As parents, we often feel conflict within ourselves regarding how much freedom and independence we want our kids to have. While we want to protect our kids, it can be especially difficult the older they get and once they reach their teen years.
There are certain ways that we can facilitate a balance between independence and protecting teens with our own actions.
There are advantages to promoting independence in teens too. For example, research shows that starting to drive at an earlier age is beneficial. If you were to shy away from teaching your teen to drive because of fears you may have, you could be putting them in a dangerous situation, and this is just one of many similar examples.
The following are things to keep in mind to promote independence that will prepare your teen for life as an adult, while also keeping them close to you as much as is appropriate.
Give Your Teen a Sense of Control
Teens need to have a sense of control over their lives.
By the time kids reach adolescence, you should move away from being a micromanager, and you should have two-way conversations with your teen about certain choices they might want to make.
A teen that feels like they have a strong sense of control over their life is more likely to be happy and successful.
It’s not just true for teens—all of us as humans tend to be more satisfied with our lives when we feel like we’re influencing what happens with our decisions.
While micromanaging is something you shouldn’t be doing, what you can do is offer freedom within limits.
Within limits you set forth, let your teen decide how they do things, as long as it’s safe.
For example, rather than telling your teen what they can and can’t do on the weekends, set your expectations that they stay drug and alcohol-free and then let them decide how to spend their time otherwise.
Decision-making is important to how we develop, and teens need to be able to make their own decisions and how to understand the conflict they may experience with their own feelings when they do so.
When you set limits or boundaries, they need to be clear and your teen needs to know your expectations.
Give Teens the Chance to Make Mistakes
One big mistake that nearly every parent makes is trying to shield their kids from mistakes or the consequences of those mistakes. Mistakes are part of learning and growing, and no one is perfect.
When teens make mistakes, it helps them gain a better understanding of the outcome of their decision-making.
You can’t force your teen to want something they don’t want, and that’s a fact you have to understand early on.
There will be bad decisions made. The best you can do is try and set guidelines that prevent these mistakes from being dangerous and instead serve as a learning experience.
If there’s not a risk involved, be neutral in your role in your teen’s decision-making.
When you let teens make decisions on their own, you’ll probably be surprised that more often than you think they make the decision you think is right. It’s the need for independence that might make them turn to the wrong choice if they feel like you’re forcing them into it.
Encourage Your Teen to Manage Their Own Time and Money
Two areas where you can provide guidance to your teen but also encourage independence are their time and money.
When it comes to helping your teen learn to manage money, consider the following:
- Work with your teen to understand the costs of the things they want to do, like eating out with friends.
- Encourage your teen to earn money, whether by doing things around the house or getting a job.
- Help your teen learn about budgeting and setting saving goals.
To help your teen learn to manage their time, you can:
- Create a schedule with your teen each week where you go over all of their activities and responsibilities.
- Talk to your teen about balancing work and fun, and how to make sure they leave enough time for both.
- Work with your teen on being realistic for time management.
When your child is developing into their own person with a unique identity and exploring their independence, there will inevitably be conflict. What’s important is how you manage that conflict. When you can take on positive conflict management skills, then that’s going to serve as a model for your child’s behavior.