Supporting Independence for Teens

Mother with Teen

If you’re raising a teen, you may wonder how to support their independence as they grow, while also providing guidance to keep them safe. While teens may have a strong opinion that they are ready to be fully independent, the truth is that older youth continue to need guidance and supervision to develop healthfully.

The CDC advises that an appropriate amount of supervision and monitoring can discourage teens from taking risks. But striking the right balance can be challenging.

Teen Independence at Home

When it comes to establishing the proper steps toward teen independence, your family should work together to develop parameters that work for your own situation. Yet, general guidelines apply. Below are a few tips to consider.

When you are Together

  1. To help build trust (and have fun!), prioritize time for you and your teen to spend quality time together each month.
  2. Practice the fine art of not reacting when your teen confides in you. Focus your energy on listening and being supportive vs. offering judgements or solutions.
  3. Learn about their day, being careful not to interrogate them. Instead of asking questions, share bits about your day first or try framing the discussion around a game such as Two Truths and Lie or Never Have I Ever.
  4.  Model the values and behavior you desire from your teen – showing often goes farther than telling.

When you are Apart

  1. Set expectations for behavior with clear boundaries – and don’t be afraid to enforce boundaries when needed. 
  2. Use various communications methods to check in with your teen when you are not together – being careful not to micromanage or hound them.
  3. Ensure that your teen has trusted and supportive influences in their lives outside of your home – therapists, counselors, mentors, and extended family members are all good options.
  4. Get to know your teen’s circle of friends - bonus points for meeting their caregivers, too!

Teen Independence at Summer Camp

As summer approaches, you may be deliberating about whether to register your teen for camp this summer. To allow your teen a mixture of independence and structure this summer, consider a hybrid approach to summer camp this year. 

  • Look for camps that are designed specifically for teens
  • Select a flexible option that allows you to pick and choose weeks vs. committing for the entire summer
  • If your teen is looking to get a job soon, try a camp that builds leadership skills
  • Try a half day camp so that your teen can sleep in but still have something to look forward to each day
  • Look for specialty camps that cultivate your teen's interest - Art, STEM, Sports, Performing Arts - and even Esports!

At the Y, we offer several camps that are just for teens, allowing your teen to build independence in a safe and supportive environment.

Camps include the following.

  • Teen Trek | Ages 12-15 (Ages 13-14 at the Upper Main Line and West Chester branches)
    We’ll take your teen on field trips four days per week – Amusement parks, zoos, escape rooms and more!
  • Counselors in Training | Ages 14-15
    Perfect for the teen who is interested in applying to be a camp counselor next summer.
  • Leaders in Training | Ages 11-13
    Designed for middle-schoolers who want to build leadership skills while enjoying swimming, friendships and other highlights of summer camp.