Four Strategies for Promoting Independence

While high school students do need to master curricular objectives in courses such as geometry and chemistry, no high school subject is as crucial as preparing teens to function as successful, financially independent adults.  Here are four strategies to help you prepare your teenager for success.

1. Learn the “I, We, You” strategy
First, I do it for you. Next, we do it together. Finally, you do it alone. It is a pretty simple idea. Identify areas where you are still taking charge and bring your teen in on the process of working together until they are capable of doing the task on their own.

School planning is an area where many homeschooling parents find they really need to adjust when their kids move from middle school to high school. Especially for those of us who have been homeschooling since our kids were young, it can be easy to just take control of the planning ourselves. It is sometimes the path of least resistance and once you are good at planning it is less work to do it on your own than to involve someone else. However, this really needs to change during the high school years. Students need to learn to set their own goals and understand how to break bigger tasks into smaller ones. Learning how to plan out study time is a necessary college readiness skill. Regular meetings and planning sessions can help teach teens the skills they need to create and carry out learning plans.

2. Reassess old habits and create new routines
In the day in and day out in a family it can be easy to fall into patterns that we no longer notice our habits. Stop and ask yourself: What am I doing for my teen that she is able to do for herself? What could he be doing that I just do without even thinking about it?  Of course this doesn’t mean abandoning all acts of kindness. The family may not need muffins but if you enjoy baking them, it makes sense to continue. At the same time, it is important to make sure teens are taking on their fair share of household tasks. Try to identify tasks your teen will need to take care of an adult and gently encourage them to take these over. A quick list to consider: scheduling hair and dental appointments, laundry, cleaning the bathroom, shopping for clothes, putting together menus and a grocery list.

3. Look ahead and work back
This is something I learned from a friend and it is one of my favorites. Think about where you hope your child will be as an adult and work back. It may go something like this: “At age 18, I expect my daughter will be in a college classroom and she will need to be able to take notes and turn in assignments without being reminded. She’s 16 now, which of these things is she capable of? She did well in taking notes from the American history course so that’s covered. The next goal needs to be turning in assignments without being reminded.”

Time to formulate a plan. What are the steps between Mom has to nag everything and daughter takes complete responsibility? Maybe it is meeting together to work on how to use a calendar, maybe it is identifying it as a goal and helping your student develop a solution. Outsourcing some high school subjects to other instructors through a co-op, online courses, or community college can provide necessary learning opportunities.

4. Allow failure when the stakes are still low
As parents it isn’t our job to prevent our kids from failing or experiencing the consequences of poor planning or bad decision making. It can be a tough thing to do, but stumbles during the middle and high school years while a child is living at home are usually much lower stakes. The same failures when a student is enrolled in college and living away from home may result in much bigger consequences. Some teens are naturally cautious and they don’t need to fall as many times to learn; other kids really do need to be allowed to fail a bit on the road to independence.

Bottom Line
As tempting as it is to solve your teen’s problems for them, it will deny them the chance to grow and develop more independence. So, hard as it is, give teens the space to try and to succeed or fail. You can help by asking questions such as: What’s your plan? What happened? What will you do differently next time? How may I help?

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