It’s common for young people and their parents to disagree about independence. Young people often seek out new and sometimes risky experiences.

Youth Mental Health Ireland Independence CollegeThey often prefer the company of peers and might do their best to avoid adults, especially parents. You may expect this as a parent, but even so it can be a tricky time.


How much independence to give your child and at what stage is a very normal concern for parents.

When there’s a mismatch between what each of you expect, there’s often conflict. Telling your son/daughter what to do may not work in the same way it did when they were younger.

Normal teenage behaviour?

Equally, it can be difficult to spot the signs that something’s wrong, as it can be hard to tell the difference between expected teenage behaviour and signs of distress.

Supporting your child on the road to independence

Striking a balance between your son or daughter’s needs and your concerns is often a matter of maintaining a positive relationship with them, at the same time helping to keep a healthy family environment.

Your son/daughter requires freedom to explore new experiences and to make some mistakes, which will help them learn life’s lessons. Let them know they can talk to you and you’ll stay calm and listen without judging.

Nurture responsibility

Overly protective or controlling parenting styles can result in young people not learning responsibility.

However, if they’re given some freedom within clearly defined boundaries it provides a chance for them to develop their own understanding of consequences.

It’s important to:

  • provide them with appropriate opportunities to make choices
  • allow them to experience the consequences of their decisions.


Communicate boundaries clearly as this will help your son/daughter understand limits and what to expect. If you’re too strict, they may not have enough room to try new things and may rebel against what they see as unfair restrictions.

Include them in decision-making around boundaries and consequences for breaking them. This will help them understand, building responsibility and take responsibility for their actions.

Following through on consequences is important at any age.

Respect their feelings and opinions

Remember you’re probably your son or daughter’s main source of emotional guidance and stability, even if they’re older. Listen to their concerns and experiences. Take their opinion seriously, even if it’s in conflict with your own.

Make sure to thank them for their honesty and openness and praise them when they seek support.

Let them live their own life

Parents can guide and support their children but do not make life plans for them. This can be difficult if you’re used to planning your son or daughter’s day-to-day activities.

Trust that your years of guidance and instilled values will help them navigate their decisions. Try to advise without being pushy.

Allowing them to exercise independence can help with:

  • learning new skills
  • taking positive risks
  • learning from mistakes
  • becoming resilient.

Look after yourself

It can be difficult as a parent to adjust to your child’s growing independence. Mind your own mental health and wellbeing throughout this process.

Make sure to draw on your own support networks of friends and family so you don’t feel alone in trying to muddle though these years.

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