Consider what comes to mind when you hear the word “independence”. It may be something like separation, freedom, or the ability to do things on your own. For parents, this is a tough topic, as developmental stages look a bit different for each child, and we each have our own comfort level with letting go of the details of our kids’ lives. Some parents must maintain a high degree of involvement in their children’s life and activities because of the unique needs of their child. When medical considerations are added to the mix, it can be a major challenge to consider how much independence to give children, but especially related to the management of their health.
We may begin to think about independence as an agreed-upon amount of tasks and responsibilities a parent bestows on their child, for the purposes of building trust in their ability and building their confidence. It is important that we continue to evaluate the needs of our kids over time, to determine what they are able to do for themselves and what they really need our support to do.
Imagine a parent who does everything for a fully capable child throughout their life. Is the child learning to take care of themselves? No, probably not. With this in mind, we must commit to empowering our youth to step into an active role in their lives and health when they’re able, with encouraging and supportive guidance.
Allowing our kids to do things for themselves is a powerful act of demonstrating trust in their competence and increasing their self esteem. Considering their stress level, comprehension and other factors are important in evaluating their readiness for more independence. If you’re unsure, consult with your medical team for support in considering what is best for your child. There will be an understandable amount of stress for a parent transitioning away from tasks related to caring for their child, so please consider your own health needs as well, and seek your own support services to help with this transition.
Here is a sample conversation starter, to get you and your child talking about their independence: Hey Suzy, I just wanted to check in with you about your growing independence, because it’s important that you know you’re capable of doing things on your own. Here are a few things I’ve been doing for you for a long time now because you needed my help when we started: ____________________________________________________ (list 1-3 things) I’m wondering if you’re feeling comfortable working toward doing those things on your own? I’m here to support you as you learn about why this is important and how to take care of these things yourself.
Another important note here is that not all youth will take an active role in the management of their health, and that is okay. Parents who must take an active role in their child’s life may consider additional support for themselves so that they may access their own independence, outside their family responsibilities. Independence may exist even in small places within each person’s life, and that should still be celebrated and encouraged.
If you or your child would like more support around this topic, please join our monthly support group and reach out to a staff member for additional resources. We care about your health!