One of the most important tasks of parenting is to help children become independent, so that as adults, they can take care of themselves and pursue their dreams. Teaching independence is a long process, beginning in toddlerhood and (hopefully) ending sometime in early adulthood. These skills will help children adapt to new circumstances over the course of a lifetime. Below are some tips to help kids develop independence as they mature.
1.Give children increasing responsibility.
Teach children that they are important contributors to the family, and give them age appropriate chores. When they are five years old, they may help to fold the laundry, when they are ten they may help with yard work, when they are fifteen, they may help prepare family meals. As children approach their later teen years, they should know how to do most household chores (cooking, cleaning, laundry, and yard work); so that when they leave home they are ready to function independently.
2.Encourage kids to try things themselves first.
At times parents over function for kids, and kids become trained to ask for help rather than try things themselves. Whenever a child asks for help, if it is a task that you believe he can do on his own, ask him to try to do it himself first. If he tries, and doesnt know how to complete a task, offer him help, but teach him how to do the task rather than doing it for him.
3.Teach kids to solve their own disputes.
Young children will often ask parents to solve disputes between siblings or friends. When children are very young, this is an appropriate role for parents. However, once children develop problem solving ability, encourage them to work out issues among themselves, and to approach you only if someone is in danger or the problem is intractable. If you do step in to help a child work out a dispute with a sibling or friend, act as an arbitrary in a negotiation so that you are modeling how to problem solve with others. If there is any bullying or abuse involved in the dispute, assume an authoritative role and discipline the offending child as needed.
4.Teach kids how to manage money.
Teach kids how to handle money, including earning money, saving money, prioritizing spending, and giving to others. When they are very young, you can begin be teaching them to save a portion of their money, spend a portion and perhaps donate a portion of by helping with special tasks. By the time kids are teenagers, they should be able to understand how to make a simple budget. Having kids earn their own spending money during the high school years with a part time job, is a great way to introduce them to the real world of providing for oneself.
5.Teach kids to set goals.
When your child discovers an interest or a passion in life, teach him how to set broad goals and smaller goals as a means to achieving the larger goal. Talk with your child about setbacks, and the importance of persistence in any endeavor. Some children will give up on goals prematurely due to anxiety about failure. Teach the anxious child that failure is an inevitable part of the journey. Children who can identify what they want, set goals, and persist despite setbacks are well on the way to independence.
Cindy Jett, LICSW is a psychotherapist and author of Harry the Happy Caterpillar Grows, an acclaimed picture book that helps the anxious child face his fears and helps children adapt to change.