Can I go to the mall with some friends on Saturday?
What time do I have to be home after the game?
Do I still have to text you when I get where I’m going?
How old do I have to be to…(go on a date/ride in a car with a friend who just got her license/take a three-hour road trip with friends/etc, etc, etc)?
My husband and I have been asked some version of these questions – and many others! – over the last five years. In two weeks, our daughters will be 20 and 18. We are definitely still in the process of giving our girls their independence!
Today I’m sharing eleven things we’re learning as we go through this process. I’ll likely need to update it in another few years! And since I’m a girl mom, that’s my perspective here. But I think many of these apply to teenage sons as well.
1. Cover your daughter in prayer.
Let’s start with the absolute most important thing! Pray for your daughter. God has brought us to this point in our parenting. He is the one we can trust to walk with our children through whatever these teen and young adult years hold.
Our Heavenly Father, who loves our daughters even more than we do, is always with them, even when we are not. His Holy Spirit can work in their lives and guide them when we cannot. Let’s continually pray that they will be open to His leading. (Here are three prayers based on Scripture that we can pray as we’re learning to let go of our teenagers.)
2. Get wisdom.
Go to your Bible. Read passages about the wise and the foolish in Proverbs. Look for Scriptural principles that will help you make good decisions. Ask counsel from older moms you respect who have already walked through this season of life.
And while we pray for our daughters, let’s also pray for ourselves. Ask God to grant us wisdom to release them in a way that will honor Him and be good for our girls.
3. Give independence a little at a time.
It’s like learning to drive. You start out in a large, empty parking lot. Then it’s on to quiet, neighborhood streets, followed by slightly busier roads, a four-lane highway, and finally the interstate!
This applies to many areas from having cell phones to participating in certain activities to how often they can go out with friends. Don’t throw them in the deep end, so to speak. Slowly allow them to have more privileges…once you’ve dealt with number four.
4. Have some definite boundaries that don’t change.
These will vary based on your family and situation. But whatever you determine your boundaries are, communicate them clearly to your teenager. It could be a curfew, rules about driving, or places they’re not allowed to go alone.
Even though our children likely won’t understand, we can explain that we’ve set these boundaries for their own protection. Also share how you’re feeling about the letting go process and challenge them to build trust by following the guidelines you’ve set.
5. Base privileges on her level of responsibility.
In our married life, my husband and I have owned one dog. We had her until right before our now 17-year-old daughter was born. Since then, for various reasons, we’ve never had a pet.
However, when our college freshman daughter came home because of the pandemic back in March, she bought a fish. (That counts as a pet, right??) Now she’s preparing to come home between semesters and wants to bring the hamster she and her roommate currently have. Because she regularly took care of that fish (meaning I never smelled anything weird in her room, which is my litmus test), we don’t have a problem with that.
That’s a minor example, but you get the point. As our daughters prove themselves able to handle a little independence, we give them more.
6. Let her make some decisions on her own.
How late can she stay up at night? Can she sleep in on Saturday and skip that extra sports practice? At some point, she has to work out in her mind if she would rather get that extra sleep or deal with the consequence of not getting to start in the game because she missed practice. I’m good at trying to impose what I think she should do, but at a certain age, she needs to own her decisions.
You can feel pretty good about yourself as a parent when they make what you deem is the right decision. However, you’ll remain humble because…
7. Know that she’ll likely mess up a time or two.
You’ve given her a curfew and she’s late. You told her to text you when she was leaving her friend’s house, and she forgot. We’re not perfect and neither are they. I heard someone say recently, “As parents, we’re just sinners raising sinners.” It’s okay to give grace occasionally, but…
8. Allow natural consequences to happen.
If her poor decision has repercussions, don’t rescue her from them. I think the lesson is most effective if it’s a natural consequence, but that doesn’t always happen. If you’ve agreed that a certain restriction will be enforced for a particular action, follow through.
9. Maintain some oversight until she’s proven she can handle her independence.
Our children build trust by being responsible. One easy example is cell phones. While we haven’t managed them perfectly, we tried to guide our girls by maintaining the ability to check their texts or monitor their Instagram account, especially as they were starting out. As they handled those things well, we felt there was less of a need to oversee it. However, that would change if they were misusing their phones.
10. Have frequent conversations about how her decisions now can impact her future.
Teenagers tend to live in the moment, so it’s up to us as the adults to help them think long-term. Now she’s likely not going to be excited about these conversations, but bring them up anyway – especially when she’s a captive audience, like when you’re in the car together or eating out at a restaurant.
11. Be excited with her as she experiences new milestones.
The first time each of our daughters drove off in the car by herself, I was a nervous wreck! I prayed from the time they left the driveway until they got back home!! Yet they were each thrilled with the independence that came from driving, so I made sure to be excited with them.
Offer your love, support, and encouragement. After all, this is what we’ve been working toward all these years. What a blessing to see our daughters growing up, learning to be independent, and stepping into all that God has for their future!