Training Your Teen Not to Need You

Fern Weis, Parent Coach & Educator Credits: Fern Weis

It's a fact. As your kids grow up, you must grow up, too!

If you are the parent of teens, you can't treat them the way you did when they were eight. As they grow, you have to grow. What worked with a child won't be effective anymore. The sooner you accept that, the easier adolescence will be on all of you.

The first time I recognized that something had changed in a big way with my own parents, I was living at home after college. I told my parents where I would be for the weekend...and there were no questions. I was taken aback. Why wouldn't my parents want to know more? As they later told me, I'd been at college for four years (and overseas for one of those years). They had no way of knowing what I was up to, and had to trust that they had taught me everything I needed to know. I like to say that my parents grew up when I did.

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When they're little, your kids need you for just about everything. As they hit the teen years (or pre-teen years...yikes!) everything about them is busting out: bodies, attitudes, the works. It's a little like the terrible twos, only this time around, they are beginning serious training for life on their own. You are also in training to be the parent of a young adult. It's uncharted, often scary, territory for everyone.

The same way you let your three-year old begin to make choices about clothes, food, and TV programs, you now have an obligation to let your teen make some choices with more important outcomes, and to make some mistakes. Mistakes. Does that strike fear into your heart? I know how it feels. My children are in their 20s and I still worry.  But they cannot make choices for themselves based on my fears. And neither can you with your children.  They have to go through lots of trial and error if they're ever going to be ready to launch. You do want them to launch one day, don't you? It’s time to begin the process of stepping back and separating for it to happen.

Start with something small, where a mistake won't be a life-changer. If they do mess up, give them a chance to feel some discomfort and figure out how to make it right. (You may have to zip your lip and sit on your hands.) When you do, they build their problem-solving muscles, you let them know you believe they can handle it, and their self-esteem grows. Yes, we have come full circle, all the way back to self-esteem.

Ready, set, separate!

Fern Weis is a parent coach, specializing in supporting parents of teens and young adults who are going through difficult situations (including underachieving, disrespectful behavior, addiction recovery and more). With parent-centered coaching, Fern helps parents release guilt, end enabling, and confidently prepare their children to thrive through life’s challenges. Learn more about coaching and workshops at or

The opinions expressed herein are the writer's alone, and do not reflect the opinions of or anyone who works for is not responsible for the accuracy of any of the information supplied by the writer.

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