As much as parents might want to protect their kids and keep them firmly in their sights for their whole lives, there will come a time where you need to start giving them greater freedom and more independence.
This independence is crucial for helping them evolve into a responsible adult who can manage the issues they will encounter throughout their lives when they eventually leave their home and start a family of their own.
But it’s challenging to offer this freedom.
They are your children, and you worry about them, even when you know everything is going to be okay.
Resisting the chance to offer more freedom, however, can have disastrous effects on your relationship, and it could foster negative feelings and attitudes.
This isn’t to say that you should send them off into the wilderness, that would be preposterous.
Instead, consider the ways you can nurture a feeling of independence within the home.
Let’s take a look at how you can do that.
Benefits of Freedom and Independence
If you want your teen to grow from a happy and optimistic young child into a responsible and capable adult, offering the chance for freedom is the best way to do it. But what are the benefits of providing this freedom?
- Less dependence on you and your partner
As much as you like doing things and caring for your child, you will relish the chance to have a little more time to yourself.
As their independence grows, you won’t need to support them as much as you once did, and you can finally find the time to get back to doing something else that you love.
- Helps them make decisions and inspires problem-solving
Lower dependence on you and your partner also encourages them to make decisions and solve problems.
With less support, they are forced to approach decisions and issues maturely.
They may get some decisions wrong, but at least they will learn from these to make better ones in the future.
- Figure out their life values
Most kids grow up idolizing their parents, and they gained a lot of their values from watching you and your partner around the house.
It’s no secret this opinion changes during adolescence, but it’s part of growing up.
Providing freedom allows them to discover what they feel passionate about and can help them decide what it means to live.
- Mould their identity
Running parallel to this, freedom also allows kids to mould their identity.
They will go through phases, and they will try new experiences that can help them decide who they want to be.
It’s essential to not worry too much about these phases, as they will likely grow out of it, and even if they don’t, then that’s okay, also.
Protection Over Privacy
All kids want their privacy, and this is understandable.
They are figuring out themselves and want to explore what life is like without feeling they are continuously studied and scrutinized.
However, whist you’re offering this freedom, it’s still essential that you provide protection, too, even if they consider this in violation of their privacy.
f you have any reason to suspect that your child might be causing danger to themselves or others, then it’s imperative to take action.
They may have gotten in over their heads with the freedom allowed and taking it a step too far, and they might be worried about coming to you to discuss it.
There’s no need to storm into their room, but making it clear that you are there to protect them if they need it is vital.
Keep In Touch
It feels like all kids have a smartphone these days, but we’ll not get into a tired Back In My Day rant.
Instead, consider the positives of what a smartphone can do for freedom.
It allows them to get in touch with you whenever, and you the same, and with a decent plan such as one from the SMARTY network, they can check train or bus times to get home if you are unable to collect them.
Getting involved in your child’s life might feel like the opposite of giving them the freedom they need, but it fosters a comfortable and supportive family environment.
It’s unlikely they will shower you with affection during their teen years, but by demonstrating an interest in their lives, they will feel like they can talk to you and get advice when they need it.
You don’t need to be overbearing, but just being supportive will minimize the risk of them engaging in bad behaviour.
Increase It Gradually
You cannot provide them with free rein to go and do whatever they want immediately.
Instead, you must gradually increase their freedom as time goes on.
Not only does this teach them how to be responsible, like returning home in time for curfew, but it can also test how ready they are for more independence and can also improve their mental health, and you can allow this as and when you believe they are prepared.
However, all teenagers are different, and they may prove to be responsible from the offset.
While this is excellent news, it still comes with a level of doubt, so don’t feel too pressured to provide a blank slate of freedom immediately.
You can work out a freedom schedule (although don’t tell your kid) and increase the level of freedom when they meet specific goals or targets.
Work Off Trust
There is already an existing level of trust with your child, and providing freedom is a fantastic way to work and build on that trust to set them up perfectly for the future. Already, you have a general idea of their level of maturity and how responsible and reliable they are, and you should demonstrate this is in the degree of freedom you provide.
If they prove that you can trust them, you can reward them by allowing greater freedoms and independence. However, should they break this trust, you have no obligation to reward this negative behaviour. Not only does this give you a better idea of where their head is at, but it also teaches them that their actions have consequences.
Remind Them of The Privilege
While you may be offering them freedom, it’s still crucial that you set the proper boundaries and remind them that what they currently have is a privilege and not a right. This includes everything from a car to a computer to a phone, and unless they bought it with their own money, it is still technically yours.
Some parents might consider this as too much. Still, by ensuring they understand that they have allowances that others don’t, they will gain a better appreciation for what you allow and take more responsibility.
Providing freedom for your child is never a smooth ride, and you are sure to encounter conflict along the way, as your definitions of freedom are unlikely to match with theirs. This conflict is inevitable, but as long as you understand and perhaps even predict it, you will be able to navigate any issues sensibly and maturely.
Here are some potential problems you are likely to encounter as your teen starts to explore and understand what it means to be independent:
- Pushing the boundaries
The first feeling of freedom is like a rush of blood to the head for a lot of kids, primarily if they’ve grown up in a strict and restrictive household. If you do not set the boundaries of their newfound independence, they may push them too far, which could lead to conflict between you.
- You worry about them
Whenever a parent offers freedom for their kid, they are still going to worry about them. Allowing them to stay out late or head to parties with strangers will always cause some panic as you worry whether they are safe. This can cause you to break the freedom agreement and overstep your boundaries, too.
- Conflicting ideas over what freedom means
Your ideas about what freedom and independence mean are unlikely to match with your kids’, so it’s essential to set the record straight immediately. It’s not good allowing them to work it out as they go along, so you must agree on what is permitted early on and then gradually increase the freedom as time passes.
- Taking advantage of the freedom
Kids will always look to take a mile after you offer an inch, and this will undoubtedly lead to conflict. It’s difficult to know how to approach this. You’re unsure whether to remove all freedom or talk to them about it to come to a compromise. You’ve got to be firm but fair to ensure you do not let it get out of hand.
Free As a Bird
Figuring out the level of freedom you want to allow your child will be difficult, and there’s no guarantee that you will get it right the first time. However, as long as you trust them and are there for them when they need you, they will grow from a kid who think they know more about the world than they do into a responsible adult who understands what it means to live in this world and build a life that you and them can be proud of.