Encouraging independence in young people
- 11-19 Years
- Parents and Carers
- Child development and growing up
Independence for young people is about trying new things, taking on more responsibility, making decisions by themselves, and working out who they are and what they want to be.
Achieving independence is an essential part of the journey to adulthood. To become independent teenagers need:
- clear rules
- to build their decision-making skills
Setting healthy boundaries
Boundaries are a set of rules and guidelines that help define what is and is not acceptable behaviour. Boundaries can also be known as house rules or ground rules. Teaching your child how to create, maintain and respect healthy boundaries will help them keep them safe throughout their teenage years and into adulthood.
The boundaries you set need to be clear and consistent. They will give your teenager a clear understanding of what is expected of them and creates a safe environment for them to explore who they are.
Boundaries also help your teenager to be responsible and respectful. The boundaries you make will depend on your:
- family situation
- teenagers personality
- teenagers needs
The boundaries may need to change over time as your teenager develops and matures. Make sure that you communicate what the boundaries are.
It is natural for your teenager to push these boundaries and break the rules. It’s best to manage it constructively. Read more about managing difficult behaviour for young people and teenagers.
Try to be respectful of your teenager when setting up rules and boundaries. Keep in mind that you will need to:
- respect your teenagers privacy
- give your teenager space to try new experiences
- discuss boundaries with your teenager, especially before they go out to a new place
- offer advice in a non-threatening or judgmental way
Respecting your teenager's privacy
As part of setting up healthy boundaries with your teenager, it is important for you to respect their privacy. As your teenager grows older and matures, they should be given more privacy as they figure out what kind of person they want to be.
Teenagers are prone to make quick decisions without thinking about the consequences. It is still important to monitor your teenager to help guide them and support them.
If you are concerned about their online or offline activities, try to have a conversation with them. You can discuss your concerns with them and the potential risks of these activities.
Some ways to respect your teenager's privacy:
- knocking on their bedroom door and waiting before entering the room
- giving them space to talk to their friends
- asking before looking in or getting things out their school bag
- checking if they would like you there when seeing a health professional
Supporting your teenager's decisions
When you support your teenager's choices you are helping them become more independent and confident in their decision making skills. There are lots of small daily choices that your teenager will make that can improve their confidence such as their choices in clothes.
It is a great way to help your child accept the responsibility for their choices and learn from their mistakes.
You do not always have to support your teenager's decision if they may be putting themselves or others at risk.
Take their problems seriously
While some problems may not seem like a big deal to you, they are a big deal to your teenager. Issues like social media drama or conflicts in friendships can impact your teenager.
It can be hard for teenagers during the transition to secondary school and college. Young people face new challenges and expectations from staff, their peers and themselves. It can be overwhelming for them and challenges their ideas of who they are and who is in charge. There are also extra pressure from homework, peer pressure and celebrity influencers.
Listen to your teenager. If they ask for advice, give them advice. You can encourage them to look at different solutions and discuss them with you. However, sometimes they may just want to talk about their experiences with you, but do not want any advice.
Ways to encourage independence
Try to put aside time on a daily or weekly basis that can be family time. During this time you can create a safe space for your teenager to relax, share what happened during the day and have some fun with their family.
Encourage your teenager to be involved in family decisions such as meal planning and shopping.
If possible, allow your teenager to make their own way to school. This could be by walking, cycling, getting the bus or train by themselves.
Give them choices about decisions they need to make. For example, if you are dropping them off somewhere, ask where they would like you to drop them off.
Last reviewed: 1 November, 2023