Supporting your teenager's independence

Sep 2012
Supporting your child's independence
You can promote your child's independence by offering choices and supporting decision-making.

As children go through the transition from younger child to teenage adolescent, their desire for independence may increase. Though it is always important to encourage a level of independence in our children, the teenage years can often call for some more practical steps to embrace this yearning. Though there are no hard and fast rules for when to encourage greater independence and how to support it, here are a few things to consider.

Respect their decisions
Unless you feel your child may be putting themselves or others at risk, there are many benefits to supporting their choices, be it fashion choices or something seemingly more detrimental to their development. This is also a great opportunity to help your child accept personal responsibility for their decisions and to learn from their own mistakes.

Remain interested
As teenagers start to make more decisions on their own, it is still as important to remain involved in their hobbies and interests. Ensure you dedicate some time in the evenings to talk about their day and offer encouragement and support.

Take their problems seriously
Though your teenager's troubles may seem trivial to you, they are likely to be all encompassing to them. Listen and give considered answers when they share their concerns. Do not share this information with anyone unless you have their permission to do so. This will ensure you keep their trust so they come to you for advice on more serious dilemmas in the future.

Respect their privacy
Though you will always be concerned for your child's welfare, try to curb desires to invade their privacy. A teenager's room is often their haven and should not be invaded unless absolutely necessary. Knocking on doors and resisting the urge to tidy their room will help to show you respect their privacy. Remember, only leave your child unsupervised if you are sure they can cope without you and know how to act in an emergency.

Don't take it personally
Your teenager may still rely on you heavily for practical and emotional support, but they may not want this to be apparent to their peers. Try not to take it personally if they ask you to drop them off around the corner from school or up the road from their friend's house.

Be transparent with boundaries
Your teenager is still learning and developing. Whilst it is important to promote your child's independence by offering choices and supporting decision-making, ensure you set boundaries. Communicate these clearly to your child; this will help to manage their expectations and can avoid unnecessary clashes.