It’s important for your teen to be on the path to independence, yet many young people aren’t necessarily prepared to be independent by the time they leave home. There is a tendency among many parents to try and shelter their children and do so much for them that they aren’t sure how to ultimately do it on their own. This is a natural tendency because we want to protect our children. At the same time, you don’t want children who are ill-equipped to take on life’s challenges. How can you balance teaching your teen to be independent with simultaneously protecting them and ensuring they’re not taking on too much independence?
Teach Your Teen to Drive
Learning to drive and getting your learner’s permit was once a rite of passage. Now it’s something a lot of teens aren’t doing, and parents may be okay with that because driving can be scary for the whole family. However, learning to drive is an important part of a teen gaining independence. Driving allows them freedom, and they can get a job and be responsible for getting themselves to work on-time. When a teen gets their license, they may be able to take on more household responsibilities such as driving younger siblings, which takes some of the work off your plate. Teens learning to drive and getting experience during these years is important to help them be better drivers throughout their life. Rather than letting your teen avoid driving, help them feel more comfortable with it, and more prepared for the challenges it can come with.
Have Rules That Are Defined But Fair
Having an independent teen doesn’t mean there are no rules. Instead, you should have rules in place that are clearly defined, consistent, and also fair. Don’t have rules just for the sake of rules. Additionally, as your teen matures and gets older, the rules can evolve. They don’t always have to stay the same. You don’t want rules that are so rigid that teens have a hard time learning on their own, but they shouldn’t be so lax that your teen could get into trouble as a result.
Teach Teens About Important Life Skills
Beyond driving, there are some other life skills you should work to teach your teen. For example, teach your teen how to regulate his or her emotions. Teens need to learn how to deal with their anger and their temper as well as other emotions like disappointment. Teens should learn about work skills, and one of the best ways to do that is to have a part-time job, at least in the summer months.
Setting goals, staying internally motivated, and meeting those goals are skills you should teach your teen. You want your teen to learn how to set small goals, appreciate the feelings that come with achieving them, and then setting larger and more important goals and working to meet those as well.
Other skills that are important for teens to learn include:
- How to deal with an emergency situation. This can include something like a fire, a natural disaster, or a car accident.
- Household management, including basic cleaning, doing laundry, and some cooking skills.
- Financial skills are something many young people aren’t taught by their parents, but they should be. An independent teen will understand how to manage money, how to pay taxes, and how to create and stick to a budget. Teens should also learn about credit card debt and its risks, and why it’s important to save and invest.
Gradually Work on Your Teen Earning Trust
Independence isn’t something that happens overnight. It’s something that occurs over time, and it comes along with you developing a sense of trust in your teen. If your teen feels they’re ready for more independence, but you aren’t sure or have a sense of hesitation, work on things slowly. Work on building responsibility and trust in small doses. For example, give your teen short opportunities to go out on their own, or stay home alone. Give your teen private time when at home and see how things go, and from there you may decide to offer more independence.
It doesn’t have to be all or nothing because teens are learning the skills that come along with independence, and learning is a process. Finally, give your teen the space to solve their own problems and make their own decisions after thinking through the pros and cons. Let them learn how their decisions influence their life, at least in small ways.
Photo by Melissa Askew