10 tips for helping build independence in tweens and teens

By Kirsty Ketley

Two teens sitting on a curb smiling


As children transition from kids into adolescents, their need for independence grows. This means that they need to take on more responsibility, make decisions for themselves, and try new things, all while figuring out who they are and what they want to be. 

Independence is an essential part of the journey into adulthood, but it can be a tricky stage for parents to navigate. A survey of 1,000 UK parents commissioned by Life360, the UK’s number one family safety and location sharing app, showed that 65% of Gen Alpha parents describe themselves as more anxious than their own parents were, and are less likely to allow their children to do unsupervised activities before hitting the teenage years.

Modern parenting certainly reflects the changing world we live in, and while there are now more challenges to navigate while bringing up children, they still need to learn vital life skills and have opportunities to be independent.

With that in mind, here are ten of my top tips for parents, to help them support and empower their children in developing their independence:


1. Give space and privacy when at home

Ensuring your child has some space and privacy at home is important, but of course, boundaries and rules need to be in place so your child is safe. For instance, parental controls on social media and gaming are a good idea, particularly as a staggering 95% of UK parents surveyed were concerned about the impact of social media on their children’s self-esteem, while 94% were worried about their child talking to strangers online.

It is important that children have a good balance of spending time alone without you constantly looking over their shoulder, as well as having family time. Being mindful of making non-negotiable time together is also a must.


2. Encourage them to try new things

Having hobbies and interests outside of school is a great way to help children develop vital social skills and meet new people, alongside learning new skills. Being part of a group or team can also help instil respect and teaches children how to work as part of a team. 


3. Be supportive

Kids who feel loved and supported tend to be more confident in themselves. This helps them be more open to trying out new things, as well as feeling better equipped to do things for themselves.

As such, parents should really take the time to listen to their children when they want to talk, and take a genuine interest in their friends, hobbies and interests. This also means respecting their need for privacy, and understanding when it is ok to let their child just ‘be’.


4. Help build decision-making skills

There are decisions to be made every day and while there are several that parents will need to make for their children, there are many that children can make for themselves. Again, this helps boost a child’s confidence and lets them feel like they have a voice. 

Simple things like allowing your child to be part of deciding the weekly dinner menu, choosing their clothes to buy and wear, and helping pick a holiday destination, will all help them to become more confident in making decisions.


5. Respect their thoughts and opinions

Their thoughts and opinions may not match yours, but in order for children to learn to respect other people’s views, they need to feel that their own views are not dismissed or ridiculed. This is a critical time where children are finding their own path, and they need the confidence to do so.


6. Encourage responsibility through chores

Have ‘mucking in’ on chores as part of your family values. Start by making them responsible for their own room – if they don’t clean and tidy it, or make and change their bed, it won’t get done. Some families prefer to use money as a way of getting their children to do things around the house, but before you head down that path, try and get your child to see that chores are all part of family life.


7. Teach them time management

No one likes a nag, so make your child accountable for managing their own time. This is an important life skill and they will learn best by being allowed to manage on their own. You can gently remind them of the consequences of not getting to school on time, or not getting homework done, but try and leave it up to them.


8. Have clear rules

By setting clear rules and boundaries, your child is more likely to stick to them. It is important that parents also follow these rules and boundaries and don’t keep “moving the goal posts”. When children try and push them, remain firm in following through on any consequences that are dished out. 


9. Believe in them

For children to believe in themselves, they first need someone to believe in them. Trust is a two-way street and showing that you believe in your child is crucial. This will not only make them more likely to trust you in return – and come to you when needed – but importantly, it will give them the confidence to trust their own decisions.


10. Build up independence outside the house

Once children get to Year 6, many will walk themselves to school if it is feasible to do so. It is a great way to build up independence before they head off to secondary school, where they will be walking or catching a bus by themselves, often further away from home.

Apps are a very normal part of the modern world and using a location-sharing app is a great way for children to let parents to know their whereabouts without having to ring or send messages, while also giving parents peace of mind. Of course, children need to know that they are sharing their location, but there can be rules put in place – jointly made by kids and parents. This way, children can still have their privacy and independence, while knowing their parents are there should they need them.

It is important that children are savvy about keeping safe outside of the house. So before you let your child go it alone, make sure they can cross a road safely, understand the risks of talking to strangers  and keep valuables out of sight. Start small, with shorter distances, and gradually build up to longer journeys once they have demonstrated that they are capable and trustworthy.

It’s also important to make sure your children know what to do in an emergency situation. Tech can come in handy here, for example with Life360’s SOS feature, a simple tap of a button will send a silent alert to users’ Circle members, along with their location. This is a useful tool to give you added peace of mind that your kids can easily alert you and other loved ones if they’re ever in danger.