How to Establish Independence From Your Parents

By Logan Bright Modified on February 08, 2020

Developing the skills and outlook you need to stride confidently into the world.

A student prepares a healthy meal for herself, feeling comfortable and at home in her own skin.

Becoming independent from your parents happens differently for everyone, and for most, it's a gradual process, resolving over time. It can be tough to leave the nest and fly away — but it's also an opportunity for exciting discovery and reinvention.

So if you're having trouble breaking away to become your own person, or you'd just like a little advice on making the transition easier, we're here for you. We've even included a bit of advice for parents at the end. They've got it tough, too: they have to watch their kids grow up and leave the family home.

For Students

Save up

Building a measure of financial freedom from your folks can be a challenge. Finding a job while you study, on campus or off, will help a lot, but only if you're scrupulous about saving. Experts recommend putting aside 10% of your paycheque right away: "pay yourself first." Drop that 10% into a savings account and let the interest grow. You should save even more on top of this for big expenses, such as moving out.

Move out

If you're off to school, you might be moving out of your parents' home by necessity. Sure, staying at home is a great way to save money on rent, but it's not so ideal for cutting the umbilical cord. Whether you live with a roommate or not, moving out of your parents' house will teach you a ton about paying bills, tidying up, even buying groceries. Just don't forget to call now and then!

If you can't or don't want to move out, be sure to insist on having your own space available. Virginia Woolf called it "a room of one's own," and there's nothing better for developing independence than a closed door between you and your folks.

Spend time alone

You may find this tough. In fact, solo time with your thoughts is some people's definition of a nightmare! Still, this sort of practice is important when you're developing your independence. Try to break any habits you may have of reflexively checking in with your parents before taking action. There's no shame in attending a party alone, going shopping, or even to a movie! Do things just for you. Trust yourself.

Build your emotional resilience

Really, this is what it's all about. You want to reach a place where you feel comfortable with your own decision making. Check in with yourself and your feelings regularly. Try to notice actions and consequences that affect your emotional state. The more aware — dare we say "mindful" — you are of the world and your place within it, the more independent you'll feel.

Develop your style

How you dress, speak, and carry yourself has a huge effect on your own sense of confidence, as well as others' feelings towards you. If your sense of style or self-expression — in clothing, makeup, art, music, or anything else — has been cramped by your folks, well, you're an adult now! Spread your wings and experiment 'til you find the right fit for you. (Don't worry: there's lots of advice out there on building a fashion sense from the ground up.)

Learn new skills

Maybe this is the first time you've had to learn to cook for yourself (save for the occasional take-out, of course). It may seem like a hassle — after all, there are suddenly constant dishes to wash — but it's an opportunity to engage your brain in its favourite activity: learning. Developing new skills, like cooking, a musical instrument, or a second language, is a fantastic way to develop your independence.

Yes, this all seems like a lot. After all, you've still got classes to attend! But remember that building independence is an ongoing, iterative process that is never truly complete. You've got a big learning curve right at the start, but as you settle into your new routine of school, work, and play, you'll find yourself becoming self-sufficient. It happens by degrees. Stick with it! Moving away from your parents, physically and emotionally, is a natural part of growing up. Embrace it. (But don't forget to call now and then!)

For Parents

Parents, you've got a role to play, too. Supporting your kids from a distance may feel wrong at first, like you've let them run with the wolves. Post-secondary education is about both personal and professional development, though, so you should permit — even insist on — a level of independence for your children: to learn, explore, make mistakes, and grow.

Independent kids are intrinsically motivated and find their own reasons to pursue success. They make better decisions if permitted to explore and experiment with lots of options, so try to hold the leash loosely. Be sure to listen, too! Collaboration is a better blueprint than control if you want your kids to stride out into the world, confident and independent.

Remind yourself that it's for the best — and in your own interest! Once the nest is empty, you'll have more room to spread your own wings.

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