Teen Parent Tips: Navigating the Independence Battle
If you have a teenager, more than likely at some point, they will come to you asking for more freedom to do things with just their friends…no parents involved. Perhaps, they want to attend a concert downtown, go on a spring break trip to 30A with friends, or apply for a summer job. Rarely, are those requests met with an easy yes.
A million thoughts might be running through your head. “NO” may be the first thought, which is understandable when it would be your teen’s first time taking part in any of those things. Questions that may pop up that you are wanting to ask your teen is who all is going, where are you staying, who is driving, is that person a safe driver, are girls going to be there, are guys going to be there, and why don’t you want me to come? All of these are appropriate and understandable questions to consider asking. If you are in the midst of deciding whether to let your teen have a little more freedom, here are some helpful tips on how to have those conversations with them
that may ease some of the tension or anxiety you may be feeling.
Keep an open dialogue. Whether you have decided to let your teen go to that concert, sign up for that camp, or are still deciding, be sure to keep an open dialogue. Shutting their requests down immediately and completely may cause unnecessary stress and anxiety for the both of you. Instead, hear them out and listen to what they are asking. If you decide to grant their request, let them know your expectations. There can be both freedom and boundaries for them. It doesn’t have to be one or the other or all or nothing. Set clear expectations and boundaries with them. This can be communicated through a conversation or even a written contract. Doing so will create mutual respect and lend you a greater peace of mind. Ask questions, get clarification, and keep an open dialogue.
You were young(er) once. It’s easy as a parent to dismiss requests that feel out of left field. Your children are growing up, but at the end of the day they’re still your children. When having these conversations with your teen, it is helpful to remember that you once may have wanted the same thing when you were their age. You are an adult now, but there was a time when you had the same desires and wishes as they do now. It’s natural for a teen to want to become more independent and desire more freedom as they get older. Be sure to keep that in mind when you talk to them about the things they are wanting. It will help you better understand and empathize where they are coming from.
Trust your gut. Giving more freedom to your teen is always a little scary. They’re your child and you’ll always want to protect them, keep them safe, and do what is in their best interest. At the same time, your child will want to grow, try new things, and venture out into the world. And more than likely, it’s not if they will make mistakes, but when. That thought alone can be worrisome, but if you feel like you can trust them and you believe in their ability to put into action what you have taught them, then trust your gut. If you’re not quite sure, are still needing more details, or need to think more about it, that is okay too. At the end of the day you’re the parent and you know your child best.
As your teen gets older, the more freedom and adventure they will desire. Being prepared to have these conversations will help the both of you navigate them better. Remember, you were a teen once with desires of freedom, adventure, and trying new things, so keep an open dialogue with them and hear them out. Trust your gut in these often difficult decisions to try to keep your teen safe while trusting them with more freedom to explore the world around them.
By Dr. Austin Shugart, LPC