I is for Independence

By Janice Biehn, Editor of ParentsCanada on October 09, 2013

My husband and I often joke that now that our children are in high school and not needing to be ferried all over the city, that we’re “done with them”. But every parent of a teenager knows that while they may be more independent, they still need you for a whole new host of things.

I struggle with striking a balance between encouraging them to be independent (do your own laundry, run your own errands, make your own lunch) and not wanting to be unhelpful. After all, if I want them to do ME a favour, I should do them favours sometimes too, right?

The truth is, they need our help more than ever. Studies show that the adolescent brain isn’t finished developing until about age 25. Twenty-five!! (Coincidentally the age when I got married. Not sure what that says).

I fret that I no longer have the luxury of time to fix the parenting mistakes I might have made when they were little. That window of opportunity is almost shut! The closer they get to adulthood, the more likely it seems that they will keep some the bad habits that I enabled or didn’t properly curb.

But then, I console myself with faith and trust. I recently had occasion to observe two families with preschool-aged children for a few days. I couldn’t help notice that one child received more affection from his parents than the other. I noticed the one wasn’t getting the love because he was wrapped around his parent’s legs, and that parent wasn’t hugging him back. This child looked clingy, longing for a hug, while the other child got his hug and bounced off. That child was already well on his way to having an independent spirit.

Now, who knows, that parent might have been tired or cranky. Who knows what was going on in her mind at the one particular moment, so I’m not going to draw a major conclusion here. But it made me think: Love your kids. Show them you love them. It won’t make them clingy and needy, but in fact will have the opposite effect and set them on a path of independence.

And I’m pretty sure I did that when my kids were little. They still like to give and receive hugs and affection – now it’s so they can show me that they’re taller than me!


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