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When to Leave Your Teen Alone

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Raising teenagers can be a terrifying experience. Often there are no easy answers, and every parent has a different struggle with their teen. However, every teen is going through the same changes. This is the time when they begin their transition into adulthood. They are striving to discover who they are, independently of their families, and who they want to be. As this happens, teens look for more space to work through the changes. They need to dissociate from their parents in order to do this.

While it is difficult for parents to leave their teen alone, it can sometimes be necessary. For a parent to watch their child struggle is one of the harder experiences they have to face but teens need to work things out for themselves. They have had their parents holding their hands throughout their childhood but eventually they need to learn to be their own person.

There are times when it isn’t appropriate to give a teenager space. Parents need to maintain boundaries for safe behaviors. Teens still need discipline, proof that their parents care and are looking out for them. Teens often have a sense of indestructibility that can lead to risky behaviors, especially with the internet as a tool.

Parents shouldn’t give their teenagers unlimited privacy and trust if they haven’t earned them. Parents need to base their decisions about boundaries on their teen’s current, and past, behavior. They need to know that their behaviors are affecting their parents and that if they’ve abused trust in the past, this is the reason they aren’t given privileges.

Teens need to make some decisions that have an impact on their lives. Parents should encourage their independence with summer or school-year jobs and make teenagers accountable for their performance. Teens can also benefit from being left alone with their own financial decisions. Parents can give advice but shouldn’t be overbearing about it. Instead, they should let teens come to their own conclusions. But this also means letting them deal with the consequences of their decisions, even if those consequences are negative. As part of the growing up experience, teens shouldn’t be shielded from their mistakes as this is necessary for their development and eventual independence.

When a teen asks for space, it should be granted when appropriate. As a maturing adolescent, their bond and relationship with their parents needs to mature as well. In that awkward, transitioning age, teens need boundaries and their own space. Parents find it difficult to walk this thin line and often find ourselves coming down too hard on one side or the other. Mistakes happen and parenting will never be perfect. It’s important for parents to try to remember that their emerging adult won’t always have them there and now is the time that they need a safe space with their parents close by in which to discover who they will be.