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Report roundup: Parents acknowledge impeding their teens' path to independence

As children become teenagers, the role of parents shifts to helping them gain the knowledge and experience they will need for being independent adults. Our July Mott Poll report asked parents of teens 14-18 years old about their efforts to support their teens’ independence. Parents and media across the country have been discussing parents’ roles and responsibilities for helping their teens become more independent. Here’s a roundup of the conversation.

Parents as barriers

One quarter of parents in the Mott Poll cite themselves as the main barrier to their teen becoming more independent. This was highlighted in a New York Post article, A quarter of moms, dads raising teens say they are helicopter parents. Reporter Ebony Bowden noted that oftentimes, parents feel it’s easier to do things themselves rather than involve their teens. “Our poll suggests that parents aren’t letting go of the reins as often as they could be to help teens successfully make that transition,” said Mott Poll co-director Sarah Clark, MPH. “Parental over-involvement impedes teens from gaining experience and confidence to be independent in all aspects of their lives.”

Involving teens in the day-to-day

Among parents in the Mott Poll who acknowledge being a barrier to their teen’s independence, 7% said they just don’t think about how to give their teens more responsibility. This was featured in a HealthDay piece, ‘Failure to launch’: Poll finds many older teens still too reliant on parents. Reporter Dennis Thompson noted the importance of getting teens involved early on to better enable them to handle things in the future. “You have to more think about it as an investment of time preparing your kid to handle him or herself,” said Clark. “I need to go to the bank. You’re going to go with me, and we’re going to learn how to do a deposit. It won’t be the most fun field trip we have as a family this summer, but it’s necessary.”

Advice from a newly independent young adult

Parents gave the lowest ratings of their teens' abilities to handle basic tasks in the area of healthcare, with just 8% of parents in the Mott Poll saying their teen is able to make doctor’s appointments. Writer Helen Korneffel shared her recent experience with taking control of her healthcare in a Michigan Health Blog Post, Paving my road to health independence. “When I was diagnosed with arthritis at 11 years old…I was completely dependent on my parents to handle all of the important aspects of my care,” said Korneffel. As she grew, Korneffel gradually and hesitantly became more involved in her healthcare, with assistance from her parents. U-M Mott Chief of Adolescent Medicine Dr. Terrill Bravender notes that the transition to adulthood can be difficult, even for kids who don’t have a chronic illness. “If parents are too hands off, kids never learn how to self-regulate, and if parents are too hands on, kids are too sheltered,” said Bravender. Korneffel had to learn to take control of her health, and encourages parents and teens to work together in the transition process. “Although some parents try to justify control by saying their teen is just not ‘mature enough’, I believe that mindset could inhibit their kid’s ability to grow.”