How to Help Your Teens Grow Up to Be Independent Adults
Teaching your teen to be a successful, self-sufficient adult will take time and patience, but it’s worth it (trust us!).
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Most money experts and psychologists recommend teens hold a part-time job (and not just during the summer). “It gives them the understanding that when they fill up the car tank it might cost five hours of work,” says Cary Siegel, author of Why Didn’t They Teach Me This at School: 99 Personal Money Management Lessons to Live By.
Teens Need to Know How to Change a Tire
Lauren Fix, the “Car Coach,” says American teenagers should be learning basic car maintenance—as they do in other countries. Not only will it give her confidence, it also saves money. All she needs is the owner’s manual, Youtube, and the local auto parts store. Teach him to check and change the oil, check tire pressure and add air, change a tire, fill the gas tank, replace basic parts (wiper blades and air filters), and what to do when the “check engine” light comes on.
Time Management Is the Most Important Thing
The recent admissions scandal is an extreme example of how far some will go to get their kid into the “right” college. More common, Lythcott-Haims says, is the helicopter parent who constantly monitors their child’s academics and chooses her classes and extracurricular activities. Parents doing homework is also not unusual.
The average U.S. parent spends six hours a week helping their child with academics, according to the Varkey Foundation’s Global Parent’ Survey. While well-intentioned, micromanaging stops kids from experiencing the natural consequences of their actions, such as missing deadlines and getting good or bad grades. Lythcott-Haims also warns that it can leave children feeling like their parents have no faith in them, and that they are doing their homework for their parents, not themselves. “None of this is good for the child,” she says.
For Best Results, Let Your Kids Struggle a Little
Young adults have to be able to cope with the ups and downs of life and keep going. Learning to manage conflict, hurt feelings, and cope when things go wrong is important. If we try and solve every one of our child’s minor problems, we rob him of experiences that help to build resilience. As Mogel says: “When they come to you in distress, resist responding like a concierge, talent agent, or the secret police. Assume they are capable of figuring out—through trial and error—how to solve their own problems.”
If you’re feeling a little behind, don’t worry! It’s never too late to start. Lythcott-Haims has this advice: “The first thing is to acknowledge to the kid, with a small bit of apology, ‘We realized that we are a bit behind when it comes to teaching you to be independent and it’s time for us to start teaching you a lot of things.’ A teen needs to hear that because otherwise they will view your shift with a lot of skepticism.”
Let her choose which chores she’s going to take on. Then tell him you will stop asking him about school work all the time because you know he has it under control, and let him decide what skills, like money management or car care, he would like to learn first. The process will probably elicit an eye roll now, but her future self will thank you.