What Does it Take to Truly Prepare Your Children for Independence?

Training your child for independence requires you to let his hand go so he could walk unaided, allow him to make a mess so he learns to eat on his own, or let him take his time so he could dress himself up.

It’s a lot easier to just jump right in and help your kid as you’ve always done in the past, but your little one won’t be the independent adult you are preparing him to be if you are overly available to come to his rescue.

The key is provide sustained and intentional ways for your child to gradually do things on his own. Educator, leader, and advocate Lou Marxis Gallevo adds a very special layer to this definition that parents and teachers must take note. “You should allow your kids to see their lives in a social context,” so your kid’s definition of independence is not equated to living in isolation, but is more associated with knowing how to act and decide for himself in relation to the world around him.

Exactly what does it entail for you to teach and provide so your kids gain this kind of independence? Teacher Lou shares five concrete pointers:

What Does it Take to Truly Prepare Your Children for Independence?

An established role in the family

Your child is a member of your family, and he needs to understand this in order for him to understand that their presence and contributions, however small, are valuable. For example, asking your younger kid to tidy up after play or requesting him to take something from the other side of the room are age-appropriate tasks you can include in your routine.

For your pre-teens or teens who, according to Teacher Lou, “slowly understand and assert who they are, what they need, and what they want,” you need to provide tasks set in the context of the family.

An example of this is a time-critical task of preparing the ingredients for a meal. Should they put it off, the mealtime of the entire family gets delayed. This way, they will understand that their actions in the smallest unit of society matters, and that their decisions may greatly affect the people around them.

"The context of the situation of the family has a big impact on a child's development especially the psycho-social and emotional aspects. They need to know their roles or tasks in the family." Teacher Lou

Moreover, Teacher Lou reminds that your family history and structure are crucial elements for your child to build his own identity.

Opportunities to interact with others

Your home is the first place your kid is expected to develop desirable traits such as independence, but it’s also a must that you maximize opportunities for him to interact with people outside his comfort zone. This way, your kid, young or old, gets to experience disagreements and collaborations, and they get to see the life, views, and perspectives of other people. These will provide your kids bases for thinking and reflecting, which are crucial aspects in decision making.

According to Teacher Lou, allowing your kid to interact with others allows him “to expand his horizons and learn more about who they are and who they are with throughout their learning journey.”

Avenues to speak their mind

A child has a hundred stories to tell in a day, and it’s important that you listen and pay attention. This is because these stories will give you a glimpse of how your child sees himself in front of others, and how his relationships with others are going.

These will also provide the context for you to help him navigate with heartbreak, non-inclusion, rejection, or loss without imposing on him what you want to happen next.

“Let’s not dictate the way they live their lives. Let's give them opportunities to practice decision making. Let's give them the practice of independence by letting them choose who they want to work with, or what they're going to wear for a certain event, or if they want to attend the event at all.” Teacher Lou

Allowing your kids to speak their mind will also train them to be highly accountable to their words, decisions, and actions.

Exposure to social issues

As a social studies teacher, Teacher Lou makes it a point to expose older kids to social issues, so their concept of independence is not detached from reality.

He does this by developing their habit of reading the newspaper to stay informed and updated, and he encourages you to do the same. “We’re not just teaching them to take care of the things that will affect them. We also teach them to see the experience of other people not in their classroom – maybe the experience of people of different social economic strata, people who have different beliefs, culture, way of life, and people living in another country. In that sense we are teaching them empathy. We are teaching them how they are going to reflect on the current situation, and what they can do to help.” Teacher Lou When your younger kids ask questions about why you can’t buy something expensive, why there are wars and protests, or why people have certain jobs and professions, take it as an opportunity to engage them in a meaningful discussion appropriate to their level, and equip them with skills they need such as reading, researching, and fact checking early on.

This way, your kids – regardless of age – are exposed to weighing pros and cons, which will lead them to independent thinking.

Experiences to draw well-grounded decisions from

Your kids live in a world where there is, as Teacher Lou describes, “an interconnectedness of personal problems, social issues, and learning experiences.” This is why it’s important for him that you, as parents and teachers, “give your kids opportunities to see firsthand a life beyond their own.”

In time, kids who play with pretend kitchen sets will learn to prepare meals for himself and for his family, and with the right experiences, realize that hunger is not just a concept but a reality that need to be addressed.

“Children should be empowered through their experience in life. This world will not revolve around themselves. Let them have the power to experience life more than the corners of their privileges so that they could dream bigger, they could make innovations and steps towards a better tomorrow.” Teacher Lou

Ultimately, all the training you provide at home to prepare your kid for independence should empower him to exercise it not only for his own sake, but also for the welfare of the people around him – his family and community included.

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