When your kids are little, you do pretty much everything for them—feed them, carry them, keep them safe. But little by little, as they get older, they get more independent and learn to do more and more for themselves. The big jump comes when they go out into the world on their own for the first time, whether they’re headed off to college, moving into their first apartment, or have gotten a job in another state.
Here are some ways you can help your kids build the independence they need to take that big step.
- Let them know that they can still count on you when it matters most. While you don’t want your kids calling or running home when they need clean laundry or a sandwich, moving out doesn’t mean that you’re cutting off contact and support. Tell them that you’re still there if there’s something they need to talk through or if there’s a new task they’re having a problem with like filing taxes for the first time.
- Teach them life skills. No one is born knowing how to make a budget, balance a checkbook, cook a meal, or defrost the fridge. Well before your children are ready to leave home, help them build these important skills with hands-on practice.
- Show them how to take good care of themselves. Young adults are pretty sure they’re invincible. Most don’t have a primary care doctor or dentist and some don’t even know what to do when they get seriously ill. Talk to your kids about the importance of having health insurance, a primary care doctor and dentist, and getting needed check-ups and vaccines. It’s also helpful to encourage them to eat a healthy diet, manage stress, and get regular exercise. Those steps can help them be healthier now and in the future.
- Let them make mistakes. During the pre-teen and teen years, if you swoop in and fix things every time your children forget their homework or lose their wallet, they’ll never learn how to remedy problems on their own. Making and fixing their own mistakes helps them build the skills and confidence they need to be independent young adults.
- Learn to let go. A child leaving home can be very tough on the parents. You’re used to spending time with your child every day. It’s perfectly normal to miss your children, but don’t make that their concern. Some kids will feel guilty if you keep telling them how sad you are or how empty the house feels and that can put a damper on their ability to build an independent life. Instead of telling your kids, talk to your partner or other friends who are going through the same thing. It will help you know you’re not alone and you’ll build a new support system.
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