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Encouraging independence in young people

Independence for young people is about trying new things, taking on more responsibility, making decisions by themselves, and working out who they are and what they want to be.

Achieving independence is an essential part of the journey to adulthood - teenagers need love, support and respect to become independent. It also helps to set clear rules, give young people responsibility, and build their decision-making skills. Some conflict is natural. It’s best to manage it constructively.

In the transition to secondary school, young people are faced with new challenges and expectations from the staff, themselves and their peers. It can be overwhelming for them and challenges their concept of who they are and who is in charge. Added to this are the increased demands of homework, peer pressure and the influence of celebrity role models.

What you can do to help

During the journey to adulthood young people need to become more independent, try new things, make their own decisions, and come up with their own solutions to problems they face. Unless you feel your child may be putting themselves or others at risk, there are many benefits to supporting their choices, be it fashion choices or something seemingly more detrimental to their development. This is also a great opportunity to help your child accept personal responsibility for their decisions and to learn from their own mistakes.

Of course, your teenager does need rules and boundaries to keep them safe and to ensure they are responsible and respectful. The rules you set will depend on your family situation and your teenager’s personality and needs and may need to change over time as your teenager develops and matures. Aim to set clear, fair boundaries that respect your teenager’s needs and feelings and be consistent in their use. This gives them a clear and safe environment in which to explore their developing sense of self. 

Respect their privacy and give them space to try new experiences. Always have their safety in mind however and discuss boundaries with them before they go out to new venues. Offer advice in a non-threatening way and emphasise the need for a backup plan.

Ways in which you can encourage independence:

  • Allow them to make their own way to school if this is possible.
  • Encourage them to be involved in family decisions such as meal planning and shopping.
  • Give them choices about decisions they need to make (for example - if you need to take them somewhere ask if they would like you to drop them near the venue to avoid ridicule from peers). 
  • Take their problems seriously - it might not seem a big deal to you, but it may be to them. Listen and give advice if they ask for it, encourage them to explore solutions and discuss them, respect their privacy.
  • Encourage family time to provide a safe and reliable place to relax, to joke with siblings and parents and to share their days experience. 

Who can help?

For more advice about this topic you can speak to one of our team. You can Call Us on 0300 029 50 50 or Text Us on 07520 649887 to start a conversation. **Monday to Friday 9.30am - 4.30pm excluding bank holidays**

Older children (aged 11-19) can ask advice from a school nurse by texting our Confidential Chathealth service on 07480 635 443.

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Delivering excellence in Children and Young People’s Services:
a partnership between Cambridgeshire Community Services NHS Trust and
Cambridgeshire and Peterborough NHS Foundation Trust.
Funded by Cambridgeshire County Council and Peterborough City Council

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