The Power of Mindfulness: How Parents Can Help Children Establish Independence & Self Management – The Power of Mindfulness

10 Ways to Help Children Gain Independence

As children grow into young adults, it’s essential that they learn to manage their lives independently. Children, especially teenagers, often desire the independence that adolescence and adulthood brings, without recognizing the responsibilities and accountability required to truly earn increased independence. Similarly, parents feel ambivalent, and it can be challenging to let go and allow your child to become more self-sufficient, despite understanding that it’s crucial for their development and future success. Here are some ways parents can help young adults establish independent self-management in a step-by-step manner: 

1. Set Expectations and Boundaries

One of the essential things parents can do is set clear expectations and boundaries. This includes setting expectations for behavior, responsibilities, earning privileges, and increased independence. It’s essential to be clear about what you expect from your child and what they can expect from you. Setting boundaries can also help your child understand their limits and avoid inadvertently overstepping them, as well as acknowledge the consequences for doing so. This communication strengthens the parent-child relationship by involving children in the process rather than announcing these guidelines in a reactive environment.

2. Encourage Smart Decision Making

Young adults need to learn how to make decisions and take responsibility for their choices. Parents can encourage this by allowing their child to make choices about their life and supporting them in their decisions. This includes allowing them to make decisions about their education, career, and relationships, so long as these decisions are safe and within the family rules. 

3. Teach Life Skills

Another crucial aspect of self-management is learning essential life skills. This includes skills like budgeting, cooking, cleaning, and time management. Parents can teach their child these skills by modeling them and allowing their child to practice them. A great example is providing your child with an alarm clock and encouraging them to wake themselves up and get dressed for school independently. These and other similar routines can increase in complexity and independence in an age appropriate manner, and will serve to increase the child’s confidence and knowledge they will need to manage their lives independently.

4. Foster Independence

Parents can also foster independence by gradually giving their child more responsibilities and freedoms. This can include giving them more control over their schedule, allowing them to make decisions about their social life, and letting them manage their own finances. Gradually increasing their independence will help them build confidence and learn how to manage their lives on their own.

5. Provide Support

Even as young adults become more independent, it’s essential to provide support and guidance. This includes being available to talk about their concerns, providing emotional support, and helping them problem-solve when they encounter challenges. By providing support in a nonjudgmental tone, parents can help their child feel safe, secure, valued and confident as they navigate the challenges of adulthood. A supportive foundation in childhood and adolescence sets the tone for a healthy, strong relationship between parents and children for the rest of their lives. 

6. Encourage Self Reflection

Self-reflection is a crucial part of self-management. Parents can encourage their child to reflect on their decisions, actions, and behaviors by asking questions that help them consider their choices. This can help them develop self-awareness and learn from their mistakes. Parents can facilitate these discussions at the dinner table by asking questions about their child’s day such as “what is one thing that went really well for you today?”, “what is something that you could have done differently today?”, and “what is something you’re proud of about today?”, among many others. Journaling is another wonderful source of self-reflection that children (and people of all ages!) can utilize to work through any unresolved thoughts, feelings, or wishes that they have, and is often a cathartic exercise. 

7. Allow Them to Experience Consequences

Part of self-management is learning from the consequences of our actions. It is crucial for parents to enforce any consequences to broken promises or refusal of family rules in order for children to recognize that they are not exempt and free to do as they please. Additionally, parents can allow their child to experience the natural consequences of their choices by not rescuing them from difficult situations. This can be challenging, but it’s essential for their growth and development.

8. Emphasize Responsibility

Young adults need to take responsibility for their actions and decisions. Parents can emphasize this by holding their child accountable for their behavior and encouraging them to take responsibility for their mistakes. This includes apologizing when necessary and making amends for any harm they have caused. Modeling these difficult conversations and role-playing with them can help them feel prepared and supported during challenging times. 

9. Practice Open Communication

Open communication is essential for self-management. Parents can encourage their child to communicate openly by creating a safe and non-judgmental space for them to share their thoughts and feelings. This can help them feel heard and understood, which is essential for building self-esteem and confidence.

10. Be a Role Model

Finally, parents can help their child develop self-management skills by being a positive role model. This includes modeling responsible behavior, self-reflection, and effective communication. When parents demonstrate these skills, they show their child how to manage their lives independently and set them up for success in the future.

Helping young adults establish independent self-management is crucial for their development and future success. Young adults are in a pivotal time in their development and are extremely attuned to their environments, modeling what they see and re-enacting this in their behavior and relationships outside of the home. Helping young adults understand the importance of expectations, boundaries and consequences, smart decision-making, sustainable life skills, accountability, responsibility, and independence, while providing support, encouraging self-reflection, and practicing open communication, parents can set their children and young adults up to be healthy, respectful, and well-adjusted adults.