Tips for Promoting Independence | Parenting Teens

teen hugs parent around the neck

When we become parents, we embark on a journey to support children as they develop independence. The path toward independence starts with basic functions like breathing and progresses to feeding, communicating, walking, learning and much more.

There are times when your child's budding autonomy makes itself known - the toddler years, entering tweendom and certainly in the teen years.

Supporting your teen's growing independence while maintaining positive influence is a fine line to walk. We're sharing a few tips.

  1. Show Don't Tell | Who wants to be told what to do? Not your teen! Modeling is a powerful parenting tool. Make it a habit to show off the behaviors you hope your teen will develop - healthy screen time limits, speaking with respect, having a positive body image, setting a reasonable bedtime and more. As much as they don't want to admit it, teens will often follow your lead.
  2. Learn from your Teen | You've spent years making the rules and being the authority on most topics. And during that time, your child has been growing and learning. Teens appreciate being treated with respect and trust. Take in interest in something your teen is passionate about - even if it's not something you know much about. This is a great opportunity for your teen to showcase their knowledge and independence while you learn from them!
  3. Set and Enforce Guidelines | Rules are a given in society and your home is no different. Set reasonable guidelines for screentime, curfew and other behaviors that are important to your family. Expect that your teen will push back against your guidelines - but don't let that stop you from enforcing the rules when needed. 
  4. Expect Some Conflict | As teens become more independent, it is natural that they will protest against household rules and even your opinions. Your teen loves and respects you - and they sometimes will disagree with you. Try to view these disagreements as their growth instead of taking it personally.
  5. Make I Statements | When conflict arises, avoid shouting angry things that you don't mean. Walk away until you can have a reasonable conversation with your teen. When you do have that conversation, focus on making I Statements (e.g. I feel..., I think..., etc.) instead of You Statements (e.g. You never..., You always..., etc.), which come off as judgmental and critical. 
  6. Show your Love | Maybe your teen has outgrown big mushy displays of affection - but they certainly still want to know how much you love them (even if they tell you otherwise). As your child grows and evolves, so should the way that you show your love. Try texting them an emoji or code word or slipping a note under their dinner plate. Find a way to remind your teen of your love and support without embarrassing them.
  7. Listen | We all need a supportive set of listening ears to get us through tough times. When your teen confides in you, make it a priority to listen and validate how they feel. Skip the judgement and don't try to solve their problems. Have confidence that they will solve things on their own terms.
  8. Have Fun | Making time for connection and fun is an important part of raising teens. As your child matures, so do their interests. Try to come up with more grown-up activities to do with your teen. Play a video game that they are interested in, volunteer for their favorite charity, save up for mani/pedis, take a hike or bike ride together, etc. Involve your teen in the decision-making process, too!


Category: Youth Development