The transition from being a teenager to becoming a young adult can be one of the most difficult times in our lives. Not only is it challenging for teens, but parenting your teen can also be scary for you as a parent or caretaker. With so much happening in such a short window of time, it’s reasonable to feel overwhelmed.
If your teen is knocking on the door to adulthood, they may be learning how to navigate one or more of the following situations:
Going to college
Moving out on their own
Starting a job
Staying at home
Joining the military
You may be wondering how you can best teach your teen to be independent, while also expressing your unconditional support and love. This article discusses some tips for parenting your teen and supporting them in “adulting.”
Parenting Your Teen: Teach Independence
Unlike the rest of the animal kingdom, living independently for human beings need not mean being left to “fend for ourselves” out in the wild. Unfortunately, if we don’t focus on teaching our teens to be independent, it can be almost as scary for young adults to step out into the “real world.” If it is time for your teenager to “leave the nest,” set them up for success and then trust the work you’ve done as a parent.
Tips for teaching teens to be more independent:
Do less: If there are tasks that you routinely do for your teen that they could easily do for themselves, it’s time to pass the baton on some of those responsibilities. For example, let your teen make their own lunch, do their own laundry, get themselves up and out the door for school, etc.
Let them face the consequences of their actions: Forgotten basketball shoes means your teen doesn’t get to play in the game after school, not that mom or dad will make a special trip back home and to drop off the shoes at school. And not putting dirty clothes in the hamper results in your teen not being able to wear their favorite shirt to school on picture day. It can be tough to watch your child suffer embarrassment or defeat, but remind yourself you’re teaching independence here.
Teach life survival skills: Being at least moderately organized will save your young adult from a lot of heartache and headaches. Teach them specific skills like putting keys in a designated spot every day, how to check their bank account balance online, and how to make a few quick, healthy meals.
Help them think through big decisions: Teens face big, potentially life-changing decisions like whether to drink, smoke, have sex, join the military, etc. They also make smaller, but still important, decisions like whether to try out for soccer or get a summer job. One way to help with decision-making is to sit down together and have your teen write out answers to the following questions:
What is the difficulty?
What are the possible solutions?
What are the consequences of each solution?
Which of the consequences is most desirable from a personal, practical, moral, and legal perspective?
Parenting Your Teen: Relating As Adults
As your teen becomes a young adult, the nature of the parent-child relationship naturally shifts. If you or your teen is not prepared for this transition, it can be jarring. The goal in parenting your teen is to learn how to respect your child adult-to-adult and convey to your teen that you are treating them differently because you can see how they are growing into a more mature version of themselves.
In addition to the tips for teaching independence above, it’s important to continue sharing, listening, and asking questions. Of course, you will always want to know what’s happening in your kids’ lives and they’ll also want to know what’s new with you. Even though your teen will move out on their own, that doesn’t mean you need to lose interest in each others’ lives.
Let Go, But Stay Connected
Above all, remember that giving advice to your young adult children is different from telling a child what to do or teaching a child how to do something.
Giving and getting advice: It’s important to teach your teen that asking for help when you need it is not only okay, but also a crucial element of “adulting.” No matter how many years we spend on Earth, we can always benefit from taking others’ advice. And, as a parent, it’s also important that you be open to taking advice from your adult children.
Effective communication: As your teen becomes a young adult, the way you communicate will need to change too. It’s key to be open and honest and to encourage the same from your teen. Strong communication is necessary to cultivate a healthy relationship.
Try to understand each other: This may come as a surprise, but there may be times when you and your teen do not see eye-to-eye and a conflict may arise. It is okay to get angry, but try not to take your anger out on your teen or resort to the “because I said so” kind of response. Instead, teach your teen how adults work through differences by listening to both sides and finding a compromise whenever possible.
Be a role model: The best way to support your teen in “adulting” is to lead by example. Solve conflicts with your teen with respect. When you make a mistake apologize sincerely and make amends. Actions really do speak louder than words.
The reality is making this transition into adulthood—whether that includes moving out and going to college, getting their first “adult” job, living at home while they figure out their next move, or entering the military—comes with its own set of challenges. While you can’t fully prepare your teen for every potential problem they might encounter, following the above tips will definitely help to ease your teen into adulthood.
If you are looking for more help parenting your adolescent, we offer in-home services for youth ages 10-17, as well as family counseling for a period of 16-24 weeks through our Parenting of Adolescents Program. To request more information or assistance, click here.
At EFC, we also offer parenting workshops for parents, caregivers, or community members about how to care for kids of all ages. When it comes to caring for teens, our workshops include:
Communicating With Your Teen
Help, My Kid is Smoking and Using Other Drugs
The Struggle is Real
How to Talk to Your Kids About Sex
Assertiveness for Teens
Self-Esteem Building for Teens
The Exchange Family Center is here to support parents and caregivers as well as children. We believe building stronger networks and relationships among these groups and throughout the community leads to healthier, happier families. All parents need help sometimes. We welcome you to reach out when you need support.