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About Practical Parenting Strategies with Dr. Heller

Dr. Carey Heller is a licensed psychologist and founding partner with The Heller Psychology Group LLC, which is a small private practice located in Bethesda, Maryland near Montgomery Mall. He specializes in working with children, adolescents, and their families. Dr. Heller conducts play, individual, and family psychotherapy for a variety... Read more

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Increasing Independence in Teens

Ready for domestic work - teen girls with cleaning utensils

Ready for domestic work – teen girls with cleaning utensils

By the time the average person becomes a teenager, they should be able to be more independent, and hopefully desire greater independence, than they had as a child.

Instilling a desire for independence, reducing fears, and making sure your teen has the necessary tools that they need are essential for successful independence.

Instilling a Desire for Independence:

Some teens want independence and push boundaries to get it in some ways, such as wanting to go out with friends whenever they want, eat whatever they desire, and so forth. Even some of these teens struggle with the desire to be independent in household tasks such as doing their laundry, cleaning their room, making food, and so forth. Why is this? In some cases, if teens have parents who will do these things for them, why would they want to do it themselves? In other instances, they worry about doing things wrong (i.e., shrinking clothes) or have trouble following sequential steps or remembering to do items.

Figuring out what is stopping your teen from desiring independence is the first step to motivating them to be more independent.

Reducing Fears:

If you suddenly expected your teen to perform tasks by themselves after doing everything for them, that would likely invoke anxiety and avoidance in most people. Thus, gradually increasing the amount of independence/responsibility is important. For instance, with laundry, maybe first have your teen bring their laundry to the laundry room, then once they do that consistently, have them load the clothes in, and keep adding steps for them until they can do laundry independently. Similarly, with allowing teens to go places by themselves, start small with maybe letting them walk around the mall with a friend while you are in another part of the mall. The idea is to gradually increase responsibility and autonomy to reduce fears that lead to avoidance of autonomy.

Providing Tools for Success:

You need to teach teens what to do before expecting them to do things independently.  Making sure they remember what they need to do is also important. Thus, for household tasks, using a checklist on a whiteboard, on an app on their phone, and so forth can help them remember what they need to do.

For specific tasks, showing them what to do and practicing with them is important.

I hope that this article has been helpful in getting you thinking about how to increase your teen’s independence in a developmentally appropriate manner.

Copyright 2015 Carey A Heller, Psy.D./The Heller Psychology Group LLC

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*Disclaimer: The previous information is intended as general guidance based on my professional opinion, does not constitute an established professional relationship, and should not replace the recommendations of a psychologist or other licensed professional with whom you initiate or maintain a professional relationship*

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Carey Heller, Psy.D.

About Carey Heller, Psy.D.

Dr. Carey Heller is a licensed psychologist with The Heller Psychology Group LLC in Bethesda, Maryland. He works with children, adolescents, and young adults, providing psychological/psychoeducational evaluations and individual psychotherapy. Dr. Heller specializes in ADHD, executive functioning issues, and Autism Spectrum Disorder and is happy to answer questions and provide consultations for individuals who are considering pursuing treatment or an evaluation for their child, adolescent, or themselves. Dr. Heller can be reached directly at 301.385.2610 or For appointments, please call the office at (301) 385-2610 or email The Heller Psychology Group at with your contact information and availability for appointment times.


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