How to Foster Independence in Your Teen

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How to Foster Independence in Your Teen

*My daughter received complimentary Invisalign® treatment due to my collaboration with the brand, but all opinions are my own.

You want to raise independent kids who can care for themselves when they leave the nest, so it’s important to encourage them to be more and more autonomous as each birthday passes. From responsibilities like caring for their teeth, chipping in around the house, preparing their own food and even controlling their own finances, there’s a lot they can – and should – do for themselves!


Dental Care

Your teen has been brushing and flossing their own teeth for years now, but teeth correction can introduce a whole new level of complexity to the process. I had metal braces as a teen and keeping my teeth clean was such a challenge; you worry about food sticking to the metal work while at lunch with friends and you dread the chore of cleaning in between the brackets and wires day and night. My daughter is being treated with Invisalign® clear aligners for crowding, a crossbite and an overbite, and her experience is the polar opposite of mine.

While removing the clear aligners prior to eating took some getting used to, she quickly established a routine. The clear aligners are easy to care for, and she knows to start a new set every Monday. I love this feature since it can make her Invisalign treatment up to 2X faster with the weekly aligner changes, which is at the discretion of the orthodontist. Plus, because she removes the clear aligners when she eats, there’s no self-consciousness while she’s eating. Besides chauffeuring her to appointments, she is in full control of her treatment, which I think has been a great learning experience for her.


Chipping in Around the House

My husband and I firmly believe that as soon as kids are old enough, they should contribute to the household chores. In the teen years, there’s no shortage of tasks kids can take on, from vacuuming to mowing the lawn. There are many different approaches to chores, from assigning regular jobs to rotating jobs, from allowance to no allowance. The most important thing is that the chores actually get done, so it may take a few tries to find the right rhythm for your family. The goal is to lighten your personal load, while also preparing them for the future. They’ll be better off in adult life if they already know how to scrub a tub or clean a car, right?


Preparing Food

“I’m hungry.” How many times a day do you hear that? While it’s our job as parents to provide filling, healthy meals for our kids, once they hit the teen years most kids are perfectly capable to prepare their own snacks and some meals. Make sure that the foods they like are easily accessible and that you take the time to demonstrate how to make certain staples. Then, begin to step away and let them do it on their own. Perhaps you cook dinners and they prepare their own breakfast and lunch for school, or they prepare all their own snacks. The goal should be that they can fend for themselves once they leave home, and the teen years are a perfect time to work toward that.


Financial Responsibility

 These days, your child is probably not with you a lot of the time, which means that they need to have some money to pay for things like food or cabs. This pocket change may come from you, from allowance or earnings from a part time job, but rather than have them walking around with a bunch of cash, it might be time to set them up with a debit card. There are so many lessons to be learned from using a debit card and these are lessons your teen will carry with them into their adult lives. Because using plastic can feel like “free money,” have a long talk with them about how debit cards work and the penalties they’ll face if they spend beyond their means. This is an excellent first step towards the financial independence they’ll eventually have.


They may be your “babies” but teens need to prepare for life on their own sometime! In addition, the more autonomous teens are the less parenting you’ll need to do. This independence will help them to grow while at the same time strengthening your relationship as they head toward adulthood.

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Trae Bodge is an accomplished lifestyle journalist and TV commentator who has specialized in smart shopping, personal finance, and retail for more than a decade. She has appeared on TV over 1,000 times; including Today Show, GMA3, NBC Nightly News, Inside Edition, and network affiliates nationwide. She has been named a Top Voice in Retail by LinkedIn, and her expert commentary has appeared in Forbes,, Kiplinger, Yahoo Finance, and numerous others.