Ready or Not?

Teen volunteers cleaning streets

Although it's difficult to imagine, in a few years your teen will enter the adult world. The question is: Will he be ready?

Child development and family relations specialist Marian Fritzemeier gives parents a glimpse of the independence timetable. "At about 9 years of age, a child should make half of his own decisions. Between the ages of 14 and 15, he should make 75 percent. By the time he is a young adult, he should be 100 percent independent.

For parents concerned that their teen will make poor choices, Fritzemeier presents this perspective: "Ask yourself if you'd rather help your teen learn decision making while under your supervision, or by trial and error with little guidance from you away from home? Equipping your teen to live independently as a godly young person is a gift that invests in our country's future."

"Be prepared" need not be a motto limited to scouts. Below are activities to help your teen practice independence.

Home life

Allow your teen to be in charge of his laundry and cooking a family meal once a week. Instruct him in chores from changing lightbulbs to cleaning gutters.

Financial independence

Write a grocery list and send your teen to the store with a set amount of cash. (Tell him he is allowed to keep whatever is left over.) Show him how to manage a personal checking account. If he isn't working, deposit money for him to purchase clothing, toiletries and other necessities.


Have your teen practice filling out forms, such as apartment, college, employment and auto loan applications. Help him create a resume on the computer. Job skills can include: baby-sitting, teaching (computer skills to older adults, music lessons to children), walking or caring for pets, tutoring, setting up and manning garage sales, party planning and entertaining for children's birthdays, cleaning (car washing and detailing or housecleaning), caring for lawns and gardens, painting walls, cooking and delivering meals to neighbors.


Allow your teen to volunteer at an animal shelter, a church fund-raiser or a political candidate's office. Challenge him to participate in a run to raise money for a medical cause or pregnancy resource center.

Drive time

 Drop off your teen and a friend at the mall or downtown area with a cell phone and a bus schedule. For driving teens, provide a map and mark where you've left a surprise gift for him to find.

Decision making

 Ask your teen to pick the family vacation spot based on a set budget, considering the various interests of each household member. Let your teen research household purchases, like computers and cell phone plans. Negotiate curfews based on specific events and obligations.

Role models

Host a "survivor" party by inviting college students and young adults from church who are willing to share their faith-survival skills about living on their own.

Spiritual development

Consider sending your teen on a short-term missions trip, or suggest he teach children's Sunday school class.

To grow together spiritually, you could go through the same devotional book, meeting weekly at a coffeehouse to discuss the material.

This article first appeared in Focus On Your Child Teen Phases, October/November 2004. If you enjoyed this article, read more like it in Focus on the Family's marriage and parenting magazine. Get it delivered to your home by subscribing to it for a gift of any amount.

Copyright © 2004 by Lynne Thompson. Used by permission.

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