Encouraging Independence at Any Age

  • 01 of 07

    Helping Your Children Develop the Skills They Need

    As a single parent, you may feel that you'd like to "do it all" for your kids, but it isn't always possible. Instead of feeling guilty about this, consider focusing on the opportunity that exists for your children to develop a healthy sense of independence, as well as the essential skills they will need to succeed in life.

    After all, even babies need to develop some limited self-soothing skills. Whether you're parenting a newborn or a teenager, use the links below to find out...MORE what you can do to help your child develop a healthy sense of independence at any age.

    Infants | Toddlers | Preschoolers | School-age Children | Pre-teens | Teenagers

    Continue to 2 of 7 below.
  • 02 of 07

    Fostering Independence From the Beginning

    Infants | Toddlers | Preschoolers | School-age Children | Pre-teens | Teenagers
    By nature, your infant is wholly dependent on you. However, it is healthy to allow your child to develop some coping skills and independence. To do this, you can:
    • Provide lots of tummy time for your baby when she's awake.
    • When you're playing together, allow your baby to reach for toys that are just out of reach.
    • Put your child in his crib while he's still awake so he learns to fall asleep on his own.
    Continue to 3 of 7 below.
  • 03 of 07

    Fostering Independence in Toddlers

    Infants | Toddlers | Preschoolers | School-age Children | Pre-teens | Teenagers
    At this age, your child is fighting for a new-found independence. (Hence, you find yourself hearing the word "No" quite often.) To facilitate your child's growing independence, you can:
    • Allow your child to choose some meals and snacks.
    • Provide age-appropriate toys so that your child can learn to play by herself for short periods of time.
    • Allow your child to have a say in which clothes he will be wearing each...MORE day, even if this is limited to basic color selection.
    • Provide a step-stool so your toddler can reach the bathroom sink.
    Continue to 4 of 7 below.
  • 04 of 07

    Fostering Independence in Preschoolers

    Infants | Toddlers | Preschoolers | School-age Children | Pre-teens | Teenagers
    This is a great time to capitalize on your child's budding independence. To do this, you can:
    • Allow your child to pick out her own outfits and dress herself.
    • Follow your child's lead as to when you should begin potty-training. Learning to do it all on his own is a big step!
    • Be patient when your child changes into outfit-after-outfit. This is an expression of her independence.
    • Use the same clean-up routines that...MORE your child's preschool uses so that your child learns to be responsible for his toys. For example, there might be a special song that they sing during clean up.
    • Provide lots of learning opportunities throughout the day.
    • Teach your child how to introduce himself to new friends.
    Continue to 5 of 7 below.
  • 05 of 07

    Fostering Independence in School-age Children

    Infants | Toddlers | Preschoolers | School-age Children | Pre-teens | Teenagers
    At this stage, children are actually craving more responsibility and independence. You can use this to your advantage by:
    • Having your child participate in household chores, such as vacuuming, dusting, and washing dishes.
    • Teaching your child to make at least part of her own breakfast and lunch.
    • Teaching your child to use a watch and incorporate time in some directions you give. (Such as, "You can go next door, but I...MORE want you to be home by 4:30.")
    • Providing a responsibility chart so your child can keep track of the household chores he has completed.
    • Teaching your child to think independently about commercials and advertisements aimed at children.
    • Teaching your child to monitor his own TV time and video game time.
    Continue to 6 of 7 below.
  • 06 of 07

    Fostering Independence in Pre-Teens

    Infants | Toddlers | Preschoolers | School-age Children | Pre-teens | Teenagers
    This is a time when your child may experiment with wanting more independence than you are comfortable with. To develop this in a healthy way, you can:
    • Teach your child how to use an assignment pad to keep track of homework.
    • Allow your child to make some minor mistakes and learn from them.
    • Intentionally teach your child how to work through conflicts with her peers. Simply preparing your child with some practical...MORE conflict-resolution skills will help foster independence and confidence.
    • Teach your child to use an alarm clock, if he does not have one already.
    • Keep your computer in a central location so that you can easily supervise your child's use of the Internet.
    Continue to 7 of 7 below.
  • 07 of 07

    Fostering Independence in Teens

    Infants | Toddlers | Preschoolers | School-age Children | Pre-teens | Teenagers
    You may think your teen is too independent already, but take some time to think about what type of independence they have. How are they prepared for life ahead? To develop skills they'll need later, you can:
    • Teach them how to do their own laundry and care for their clothes.
    • Have them participate in making meals regularly.
    • Follow through with consequences consistently so that your teenager learns to accept...MORE responsibility for his own actions.
    • Teach your teens about Internet safety.
    • Talk openly and honestly about sex.
    • Model how to effectively resolve interpersonal conflicts.