From dependent child to independent teen: How parents can cope with the transition

Teen

It is quite normal for teenagers to transition from being dependent on parents to some independence.

Photo credit: Fotosearch

My 14-year-old no longer wants public snuggles and kisses every morning when leaving for school, things he used to appreciate when he was in kindergarten. In fact, he claims that he is embarrassed by my actions.

When children grow, they learn to have their boundaries. You may be taken aback by their actions but that does not automatically mean that your child is completely rejecting you.

When in their teens, especially, your child transitions from childhood dependency to independence, and this is quite normal. This, however, does not make it any less hurtful.

From experience and titbits from other people, here are some ways to cope with your growing children’s change in behaviour.


Don't take it personally

For as long as you have been a good parent to your child, they will always love you unconditionally. Therefore, do not take it personally that they don't want you accompanying them everywhere they go. They are just trying to understand who they are without you hovering around them. Rest assured that their withdrawal has nothing to do with you. It is just a phase.


Give them some space

During the teenage years, your child is transitioning to independence. They are trying to understand who they are and create an identity. You being in their business does not help and could actually dent your relationship.

The best thing to do is to give them some space especially in public. You may be surprised that honouring their wishes for independence in public may strengthen your relationship at home.

Nevertheless, do not take the need for space as an excuse for you to neglect them, make sure you pay attention to your child's behaviour without interfering. This way you can catch any problematic behaviour, which is common in adolescence, in good time.


Avoid anything that embarrasses your child

Sometimes, when your child is embarrassed by you, it is because they need their space. Other times, it is because of something you might be doing. The last thing your child wants is to have you compare them to their peers. This is not only embarrassing, but can also damage their self-esteem.


Listen and pay attention

In their adolescence, children want some independence. But don't worry too much as they still do crave parental attention—just on their own terms. Make sure that you are present when your child needs you and listen to them more than you talk to them. When your adolescent knows that there is a safe space at home, they tend to be more willing to share their thoughts, experiences and questions.


Be gentle when correcting them

Children in their tweens (children between 8 and 12 years) and teens are usually sensitive and emotional. If there are corrections to be made, ensure that you do it in a calm, gentle and reassuring way. Also, the correction can wait until you get home. Do not shout your child’s flaws to them in public. Ever!


In a nutshell

Sometimes, your child may not tell you that you embarrass them, however, if you are observant, you will see obvious cues from them like them walking ahead of you when you are in public or pulling away from the hug faster than normal. When you notice such behaviour, do not panic and don't take it personally.

If you are honest, you were once the same age and you probably behaved the same way. How you respond to your child can either break or strengthen your relationship.

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