FAMILY // First Steps Towards Independence | Modern Mummy

Friday, 21 June 2019

FAMILY // First Steps Towards Independence



Watching your family grow and gain independence is both a rewarding and terrifying experience. You want your children to learn, think and act for themselves, making great decisions and experiencing all that life has to offer, but at the same time you’re terrified to let them make mistakes, get hurt and learn hard lessons from those bad times.

While childhood is fleeting it doesn’t mean you need to let go of the reins completely; a gradual move towards independence is the best way, one step at a time. In this article I've explored some ideas of how to instil independence in your child, while at the same time offering a safety net to catch them should they fall.

Set Clear Boundaries 
Your child wants to walk to the shops or school by themselves? It might not be an unreasonable request but you need to let them know what’s required of them in order to let that happen. These first steps are all built on trust, trust on both sides. You need to make sure you can trust them to follow the basic rules of road safety, not to talk to strangers and so on. If you feel your child is mature enough and ready, then let them.

If you think another six months would be preferable, then that’s fine too. Make your boundaries clear for each adventurous step they take. Yes they can walk to school but only with one or two friends and never on their own. Yes they can go to the shops for you but they need to cross at the pedestrian crossing and not chance the busy road.

Be Consistent 
Your child will grow in confidence when they know how you react, time and time again. Your yes and no is to be believed first time and no amount of wheedling will get you to change your mind. A confident, secure child will mimic your straightforward approach and allow you to trust them with an honest response when they ask to push boundaries a little further.

Use technology 
While childhood experts regularly warn parents about the danger of letting children have too much screen time, there are times when technology provides a level of safety that you just can’t get from anywhere else.

When, for example, your older child is meeting friends regularly you might want to buy a family phone tracker so you’ll be able to make sure your child is where they say are and be able to get to them quickly, should there be a problem. Not just for children, the phone tracker is also great for when you’re working late or travelling and want your family to know your progress.

For children given their own phones for the first time, you’ll be able to install smart apps that send you a notification every time your child hops online and attempts to open up a web page. You’ll be able to refuse access if you find the page inappropriate. By allowing supervised access, your child will relish the freedom of having a phone while also knowing they are being cared for by you.

Get Them Involved 
For children to feel they have a voice and that their voice is valid within their family, they need to be heard and involved. This might mean something simple like helping you plan the week’s meals. It might also mean discussing where to go on holiday or what they would do about a situation where you work.

It’s not enough though to just listen, to validate your child you will need to act on some of the decisions they make. Knowing you trust them to make the right call is a sure fire way of building independence and confidence into your child.

Actively Build Resilience
As tempting as it is to act as a helicopter parent, in the long term it does your child no good. They will have to learn how to deal with difficult people and difficult situations in life, so learning how to do that from a younger age is beneficial.

Of course, this learning curve must be age appropriate and you should always step in for something as serious as online bullying for example. But where possible try not to solve your child’s problems, instead have them suggest strategies to you and run through some role play situations.

If they can trust themselves to find solutions then they’ll draw on that skill as they grow older. It’s an investment well worth making at a young age.

Learn With Your Child 
While you are clearly the adult and you do make the rules, listening to new ideas and new ways of doing things is going to help both your relationship with your child but also encourage them to explore new ideas.

Yes, it might not work out but showing your child that it’s ok to try and fail is a valuable life lesson. Fear of failure very often leaves children and adults afraid to even try in the first place, so demonstrating that there is value in learning from failure is helpful. If their plans work out then you also have the benefit of having learnt and tried something new.

Watching your baby try out walking for the first time, exploring their environment and growing into a young adult, is an emotional rollercoaster. Without letting them try and fail, that resilience that has become a crucial part of life will be lost, so loose the reins a little and let them take their first steps towards independence.

You’re not letting go completely, this is a phased period of transition but letting them see you trust them will produce a confident young person who knows they always have you to fall back on should they hit any bumps along the way.

Take a deep breath and start saying yes as your baby grows towards adulthood and give them the chance to spread their wings and explore the world as confident, secure members of society.


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