granting autonomy

Tweens begin to seek autonomy by late elementary, and the process of branching out on their own continues through high school and into college. It can be a difficult transition for teens and parents as they adjust to their changing social expectations. By middle school (if not before), teens are likely to want to pick out their own clothes, make decisions about their time and hang out with their friends without parental supervision. By high school, teens are asking to have a later curfew, drive, go on a date, and make even more important decisions about their time and energy.

Parents are left with the challenge of deciding when it is appropriate for their teen to participate in these activities, and navigating all this grey area can be an ongoing challenge. Since this is new territory for everybody that is involved, it's important that parents and teens communicate with each other to fully understand each other’s position. This means it's just as beneficial for parents to listen to the requests of their teen as it is for teens to listen to the concerns of their parents. Granting increasing independence is easier when each party is using their strong communication skills.

One resource we've found is ABCD Parenting, a Parenting Research Centre Program, that offers a guide titled “Granting autonomy” that provides guidance for parents who are exploring new boundaries with their teens. ABCD offers suggestions as to when the average age to participate in certain activities is as well as provides a plan to approaching and communicating with your teen during the transition. 

*Remember that every child is different! Your parenting decisions are based on your own experiences, your child's maturity, the community you live in and the expectations you set in your own household. Use this as a guide, not a rulebook*

A fun way for parents and teens to ease into greater independence is by participating in local events! Here are some suggestions for giving your teen more independence here in Austin. At these events, your teen will be in a positive, safe environment surrounded by other teens with similar interests! And you can always let them sit a few rows ahead of you if they're not quite ready to go it alone.