I love both of my kids, I enjoy spending time with them, and I have great fun with both of them (on most days). But I’m also aware that I need to help them become independent so that when it’s time for them to leave the nest, they’re ready.
One of my kids thinks he has been ready to leave the nest from birth. He’s the one who tends to jump into things before he’s ready. In fact, when he was in sixth grade, he said that he didn’t need me as a parent anymore because he had grown up and knew what to do.
My other kid is the opposite. This kid loves the nest and has no interest in leaving it. This child doesn’t even like to spend an overnight with friends or grandparents—because he would rather stay home.
Needless to say, I’ve had my fair share of work cut out for me in this arena. And I’m not alone…
Many parents find it challenging to help their kids become independent so that they’re ready to succeed when they leave home.
If you or your kids are having a tough time “cutting the cord” consider these ideas:
Create opportunities for your kids to spend time away from home—and away from you. Summer camps and class trips are great for this. Kids get to practice living somewhere else (in a controlled, safe environment) and see what that’s like. For younger kids, an overnight with a grandparent or an aunt or uncle works great as well. Sleepovers with friends also can be beneficial, as long as you feel that the other parents supervise the kids well.
Delegate responsibilities, like household chores, to your kids. Doing household chores on a regular basis also builds kids’ independence skills. When kids leave home, they’ll need to cook, do laundry, clean their room, manage their money, keep track of their things, and do their homework and study (if they’re leaving home for further education). How are you teaching your kids these skills?
If your child is young… In many ways, the toddler stage of “Let me do it,” signals that your child wants to become more independent. Encourage that independence. Guide them in the ways to help them do certain tasks on their own.
If your child is a teenager… The teenage years of “Leave me alone” also means that teenagers want to practice their independence (although don’t leave them completely alone and make sure that they’re learning true independence skills, not just “doing whatever they want to do,” which is how many teenagers interpret the word independence). This is why parenting a teenager is trickier. Teenagers want to become independent, but they tend to want to leave the responsibility aspect of independence out of it.
“Young adolescents often express their need to be independent of their parents through criticism and quarreling, silence and secrecy,” writes Laurence Steinberg in You and Your Adolescent.
Remember how much conflict there was when the United States declared their independence from Great Britain? Depending on the personality of your child, you sometimes can feel like you’re in a war when your teenager declares his or her independence.
A big key to our kids’ independence is their willingness to ask for help when they need it and to know who is trustworthy to help them. These actually are complex skills to teach our kids. Try to make it a habit of talking to your kids about who you go to for help when you need it, and why.
And if you have time, it probably won’t hurt to check out a local park, host a cookout, or take in the beauty of some amazing fireworks over the long weekend ; )
Happy Independence Day, everyone!
Tell Us: ——> So, are you up for the challenge? Will you revisit your family’s own ‘Declaration of Independence’ this Fourth of July? _______________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________
1. Laurence Steinberg, Ph.D., You and Your Adolescent: The Essential Guide for Ages 10-25, revised edition (New York: Simon and Schuster, 2011).
2. Ages and Stages, Parentfurther.
3. Image via Ed Yourdon on Flick’r.