The Right Amount of Freedom

Aug 18, 2015


Parenting teenagers is a constant search for balance.  How do we balance our child's need for freedom with our need to provide safety and protection.  As the  school year begins our teens may be driving for the first time or having a serious relationship for the first time or perhaps managing a part-time job along with school studies for the first time.  Maybe they want to go away for a weekend trip for the first time.  How do we evaluate our child's ability to handle freedom? 

Here are some things to think about:


  • Start small and build. Allow the privilege of driving to the neighborhood store and school before allowing your child to drive to that game in a distant city.
  • Ask questions.  Gather as much information as possible.  Make sure your teen can answer the questions who, what, where, when and why about any activity.  If you feel the answers are vague or you can't confirm answers with other parents, teachers etc this could be a red flag that it's time to say "No, for now.  But maybe later when you have more experience or I have more information, I can say yes."
  • Think about what is age appropriate. The hope is a 17-year-old will be handling a lot more freedom than a 14 year old.  The 17-year-old may not be living under your roof much longer and needs practice with handling increased freedom.
  • Be open and available  Listen first.  Avoid criticism.  Hear what your child is asking for and try to learn why.  If we respond with negativity our teens will stop sharing their questions and concerns with us. We risk losing connection and intimacy with our child. We can say no while giving hope that eventually our child will be able to handle more freedom.

Jean Vanier developed programs to support mentally and physically disabled folks all around the world, providing caring homes to help them develop to their full potential beginning in the 1960's.  Here is how he describes the process of providing support: 

He stretches out his hands as if holding a small bird. "What will happen if I open my hand fully?  The bird will flutter his wings, and it will fall and die. But what will happen if I closs my hand?  The bird will be crushed and die.  An intimate place is like my cupped hand, neither totally open nor totally closed.  It is the place where growth can take place."

 If you have concerns about your adolescent and would like to talk to someone, please contact us for a free phone consultation.





Darcia DeSalvo

Darcia is a Partner with Embark Counseling Get in touch with her at

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