Helping Your Teenager Become More Independent

There's a balance between building independence and supporting your teenager.

It's a push and pull. You want to allow them to develop into capable adults while still checking in with them.

Parents I work with frequently talk about how difficult it is to find that right line. You don't want your teenager home and in their room every night, but you also want to be sure that they're still checking in with you and getting your support when needed. You don't want to chauffeur your teen to every meeting, friend hangout, or movie, and at the same time you want to be sure they're not out late every night or missing out on homework.

So how do you find this balance? Focus on the skills building.

It's crucial that we take step back and recognize what skills are built in this period of young adulthood. Independence is absolutely one of the skills, and its helpful to recognize how their limit testing or breaking of rules is part of their building skills.

While it's frustrating to have your teen home late for curfew, you can recognize that this is a way for them to test their independence. And of course, you should still follow through on an appropriate consequence (ie you have to come home earlier every night for the next week).

Other skills to build:

  1. Time management: Set expectations for times that they need to be home, time they need to set aside for homework, and social time. If they make a mistake and don't give themselves enough time for an assignment, don't jump in to call in sick to their school. Instead, let them handle the consequence.
  2. Feeding themselves: A family dinner at home is a great way to maintain family connectedness. And it's also important that your teen be able to feed themselves. If you and your partner are working late, have your teenager be in charge of dinner for themselves. Give them grocery money, and be ok with them making ramen noodles every now and then.
  3. Work skills: Even if your teenager is academically successful, workforce skills can look a lot different from completing homework. Teens today can be overloaded with school assignments and required extracurriculars, but having extra spending money can be a great motivator for teenagers along with building these crucial work management skills.
  4. Foster their sense of self: Most importantly, help your teen to figure out who they are. They're building up their personality traits and values during their adolescent years. Even if you hate their hair color, their boyfriend, or their music, allow them some space to figure out who they are.

Curious to hear more skills for fostering your teens independence? Not sure how to make your teen more responsible? Reach out to Kelsey via email with more questions. Kelsey Torgerson, MSW, LCSW specializes in anxiety and anger management for kids and teens from age 4 through college. She works with clients from Webster Groves, Brentwood, Kirkwood, Town and Country, University City, and St. Louis, MO.