Teaching teens self-reliance and life skills can be an important part of independence.
Relying on parents and others to problem solve often leads to learned helplessness.
Learned helplessness from relying on others may keep them stuck and unable to problem solve by themselves; doubting their ability to trust themselves in making choices in their best interest.
When you are a child or teen, you depend on your caregivers for survival. However, as we age, there are ways to empower yourself through independent actions in order to make changes in your life now.
More freedom requires more trust, both within yourself and from others.
Self-sufficiency can stem from being able to solve problems and figure things out on your own. The same is true in adolescence.
Often, parents fear their teens might make a mistake or a decision that may backfire. If they do, you can be there as a support and help them problem solve next steps, without shaming or guilting them for trying things their way.
In fact, teens do thrive with a group of loving people surrounding them, supporting them as they grow self-sufficiency and improve their mental health in the process.
Being a parent of a teen can be a challenge, and there are ways to help your teen grow self-sufficiency.
Here Are 5 Ways Parents Can Help Teens Become More Self-Sufficient:
- Remove Yourself From The Situation.
Though it can be tempting, it is not always helpful to insert yourself into a situation that was not meant for you to solve.Things like chores, hygiene, and basic money handling skills are tasks that your teen can do themselves.Think about what skills are important for your teen to have once they move out of your house. If they haven’t developed the skill yet, it is time to move out of the way so that they can learn to develop self-sufficiency.
- Get Comfortable With Failure.
Your teen or young adult is not going to do everything the exact same way as you, and they may fail in the process.It is okay.As the parent, you can be there to support the failure in a loving way to help build up self-reliant people in your life.Not everything is going to work out the first time or even the seventh time. You don’t have to advise or direct the situation just because it is not working your way.
Image of a lonely male teen sitting building , with his head in his lap, hood up. Read More: “5 Reasons Your Teen Doesn’t Talk To You”
Instead, you may say things like:
I know that was a tough loss. What feels supportive to you right now?
Darn. I thought that may work too. Do you want me to listen or help you solve next steps?
Are you ready to share what you learned yet?
I am really proud of you for starting this project. Are you ready to try again?
- Support Problem Solving.
You can start with small tasks, like household chores. Give your teen the freedom to problem-solve on their own before you jump into help.You may have all the answers, and they may need to take the time to get them for themselves.It’s okay.Self-reliance is a process that may require patience. You can tap out and regroup at any time.
If you become hypervigilant or are waiting for failure because it is not going your way, you may need to pause.
Get curious rather than judgmental to encourage problem solving.
- Avoid Criticism.
Stay neutral with your reactions as much as possible. It is helpful not to lavish praise or heavily criticize when teens are trying out how to feel successful, whatever that means to them.For example,If your teen hasn’t figured out how to wake up on time, stick to the facts. Feelings aren’t facts, so take a breath before you get into a discussion.This can be as simple as saying something like:
I am proud of you for waking up on time yesterday. What tool did you use to help you do that?The kitchen sink looks terrific! Thank you for putting all the dishes away independently.
I noticed all of the laundry was put away. You really made an effort for our family. Thank you.
- Accept Imperfection.
Self-sufficiency is an important skill, especially during the teen years. Your teen will not do everything like you, and that is okay.It won’t be done perfectly, and you may have to take a breath before so that you don’t continuously do it your way.
Image of a mother and daughter taking a selfie outside. Read More: “5 Tips To Engaging With Your Teen”
Be open to possibilities and creativity.
Your teen may complete a task differently than you, and it may be done better than you. This is a sign of accomplishment even if it feels irritating at the moment. Accept that you may not get the outcome you most want.
The imperfection can be a conduit to healthy relationships between you and the teens in your life.
Teens have the ability to become self-sufficient at any time. Independent tasks like chores, handling small amounts of money, hygiene, and waking up on time for school can be a great start to helping your teen feel successful and self-sufficient.
It can be rewarding to do things for your child, and it is not always helpful. Family therapy, teen therapy, and parent support are all available and helpful resources.
Written by: Randi Thackeray, MA
Clinically Reviewed and Edited by: Julie Reichenberger, MA, LPC, ACS, ACC