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Independence Day: Your Teen Should Read This Article (And You Should Too)

By Martha Michael

Independence Day

It can feel like taxation without representation for any 16-year-old (give or take a few years). You don’t wield any authority at home, yet you’re expected to do chores, get good grades, and keep your nose clean. For an adolescent, it’s common to dream of revolting and moving out to establish your own borders. However, independence doesn’t happen overnight, and there are reasons for that.

From everyday snafus involving lost cell phones and skateboard accidents, teens without adequate parental support face risks to their health and safety; so, for the time being, you need the adults in your life. After all, someone has to get you when you’re broken down at the side of the road.

The Symbiosis Between Parents and Teens

Although freedom from tyranny sounds like a good idea, there are benefits for adolescents who stay connected to their parents. It’s obvious that babies and young kids need care and supervision from adults for food, clothing, and other basics to help them navigate a relatively simple world. When you reach double digits, you begin to develop a desire for independence and the ability to handle it. However, there are limitations of the adolescent brain that make an interdependent relationship with supportive adults advantageous, according to an article in the Wall Street Journal.

Age 11-12 - As a pre-teen, you lose some skills, such as spatial learning and reasoning. Parents and teachers can fill in the gaps by coaching kids to improve their organizational skills and teaching them tricks for memory retention.

Age 13-14 - Social stress becomes powerful in the lives of young teens. As a result, sadness and anxiety can set in. Adults can help them by modeling balanced living and inspiring healthy patterns from meditation to exercise.

Age 15-16 - Risky behaviors tend to peak at this age because the adolescent brain has a heightened response to dopamine, a hormone that creates eelings of pleasure. The article cites a study published in Developmental Cognitive Neuroscience finding that 15-year-olds with a close-knit relationship with their parents engaged in lower rates of risk-taking.

Age 17-18 - Older teens see a rise in intellectual development, which leads to greater impulse control, even though the prefrontal cortex is not entirely mature. Adults can help them formulate rational decisions as their executive function improves and they grow in empathy and social skills.

How Teens Can Promote Their Independence

You need instruction to operate a vehicle and you can’t pay your own bills without a certain level of experience. There are many things in an adolescent’s life that require input from adults. A blog post on has advice for teens who want to become more independent, including a list of behaviors to reduce a parent’s temptation to control every aspect of their teenager’s life.

Communicate with your parents - Beginning to dialog with authority figures in your life is a first step toward building trust and asking for what you want. Most parents will be open to requests that aren’t dangerous, illegal, immoral, or unhealthy.

Responsibility with money - Young adults who learn to manage their money are more likely to succeed, so when adults in your life see you getting more financially stable, they can begin to let go. Open a bank account and develop a budget so your parents see you can handle your finances without immense input from them.

Education and career plans - When you research scholarships and formalize your trajectory for a stable career, your parents will feel they can release some of the pressure they place on you. Setting both short-term and long-term goals, including a calendar with deadlines, instills in them the faith that you are mature enough to control your destiny.

Get your own transportation - Whether you live in a city and take public transportation or save up for a car, finding your way to school, a job, and everywhere else will reduce your need for help from adults. You will both impress them and give them relief when you show you’re motivated to handle your own transportation needs.

Advice for Parents

It seems like yesterday you were swaddling him in a blanket and silencing her cries with milk, but now you’re just chef, chauffeur, and ATM. While parenting teens involves a continual practice of letting go, you can remain close to your child while giving your adolescent independence, says an article on

Friction between parents and teens is a necessary part of development as each adolescent chooses a future that often looks different from their background. Pre-teens can become irritated with the family rules and begin to take control of more aspects of their lives, including what they eat, when they sleep, and who they see.

It can help parents to accept the changing landscape by acknowledging some aspects of the process.

  • You will be disliked - Adolescents reject the adults in their lives to establish differentiation, which helps them stand on their own two feet one day
  • You will gain more independence - With the loss of hands-on parenting comes the space to explore passions of your own
  • It’s more effective to pick your battles - By discerning big issues from little ones, you can loosen your grip on areas you may have strong feelings about but are not critical

The University of Minnesota extension website has an article about what parents can do to help their teens develop autonomy:

  • Model respectful debate
  • Remain open to your teen’s ideas
  • Help them discover their strengths
  • Give increasing responsibilities to your teen
  • Begin relaxing rules such as curfews

Though the issues aren’t about tea or taxation, when there’s a teen in the house, a revolution is coming. By understanding it’s a natural part of the growth process, teens and their parents can develop a peaceful approach to making necessary adjustments along the way. The fireworks should be reserved for the celebration of independence, not the small stuff on the journey to freedom.

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