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Teaching Your Teen Independence

Many children leave home when they hit the age of eighteen. They may be going off to college, entering into the military or they might even be taking a gap year and leaving home to explore the world.

Whatever it is your children plan to do when they graduate college, it’s up to us as parents to work with them during their teen years to teach them independence.

Both of my girls learned to do laundry at a very young age. It was actually their mother turning clothes pink or shrinking them that led to them learning this skill. However they did both come away learning how to use both the washer and dryer and knowing what the various cycles meant. They both even know how to troubleshoot stains.

Both of my kids also learned the art of cooking. When kids are young they can begin helping out in the kitchen. As they get older they can be responsible for creating entire meals. My older daughter very often said, “Mom, come watch me make this and make sure I’m doing it right.”

Since we’ve always had family dinners and holiday celebrations at my house, both of my kids have learned to cook for just four, but also how to cook for twenty-four. They can plan out a menu, shop and then prepare a meal.

Money management is another skill I believe teens should have when they hit eighteen and leave home. Money management can be taught by example but also by showing your kids the choices they have through their childhood. Kids and teens can make choices. Do they want to go to the movies with friends or buy a new CD? There’s only enough money for one or the other.

If your child is in school, he/she will have friend problems. Someone will be mad at them or they’ll be mad at someone else. Teach them the skills to solve these problems. Use “getting involved” as a last resort only if you feel harm may come to your child. Both of my kids changed friends, had spats and had their feelings hurt over the years. When these things happened, we’d discuss and problem solve.

Teaching your children how to make decisions is a skill that they’ll use throughout their entire life. They’ll use this skill to become independent and then to continue growing in that independence. Truly a gift that will last them a lifetime.