Helping teens stay balanced

Supporting young people in their need for autonomy

Helping teens stay balanced

Supporting young people in their need for autonomy

Approved by Stéphanie Deslauriers, psychoeducator

In the teenage years, a young person needs to feel competent, proud of themselves and free … in short, independent! This need for freedom comes at a time when the brain is most able to assimilate new information thanks to the creation of a multitude of new neuronal connections.

This special capability that teens have allows them to test new ways of living and find their limits as they build their future adult selves.


That said, how can you help your teen develop their autonomy? Read on and discover all our tips!

Developing confidence

Teenagers are in a period of transition and significant physical, mental and hormonal change. They are on a great quest for their identity, during which they still need you for many things, but are also taking on more responsibilities and can accomplish an increasing number of tasks.

For example, they can:

  • Better manage their sleep routine
  • Manage their hygiene routine
  • Make their lunch
  • Cook a simple meal
  • Have a student job
  • Manage a budget
  • Get involved in household chores
  • Do simple errands at the corner store or supermarket
  • Manage their study time
  • Etc.
Your child may not have reached this level of autonomy. Why?

Your child may not have reached this level of autonomy. Why?

Maybe you’ve done a lot for them in the past? In doing so, you may have sent them the message that they’re not able to do things for themselves. Also, they may not have had the opportunity to develop their skills through practice.


These days, parents tend to do a lot for their children. The term for this is helicopter parenting. Even though we want to help and protect them as much as possible, we leave them less room to experiment, make mistakes and learn from these mistakes, which can hinder the development of their autonomy.


Trusting your child and letting them try things can go a long way in helping them become independent. To do this, you can encourage them to take initiative and help them accomplish tasks by themselves. These little actions will help them better assess risks.

Some tips for developing your teen's esteem

Helping your teen manage risk-taking

During adolescence, a teen may poorly assess the risks involved in their actions because they have the mistaken belief that nothing can happen to them. It’s a type of magical thinking that can drive some teenagers to engage in risky behaviours such as abusing alcohol, using psychoactive substances and engaging in unprotected sex. A teen with helicopter parents is more likely to put themselves in risky situations by pushing the limits that they had not had a chance to explore before in a supervised setting.


To help them manage these rsks, never underestimate the power of communication! By taking on the role of parental mentor and being open to discussion, you’ll find that your child will be more comfortable talking to you about difficult subjects such as sexuality, platonic and romantic relationships, drugs, alcohol, etc. By being informed of the repercussions of these behaviours on their life or health through a non-judgmental discussion, your child will be less inclined to engage in them.

Does more autonomy mean no limits?

No! Even though risk-taking is normal for teens in their quest for autonomy, setting clear rules of conduct is essential to ensure that your child doesn’t engage in excessive behaviours. In fact, a teenager is more likely to take risks when there are no ground rules at home. Working with your teen to establish a framework for their lives can help them make the right decisions.

More tips on parent-teen communication and rules of conduct
Encouraging your child to take initiative

Encouraging your child to take initiative

Taking initiative doesn’t come naturally to young people: it’s something they learn from significant people in their lives, such as parents, grandparents and teachers.

Here are a few tips that can help you encourage your teen to take initiative:

  • Congratulate them or thank them sincerely
  • Avoid sarcastic comments such as “it wasn’t so hard to empty the dishwasher, right?”
  • Give up control and refrain from redoing a job that wasn’t done the way you would do it
  • Guide your child so that they understand the consequences of their actions by:
    • Having them take responsibility by letting them deal with the consequences of their choices
    • Having them make up for their mistakes
  • Have realistic expectations of your teen, based on their personality, needs, strengths and limitations
  • Positive reinforcement and encouragement when they take initiative

Watch our video on teen independance


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