Raising Happy Teens – Article 2

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Article 2: Moving Towards Independence
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Author : Marina Bakker 

Teenagers needing their own space and wanting more independence is one of the first changes many parents become aware of. Moving towards independence is also one of the most significant tasks your child will need to attend to during adolescence. This is also a vulnerable time for teenagers as they begin to experiment with different 
behaviours and stretch outside of the family comfort zone. Maintaining clear boundaries, providing care and support and positive interactions with others, will greatly assist your teen during this transition phase.

As your child begins to move towards independence they will begin to search for 
associations outside of their family unit. Ensuring your child has access to positive nonparent adult role models is an important component in supporting them as they gain their independence. Positive adult non-parent role models will provide your teenager with opportunities to gain connections and independence in a caring and safe way.

Positive adult non-parent role models can be relatives, neighbours, teachers, coaches and so on. They can assist your teen by extending the teachings of problem-solving and decision 
making skills, and they may also help them to explore certain life choices. Your child may also want to spend more time alone. Adolescents can “spend hours" day dreaming about their future life. They might be planning what they want to buy, where they want to go and what they want to achieve in life. Time alone also provides your child with opportunities to integrate physical, psychological and emotional changes that are occurring for them. It is also important to respect your child’s growing need for privacy.

As your teenager develops more independence and begins to search for their identity and place in the world, they may become more rebellious and begin to test their parent’s rules and limits. This is a time when you will have to rethink your methods of discipline. Time out will usually not work for teens, and they will not blindly accept all of your rules. While you still need to be firm and set limits over important issues, you can learn to allow them more freedom as they continue to search for their identity and more independence.

Some tips to effectively discipline your adolescent child include trying to avoid power 
struggles, offer choices as often as possible, learn to negotiate more over some of the more unimportant rules, decrease the number of rules, and be clear about what your expectations are. This includes making it clear what the consequences of not following certain rules will be. Always remember to be firm, consistent, calm and loving in whatever discipline methods you choose.

As a parent you can assist your 
child by making yourself available for communication, and by reassuring them that the changes they are experiencing are a normal part of adolescence.Developing a positive relationship with your child is the best approach you can take to support them as they begin to seek more independence.

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