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Teens becoming independent

Parents may think independence means their teen will completely separate from their parents and only listen to their peers. But in fact, teens are becoming independent while staying connected to family. It's true that peers have more influence on some issues than parents, like clothes or music, or even activities. But parents still have an influence on bigger issues like school, morals and values, and long-term goals. Teens are also developing their own values, and learning how to make decisions. 

Parents and teens need to work together to figure out a new relationship based on the teen's growing maturity. Rather than being disconnected, parents and teens are connected in different ways and relate to each other in new ways.

What parents can do

  • Don’t separate from your teen if they don’t want your help with something you used to talk about. Recognize they may not want your help with one thing but they probably want it with something else. Be open and accepting of new ways of connecting and communicating.
  • Discuss issues and ideas with your teen. Don't criticize their ideas that may be different from yours. Instead, say, “Tell me more about how you came to that conclusion” or “Tell me why that’s important to you.”
  • Model respect in your discussions with your teen. Modeling goes a long way toward encouraging respectful conversations and behaviors.
  • Help your teen identify his strengths and talents.
  • Ask your teen to take on more responsibilities at home, based on their strengths and talents. For example, a teen who is good at math can help their siblings with homework.
  • Consider relaxing the rules as your teen shows more responsibility. For example, a teen who is always home on time and checks in about where they are going and who they are with might be able to stay out later on weekends.

Related resources

The Teen Years ExplainedClea McNeely, PhD and Jayne Blanchard — This e-book can help both teens and adults to understand developmental changes and tips for how to apply this knowledge to your everyday life.

Jodi Dworkin, Extension specialist and professor in family social science

Reviewed in 2023

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