As young people enter their teen years, they grow more independent, which sometimes leads to conflicts with you as their parents. You might wonder how you can know if your teen is experiencing normal physical, mental and emotional transitions or if he or she is overstepping the boundaries. Read on for tips on what teens want.
An Overview of Teen Independence
Independence means that teens grow into their own selves when it comes to their values, beliefs, emotions and decisions. The teen thinks, acts and feels of their own accord. Parents sometimes mistake independence as separation, and they allow peers to influence their teens. However, teens do not mature overnight, so a more realistic approach includes allowing the teen to mature with guidance and help from the parents. Parents and teens remain connected, but their relationship transitions to a new level, similar to previous transitions from baby to toddler and so forth.
While teens will attach more to peers, they will stay connected to parents as the detachment from their parents can potentially hurt them.
Tips for Teaching Teens Independence
Reassure him or her of your continued support and love. This helps their self-confidence, giving them the freedom to transition into adulthood. Be interested in your teen’s activities, listen when they want to talk and give them privacy.
- Focus on his or her strengths and giftings. If your teen falls into the comparison trap with siblings or peers, remind him or her of their own strengths so that he or she doesn’t focus on what others do well.
- Consider his or her opinions, which helps boost self-esteem. Even if your opinions differ from those of your teen, discuss the issues openly without judgement to model positive communication.
- Have open and honest discussions with teens about their ideas. Ask questions to encourage them to think more about their responses.
- Speak respectfully during your interactions with your teen.
- Set clear boundaries, especially when it comes to house rules, electronics, drugs and alcohol, dating and your own values. Boundaries help teens feel safe while helping them learn independence.
- Provide strong reasons for limiting the privileges of younger teens. They will likely want the same privileges as their older siblings. However, they simply aren’t ready for the associated responsibilities. Have a clear conversation with them about the rationale behind your decisions. Then, explain that they will earn additional privileges as they demonstrate that they can be responsible. Include adhering to these responsibilities: follow household rules, show respect, do their best in school and maintain a positive attitude.
- As your teen matures, involve him or her in establishing rules and the resulting consequences. This helps him or her feel as though they have some control.
- As teens demonstrate increased responsibility, allow them increased privileges. For example, extend curfew when he or she turns 16, provided that grades and basic issues of respect are in line.
Goals of Raising an Independent Teen
As a parent, you should have certain goals to help your teen achieve independence. However, most parents feel as though they are in the middle of a balancing act as they try to provide support and guidance while giving their teen freedom to spread his or her wings. The following tips might help both of you in this journey as you watch your teen:
- Step into his/her own identity.
- Establish life values
- Ease your teen into decision-making and problem solving as these essential skill take time to learn. To teach your child problem-solving skills, do the following:
- Discuss various options
- Review the pros and cons of each options
- Begin eliminating some options and then make a decisions based on the available information
- Find more information if you need it
- Discuss the consequences/results of actions
- Learn when to ask for advice
- Brainstorm additional ideas, especially if the plan doesn’t work out like your child thought and
- Review the entire process with your teen. Talk about what he or she did to handle the situation well and what they could have done better.
- Become responsible and depend on you less.
Your teen needs the freedom to make mistakes and then to correct those mistakes. As he or she successfully navigates these obstacles, they will gain more maturity in the process. Keep avenues of communication open. Your son or daughter is striving to deal with fluctuating emotions while keeping up with responsibilities.
Keeping Your Sanity as a Parent
Remember the importance of family meals and traditions. For example, you might all go to the mall together during the holidays or simply buy hot chocolate and drive around to see lights. You might have a favorite movie that you watch together at certain times of the year. Your children will appreciate these routines and hopefully, carry them to their own families.
Make the most of opportunities to connect with your teen. Don’t overlook times of conversation in the car. They might engage more because you don’t have eye-to-eye contact. Remember to send quick texts and follow them on social media as well.
Meet other parents of your teen’s friends and regularly talk with them. You can discuss plans that the kids make as well, and let your child know that you are in touch with other adults.
Limit interrogations of teens, which won’t go well. Instead, request general information, such as, “Could you please give me some more information?” Encourage them when they text or call you if plans change with a simple response, such as “Thanks for keeping me posted.”
If your teen does something wrong, be sure to clearly address the issue. Focus on the problem and do not attack your child’s character, especially if the incident is atypical of your teen’s behavior.
Teens will naturally push the boundaries as they work to come into their own selves. Teach them how to talk with authority figures — and people in general — without being rude and disrespectful. They can ask questions without challenging you. You play a key role in helping your teen transition into strong relationships and learn how to manage conflicts.
Teach your teens that when conflicts become heated, everyone might need to take a break. It’s healthy to give yourself and your teen some space to cool off. Once you have calmed down, you can continue the conversation and work out your differences.