Parenting does not come with a manual. Yes, there are hundreds of parenting books. But until you become a parent, it’s hard to know exactly what your response will be in each new situation.

From an early age, children start developing forms of independence. First, they learn to hold up their head. Soon afterward, each baby will start eating solid foods, walking, attending kindergarten, and riding the school bus. It can be hard to let go, but most parents realize that their child has “got it”!

I can remember receiving my driver’s license shortly after my sixteenth birthday. “License to drive,” I proclaimed to everyone. But the next Saturday, my mother said, “You need to be back home by dark!” Dark? By state law, I can drive 24/7. I couldn’t understand her rationale, but I followed the rule.

In the past year, I professionally coached an adolescent who was trying to overcome anxiety before talking to his mother about being out with his new peer group. He needed tips to gain confidence in order to convince his mother he was independent enough to make healthy choices.

His mother was already very hesitant about social interaction, because of the current pandemic, but having to ask for independence took the boy’s anxiousness to new heights. He described to me how he had finally asked his mother about having an overnight coed trip to a nearby city. Even though his mother declined his request to go overnight with his peers, he walked away from the conversation with confidence. Knowing what he could do to make the request a reality, he overcame his anxiety of asking for independence.

Independence is based on the maturity of the child. What you do with one child, even in the same family, you may not do with the other child. This makes parenting seem more trial and error. The following tips can help parents become more assured of their decisions:

1. Set guidelines that both parent and child understand.

2. Know the peer group that your child is associated with.

3. Promote pro-social activities that involve trusted adults.

Even if something catastrophic happens, come back to the drawing board with your child and gain perspective on how to create independence in a healthy way. As life will have it, you will become more comfortable making parental decisions and can determine how much independence you want to give your child.

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