discussion. During the teen years, your child will get a lot of information from friends, peers and media about sex and substance use. It is a good idea to be clear in your discussions with your teen and not beat about the bush. Be confident when you speak and do not feel awkward. Understand that you are the biggest source of correct information for your teen. So it is important you speak to your teen clearly. In case you are not comfortable doing this, you can always ask your partner. This is also the time when you need to set the limits to how much intimacy will be acceptable if your teen gets in a relationship.
- Teenagers are most likely to be influenced by sex and substance use. Speak to your teen about safe sex options while making clear that you do not in any way support complete physical intimacy at this stage. Talk to your teen about the importance of using protection. Talk to your teen about the negatives of unplanned and early pregnancy. Talk to your teen about date rape and different methods of staying safe from sexual offenders. You should also speak to your teen about the negatives of substance abuse. Talk about the various ways that can be used to spike a drink. If at all your teen wants to experiment with drinks, ask them to host a house party where they and their friends will be safe. You need to ensure your teen’s friends have the permission of their parents before you allow such a party.
4. Understand they are not children anymore
As a parent, you may feel your teenager is still a child, but that does not mean the world will see them as one.
- Tell your teenager that the first step towards becoming independent is to realize that he is not a child anymore. It is wrong for your teen to expect that people will treat him as a child.
- Tell him to start behaving more like a mature adult if he wants people to take him more seriously.
How To Do It: Tell them to know how people treat an adult and expect the same.
5. Let your teen take responsibility for their actions
Teaching the value of responsibility to your teenager is a key step towards helping them become self-contained and self-directed.
- Tell your teen that it is always important to take responsibility for one’s actions. People like interacting with those who are responsible and can stand up for themselves.
- Your teen may make mistakes, but tell them it is a natural part of learning and growing up. Ask them to own their mistakes as well as feel happy about anything good they do. If you commit a mistake, accept and apologize for it. This way you are setting a good example for them. They will make mistakes a few times and eventually learn from them, just as Blogger Kristy C’s son did after she stopped correcting him for his habit of not waking up on time.
She says, “My teenage son struggled with getting up in the morning. I would knock on his door, and he would initially respond that he was awake, only to fall back asleep. This led to a series of wake-up calls, reminders to get out of the shower, and a countdown to ensure he didn’t miss the bus…I realized that for my son to develop independence and succeed, I needed to stop acting as his PA and I needed to be his mother. I needed to allow him to face the consequences of his actions, even if it meant failure.
“I made it clear what the consequences would be and followed through when he made mistakes. Consequently, he went to school without his lunch a few times due to forgetting to prepare it, had to walk to school until he could manage to get up on time, and received some lower grades on assignments due to last-minute submissions. I think the pivotal point was an embarrassing call from his employer after missing a shift (i).”
How To Do It: Tell him to own up, be honest and admit he did something wrong.
6. Let your teen do things that will help them gain trust
If you want your teen to be independent, help them become more responsible and win the trust of people.
- Teach your teen that to be independent, it is important first to gain the trust of his peers and adults. To do so, your teen needs to act more responsibly.
- Once people see that they can trust your teen, they will give them responsibilities to handle independently.
How To Do It: Ask your teen to follow your rules, always keep you informed about where he is and make it a habit to listen to their elders.
7. Let your teen start doing things on their own
If your teen wants to be independent, there are many or most things they will have to do on their own to become self-sustained.
- Tell him he is old enough to take care of certain basic things. Let him help you where he can and do things on his own.
- He can ask for your help, but let him start taking the initiative.
How To Do It: Tell him to make a meal at home, look after the plants, opt to do the family grocery shopping on the weekends.
8. Help your teen learn cooking
You may normalize this self-sustaining life skill and let your teenager learn basic cooking, cleaning, and taking care of themselves.
- Learning to cook will help your teen become self-reliant and not rely on anyone for something as basic and important as food.
- Once your teen learns to cook, he will not have to go for junk food or restaurant meals. Not only will he learn to save money, but will also inculcate a healthier food habit.
How To Do It: Help your teen learn the basics of cooking at home. If your teen is interested, enroll them in a beginners’ cooking class. You can also ask them to look up interesting recipe ideas online and try them at home.
9. Ask your teen to prioritize well
As an independent person, your teen should be able to know what is important and in what order.
- Self-regulating is important. Educate your teen on how to make distinctions between tasks that are of priority and those that they can do during their free time.
- Your teen should understand that, even though some things may seem critical, they can be put off for later. On the other hand, he may postpone the completion of a few crucial tasks.
How To Do It: Help your teen prepare a list of his daily activities. Ask him to rate the daily things in order of priority, starting from what he feels is the most urgent to what he feels he can do later. Tally the same with your preference and show him whether he is right or needs to re-think.
10. Teach them to be safe
One of the biggest fears that you may have as a parent about your teen’s sudden independence is his safety.
- Ask your teen to enroll in a self-defense class. Once your teen knows how to defend himself in any potential danger, it will be easier for him to be independent.
- Teach your teen the importance of being safe no matter how sure he is of his self-defense skills. As a safety measure, tell him that he should avoid going to places that are not safe. He should also avoid going out with people, friends or strangers with whom he is not comfortable.
How To Do It: Ask him to avoid taking lifts from strangers or going to house parties where he does not personally know the hosts.
11. Your teen should know whom to call in distress
Your teen needs to know about all the help numbers they can call for assistance when they are in danger or needs help.
- Encourage your teen to maintain a small diary with all important numbers jotted down. It is important to keep a directory handy in the case of emergencies.
- Your teen should know where the closest police station and hospital are and how to reach there in an emergency.
How To Do It: Take your teen along to the police station and hospital to know how to contact them for emergency assistance.
Frequently Asked Questions
1. What does it mean to be independent as a teenager?
Independent teenagers rely less on their parents or guardians for their tasks. They prefer to make their own decisions and may sometimes seek guidance from their parents. Independent teenagers might also prefer to explore and follow their values.
2. Why is independence important for a teenager?
Independence empowers teenagers and boosts their confidence levels. It tests their judgment while teaching them to learn from their mistakes and be better versions of themselves.
3. At what age should teenagers be allowed to be independent?
There is no exact age when a teenager should be independent. Instead, it is a decision that parents should make based on their maturity, ability to handle responsibilities, and available support system. Remember, healthy communication and mutual understanding are essential to determine if a teenager is ready to be independent.
4. How can teenagers balance their desire for independence with their need for support from their parents?
Teens should openly express their desire for autonomy while sharing their need for support. Both teenagers and parents should approach the situation respectfully to foster a healthy environment. Teens should be assigned one or two tasks to demonstrate their ability to handle tasks and, based on the outcome, their independence should be gradually increased. Encourage teens to participate in decision-making processes and set clear boundaries to help them define expectations, responsibilities, and limits. Establish a supportive and trusting relationship to make it easier for them to seek guidance without feeling dependent.
5. What role do societal norms and cultural expectations play in shaping teenage independence?
Different societies and cultures have varying parenting styles and expectations about teenage independence. For instance, some cultures exercise strict parental control and guidance, while others promote more autonomy from a young age. Likewise, some societies may have different expectations for boys and girls regarding independence and decision-making. These gender roles can influence the freedoms granted to a teen based on their gender identity.
The age of adolescence is a transformational phase that is tough for both teens and parents. While you feel overly protected towards your teen as a parent, they could be demanding space, which may make you wonder if it is the right time to foster teenage independence. Nevertheless, maintain a good parent-child relationship and have a fruitful conversation with your teen discussing your worries. This way, you will comprehend each other’s feelings, and you may guide them when they are baffled by any situation. Show them your love and care in ways possible, hear them out without being judgemental, respect their thoughts and privacy, set simple yet effective rules, let them explore doing things independently, and learn from their mistakes. At the same time, educate them about safety measures and emergency support. These effective techniques could help instill a sense of responsibility while allowing your teen to enjoy freedom, care for themselves, and stay safe.
Infographic: Tips To Help Teenagers Become Independent
Independence for teenagers includes taking risks, embracing greater responsibility, making decisions, and identifying their strengths and weaknesses. As parents, you can support them in many ways. Check out this infographic to explore some interesting ideas.
- Demonstrate your love and support for your teen by showing interest in their activities, friends, and hobbies.
- Value your teen’s emotions and needs by listening to their opinions on significant family issues.
- Establish simple, equitable, and age-appropriate family rules.
- Discuss relationships and sex candidly and appropriately with your teen to provide accurate information.
- Refrain from comparing your teenage experiences with your child’s since times have changed.
Navigating the teenage years can be difficult. This video will explore the need for teens to gain independence and how parents can help.
Personal Experience: Source
i. How I navigated teen independence by letting my son fail at life. https://medium.com/the-virago/how-i-navigated-teen-independence-by-letting-my-son-fail-at-life-eea781d3a15f
- What to Know About: Teen Independence.
- How Independent Should Your Teenager Be?