Teaching Children Independence

When I was 8, I could be left home alone. I was trusted to walk to and from school safely on my own, and I could be sent to play at the neighbor’s house down the street alone without fear. We live in a different age and time, but even if we didn’t, I would never let my son do any of those things.

During a recent trip to a store that was especially difficult, we discussed the possibility of Ben being left home alone for a short period of time, but conceded that he was still too impulsive and would open the door to strangers or do something silly without thinking. I still can’t trust him to answer the phone correctly, or stay near us in the store, or watch for cars while crossing the street.

It was especially discouraging to talk to other mom’s who are dealing with similar issues and realize that my son might not ever be able to do some things independently. Then, as if to prove himself, my son tried to cook oatmeal in the microwave, and caught it on fire. He wasn’t paying attention, cooked it too long, and failed to watch it/smell it when it started to overcook. We are still trying to clean and air out the smell from our house.

I have always believed that my role as a parent was to teach my son independence so he could someday go away to school, have a life of his own, marry and raise children. I am now beginning to understand exactly what that might take. There are so many skills we are going to have to make a habit. He has ADHD as well, which makes him impulsive, forgetful and distracted and complicates the issue. I am not sure what it will take to teach him, but I am committed to ensuring that he grows up to be independent. Most of that will involve teaching him how to safely respond to people at the door, pay attention to his surroundings and be present during daily activities.

Until he learns these skills I will be by his side teaching and reminding. I know there are many techniques for teaching these social skills. I was delighted to find that there are many businesses that work hand-in-hand with those with disabilities to teach them work skills. I hope that he will be able to take advantage of such opportunities if necessary. My greatest hope is that he will find love and companionship in the form of a spouse.

We have successfully used things like written rules, progress charts, written reminders, social stories and developmental counseling. I would love to hear what others have tried and how they have worked. I need to teach him the value of money, and other techniques too. Fortunately he is still quite young and I have time to help him learn those necessary skills. We also have an excellent support group at church, school and within his Cub Scout troupe. Please comment on what techniques have worked for you, and I promise I will research them, and let you know how each works for us.

Photo: kainr/Flickr