Older teenagers can be a significant source of stress in many parents' lives. Some of this stress is warranted but a majority of this distress is self-imposed. Valid stress is when your child is behaving in ways that put him in danger or in harm's way. Realistic concern for your child in this situation is justified and appropriate action on your part is needed. But, much of our stress as parents comes from our own doubt. Doubt that our children are able to be responsible for themselves and what they need to take care of on a daily basis when in fact data exists that says that they are responsible. Acknowledging your older child's ability to make good decisions, follow through with tasks, and manage their time grows your confidence in them as well as their confidence in themselves.
When is it time to put doubt aside and believe in your older child? Unfortunately, there is no perfect time. Confidence in them is an evolutionary process that grows with evidence that they are ready to be independent. Their growth is not likely to be a linear path, so be careful not to let a minor setback deter you from believing in them. Loosen the leash and keep track of the results. The only way to know to what extent they are responsible is to see the data first hand.
Tips to let you know that your older children are ready to be independent:
1. You see them taking care of chores before they are asked.
2. You hear them declining an invitation because of work they need to take care of.
3. You see them toiling away on their school work without any prompting on your part.
4. They tell you what they have accomplished and it is well before the deadline.
5. They openly tell you their plans and answer your questions.
6. They don't minimize or hide what is on the computer screen when you walk in the room.
7. They appropriately ask for help when they need it.
8. You see no evidence of inappropriate intoxication.
9. They answer their phone when you call or respond to your texts or emails.
10. You hear or are told first hand of instances of good judgment such as leaving a potentially troublesome party or driving a drunken friend home.
11. Others tell you positive things about them and you hear praise for their kindness or accomplishments.
The above tips are not an exhaustive list but give a clear idea of what you can look for in growing your confidence in your child. Remember, no one is perfect nor is your child. Look at the big picture and let your older child show you how mature they have become. Confidence, on both parts, grows as a result of encouraging your child to take action independently and to be there to offer guidance, encouragement, help, or a comfortable place to sort through options, problem-solve, and plan.