Easing teens gradually towards independence


Making the change from supported living to independent living is a huge moment in a teenager’s life.
The way teenagers experience this varies from planned and positive (e.g. leaving home into a hall of residence) to sudden and confusing (e.g. unwelcome at home and sleeping in a boarding house).
However, whether any teenager is able to do this successfully boils down to two factors: resources and resilience. Both are essential.
Teenagers without resources are often forced into compromised situations where their chances of success are diminished, while teens without resilience struggle with the many challenges of living independently.
For parents and caregivers — starting early and helping your teenager develop resilience and build resources before they actually leave home can go a long way towards ensuring their success:
Without money for set-up costs, rent and expenses, independent living is basically impossible.
Most private landlords require a large bond payment, an advance rent payment, or both, and lots of private rentals are unfurnished — so money for upfront costs is often vital.
Ongoing income is obviously needed for rent and the living expenses that teenagers often underestimate. Income for young renters is typically a combination of parental support, part-time employment and government accommodation supplements.
Finding these resources can be really tough for lower-income families. Those who manage it sometimes start preparing well in advance by doing things such as holding on to older household items, pooling resources, asking family and friends for small contributions (e.g. flatting items instead of birthday presents), supporting their kids to gain work experience and part-time jobs, and helping them apply for photo ID.
Resilience is essential in overcoming the challenges of living independently. The concept of resilience is unique to each person, and while many of the factors that affect resilience require major work (e.g. deprivation, violence, mental illness), all parents and caregivers can help their teens build resilience ahead of time with gradual, supported exposure to the challenges of living independently.
This might involve teaching teenagers to cook basic meals (including shopping for ingredients), giving them responsibility for their food budget, providing opportunities to sleep away from home (sleepovers with friends, camps, sports tournaments) and encouraging them to make their own appointments (doctors etc.). The key is not to do these things for your teenager, but to work alongside them — gradually giving them more and more independence as they progress.