10 Tips for Encouraging Independence in Your Teen

Parenting a teen can be challenging, especially as you begin to give them new responsibilities and privileges. You’ve cared for your child for many years, but now it’s important to teach them the skills they need to be self-sufficient. Of course, many of these things will be learned over many years, but here are 10 tips and lessons to keep in mind as you encourage your teen to be more independent.

1. Teach Them to Grocery Shop

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An often overlooked but important task is teaching your teen how to grocery shop. This may seem straight forward, but it’s a lesson in meal planning, eating well and budgeting all rolled into one! Help them become familiar with prices and reading labels so that when they need to shop on their own, they know how to.

2. Let Them Cook Meals

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Along the same lines of learning how to grocery shop, it’s important that your teen has some independence in the kitchen. Let them be independent as they prepare their own lunches or even plan and prepare a meal for the family once in a while. They might push back now, but when they’re living on their own they’ll be grateful to have some basic culinary skills.

3. Encourage Them to Get a Part-Time Job

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Getting a part-time job is an excellent way for a teen to learn some responsibility. Don’t force them into a schedule that they can’t handle, but even occasional babysitting, neighbourhood yard work or a weekly shift can teach them a lot. Furthermore, having job experience early on helps them build their resume and work towards a job they want later in life.

4. Teach Them Money Management

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Especially if your teen has a job or an allowance, teaching them the importance of money management goes a long way in helping them be independent. Open up their own bank account and, if they want to buy something, encourage them to save towards it. Particularly as they prepare for college, be up front about its expense and encourage them to save for at least a portion of tuition.

5. Get Them to Do Their Own Laundry

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Once again, laundry is one of those tasks that sounds simple and that your teen may not want to learn, but will be important when they live on their own or go off to college. Teach them how to work a laundry machine and get them to do their own laundry at least once a month.

6. Practice Caretaking

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Taking care of something else is not only an important skill to learn, but also teaches your teen how to take care of themselves. Ask them to babysit their younger siblings, cousins or neighbours from time to time. Or, if your family has a pet, encourage them to take responsibility of it. This takes a lot of trust and may require some guidance, but taking care of another living thing helps your teen to focus on more than just their own needs.

7. Let Them Transit Independently

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Knowing how to get around on their own is crucial to your teen’s independence. Teach your teen to drive, get them a bike or encourage them to take the bus. There are many ways your teen can get from point A to point B and helping them do so without your assistance all the time will allow them to feel much more independent.

8. Encourage Them to Volunteer for a Cause

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Encouraging your teen to explore their passions helps them to develop their interests both now and as they grow older. Help them find a volunteer opportunity related to a cause that they care about. This will develop their resume and their sense of contribution to their community.

9. Send Them on a Trip

Photo by Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources

This one requires a lot of trust, but encouraging your teen to go on a trip without you helps them to get used to being away from home and parental guidance. Summer camp is a great place to start and is usually a very safe and supervised environment. Homesickness is common, but it’s important that your teen learns how to work through these feelings in order to grow as an individual.

10. Make Sure They Face Their Own Consequences

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Part of growing up and becoming more independent requires facing tough consequences. As you help your teen make their own decisions, help them to realize that they need to deal with the effects of their actions. At the end of the day you can still be there to love, guide and support them, but it’s up to them to take responsibility for their behavior.

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