Growing up is really all about becoming a responsible individual. Making the right decisions for oneself and being thoughtful about the consequences of actions are the hallmarks of being an adult. While raising kids in their preteen years, lots of parents struggle to find a balance between fostering their child's independence and being their primary caregiver.
Establishing a habit of responsible decision making before they reach their teenage years can be hugely beneficial and there are lots of ways parents can begin to introduce the concept of independence in their children.
While allowance is a household norm for many families before a child reaches the age of 10, it is in their preteen years that a child will begin to realize the importance of money and purchasing power. Womensforum had a chance to speak with Northwestern Medicine's pediatrician Anjali Rao, who explained to us the importance of building an understanding about finances.
"Whether they are asking for their own Xbox or asking why we don't have more family devices, they need to understand that these things cost money and if its something that you want, it's something that you can start to buy into."
"Whether they are asking for their own Xbox or asking why we don't have more family devices, they need to understand that these things cost money and if its something that you want, it's something that you can start to buy into." - Dr. Anjali Rao
One of the areas that is often overlooked when it comes to responsible decision making is food choice. Around the age of 11 and 12, kids are able to prepare their own meals or decide what they want to eat while out with friends. Dr. Rao explained to us how parents' knowledge of what is going into their food can help inform the choices their child makes.
"You think you're having a granola bar and yogurt as a healthy snack when you're actually getting a ton of sugar calories from a ton of the commercially available products. You should start teaching them label-reading, you should teach them daily requirements for food groups early," Dr. Rao said.
Making the right decisions on an individual level builds a personal trust that Dr. Rao explained is important for activities outside of the home or school. After-school clubs and activities can be a great way to reemphasize these values.
"Individual activities can help teach them skills and also how they're organizing their time and how to prioritize so they can know how long something is going to take them. They'll learn those executive and functional skills on their own without their parents telling them."
The preteen years are a parent's best opportunity to push their children towards independence, as they'll soon feel a need to break out on their own. When that time comes, it is a parent's job to ensure they're equipped with the right skills to best navigate their inevitable rebellious years.