Independence is an important life skill to learn, and it’s never too early to start. It is essentially the gateway to confidence and when combined, these two self-supported traits will set her up for success in any endeavor she tackles. You as a parent will be able to sit back and enjoy watching her grow and thrive. Learning how to build independence in your stepdaughter can be challenging but fun at the same time.
There are many age-appropriate ways to help your step-daughter gain independence at every stage in life. We’re going to break it down and give you great ideas to get your step-daughter where she needs to be: a strong independent woman!
Be sure to discuss these ideas with your partner so they can talk to the co-parent. It’s always best to be open about what you’re trying to accomplish and why. Things can get misconstrued through the grapevine, and that doesn’t help anyone so communication is very important in this process.
With that being said, here is how to build independence in your stepdaughter.
For The Littles
For younger children, building independence happens in small increments, so let’s get started with a few ideas you can try. Remember, you’re building a foundation from the bottom up, and it begins when they’re little!
1. Cook Side By Side With Her
As soon as your step-daughter is old enough to walk, she’s old enough to help out in the kitchen.
By giving her smaller tasks like putting ingredients in a bowl, she’ll grow confident in her abilities and be eager to take over specific tasks as she gets older. Years will pass in the blink of an eye, and she’ll be asking to make brownies for the whole family!
2. Allow Her To Learn Self-Play
Allowing her the time and space to explore her environment in a self-guided manner will not only make your life easier but will also enable her to become more self-reliant when it comes to entertainment.
She’ll begin using her imagination and build the foundation for a life filled with wonder, and she’ll learn how to stave off boredom as she grows.
3. Put Her In Charge Of The Pet’s Water Bowl
What seems like a chore to you and me brings satisfaction and a sense of accomplishment to young children.
Pride is an excellent motivator for independence, so be sure to make a big deal out of the trust you’re placing in your step-daughter by allowing her to do some important, must-be-done jobs like making sure the pets have water. You’ll need to help her the first few times especially if she is spilling everywhere but soon, she’ll have it done before you even ask!
4. Help Her Learn Patience
Patience is the key to independence.
Once she learns how to be patient with herself and others, she’ll have a much easier time completing tasks. Frustration can quickly derail independence so understanding the concept of patience is important.
You’ll also need to keep yourself in check if she struggles and allow her time to work things out on her own. Bolster her as she learns and let her know it’s okay to fail as long as she keeps trying. Once she grows up, she’ll be giving herself pep talks and tackle new tasks on her own without requiring anyone’s help.
5. Let Her Pick Out The Day’s Outfit
Allowing your step-daughter to have control over her wardrobe is a huge step towards building independence. It will also make her very proud of herself each time she looks down at her outfit.
If she tends to go a bit wild with her look, and it’s not working out, try laying out a few options for her. Within a few years, she’ll take over the task of dressing herself completely.
For The Grade Schoolers
Once your step-daughter starts grade school, she’s ready for more age-appropriate chores and other activities that build autonomy. Learning how to build independence in your stepdaughter at this age will be easier than ever before.
Gauge where she is on the independent spectrum and be sure to build her confidence up if she needs the boost.
6. Let Her Clean Her Room
This can be a hard one, as rooms get messy quickly and take time to clean up.
By expecting her to do it herself, not only will she learn valuable time management skills, but she’ll also start keeping her room cleaner so she doesn’t have a huge mess to deal with later.
If you set these expectations now, it can make things easier down the road.
Don’t forget; independence is a two-way street. Your step-daughter must learn to do it for herself, and you must allow it to happen, even if it results in several reminders. It won’t always be perfect either so gently guide her if she needs it.
7. Ask Her To Pack Her Lunch
By the time she hits third grade, she can pack her own lunch.
Make sure she knows the right foods to take and that are healthy choices. Help her find the rhythm that works best for her, whether that’s doing it the night before or on the way out the door in the morning.
Different children do best under different circumstances, and nothing is one size fits all!
8. Help Her Find A Love Of Reading
If you already have a little bookworm, great! If not, give some good thought as to what she’s interested in and find some books that will hold her attention.
Reading is phenomenal for so many reasons, but when it comes to being self-dependent, she’ll gain a thirst for knowledge that will bolster her abilities to research questions and find answers on her own.
It will also help her with skills she can use at school and her educational journey that will turn her into an exceptional student.
9. Get Her Into A Sport Or Hobby
Offer suggestions you think she might like, but leave the ultimate choice up to her.
Playing a sport with a team or individually is a great way to get her out of the house and moving around while fostering a lifelong love of working out. If she isn’t the type, see if she’d like to learn a new hobby.
Both a sport and a hobby require intense concentration and skills that will build a foundation in her which sets her up for success later on. All of these ideas will also foster her determination to triumph!
For The Middle Schoolers
Ah, the middle school years. This is when hormones take over, and suddenly you’re dealing with a whole new human being that thinks they know everything.
It’s a careful balance between building independence while still setting boundaries that last for years. If you’re new to the scene, this is the time to be subtle or fun with your approach.
10. Let Her Plan a Birthday Party For Your Partner
By giving her control over different aspects of the party, you’ll show her that you trust her and think she is capable. Many children look at themselves through the lens of others, and it can be a huge confidence boost that’s desperately needed during these trying years.
If it’s overwhelming her, help out and offer suggestions. When it comes to the gift, take her to a store of her choice and hand her the money. At this age, it can be terrifying for kids to walk up to a cashier as they’re worried they’ll mess up. Assure her she’ll be fine and that you know she can do it.
11. Hand Her An Alarm Clock And Ask Her To Set It
This one might sound crazy, but we all know alarm clocks can be finicky.
By having her do this on her own, you’ll show her that she’s capable of accomplishing things she might never have considered. Make it a fun challenge and take her out to her favorite place to eat once she’s done.
12. Don’t Bring Stuff She Forgot Up To The School (Unless It Is Important)
It can be easy to jump up and help, but part of independence is making mistakes and learning from them.
If you’re always coming to her rescue, especially as the new parent on the block, she won’t need to learn to rely on herself. This is definitely a time you’ll want to inform your partner why you’re doing this.
It can seem mean at first, but it’s imperative for her overall success in school. It has nothing to do with the “step” part and everything to do with the “daughter” part. If she does need something of importance, then obviously coming to her aid is the right thing to do.
13. Encourage Her To Sign Up For Clubs And After-School Activities
Being involved in activities outside of the home is a significant step towards independence.
One day, she’ll get a job, and she’ll need to be reliable. School clubs and activities come with responsibilities to her peers. Showing up, committing, and following through, are imperative aspects of autonomy.
14. Ask Her If She’s Interested In Volunteering
This idea follows along the same vein as school activities.
Have her research different volunteer opportunities in your local area. You can both volunteer together, but she’ll still work towards being self-reliant when it comes to getting things done.
For The High Schoolers
When trying to build independence in your stepdaughter at the high school level, you will need to understand that by this point, ages 14 and up, she should already have a good grasp on being independent in most things.
If she doesn’t, you’re probably working with a lack of self-confidence or anxiety. You’ll need to change tactics a bit and start building up her self-esteem, so we’re going to focus on that for the last few.
15. Let Her Walk The Dog
It can be hard to allow a child to walk out the door and peruse the neighborhood, but by the time she is in high school, this would be an age-appropriate activity for those that live near sidewalks.
Start by inviting her on evening walks if she isn’t going already and let her hold the leash. Within a month, you can start letting her go on her own.
You’ll feel confident that she’s familiar with the neighborhood and won’t get lost. Letting her explore the surrounding area on her own with a canine companion is a great way to build the self-reliance she’ll need later on and can mitigate anxiety and stress in her teen years.
She should of course have a phone on her in the case of an emergency happening and she needs to get ahold of you or first responders.
16. Focus On The Work She Puts In
Instead of praising the result of a project, make it clear you’re proud of how much work she put into making something happen.
Compliment her determination and celebrate her failures as lessons learned. Set her up for success by making sure she has a way to get what she needs with minimal assistance from you.
17. Reassure Her Often
A lack of independence can result in constantly feeling unsure about trying new things or going out on a limb to make a new friend.
Explain that these feelings are normal and tell her how it felt when you were in high school. High schoolers tend to think they’re the center of the universe and it can sometimes be overwhelming for them. If she’s having negative thoughts, it is key to reassure her that everything will be okay and that you have her back forever.
18. Explore Adult Responsibilities
Another way to build independence in your stepdaughter is by exploring adult responsibilities.
Everything from paying a parking meter to owning a bank account can build self-confidence and lead to independence.
The simplest adult activities that we do every day can feel foreign to teenagers, and trusting her with the small stuff can result in her taking the lead on more significant things.
If she owns a car, ask her to do the grocery shopping occasionally or run an errand while she’s out. This not only teaches her about what things cost (it’s always more expensive than they think), it will also get her familiar with these adult responsibilities.
19. Teach Her About Fiscal Responsibility
Once she’s over 16, encourage her to get a job to pay for things she might want.
Help her also set up a bank account and explain the difference between a savings or checking account. Fiscal independence is an important skill she’ll soon need to understand and it is your job as a parent to set her up with this knowledge because sadly, the school system lacks in that area.
Many kids grow up to move out and struggle paycheck to paycheck because they aren’t used to putting money aside for unexpected problems or more expensive items. This is why you should talk to her about setting goals for herself and celebrate her hard-earned missions.
20. Let Her Take The Lead At The Doctor’s Office
Many new adults struggle with making their doctor appointments and filling out the paperwork.
Some still have their parents doing it well into their twenties. By starting this process early, you’ll set her up with a can-do attitude and be sure she’s taking proper care of herself later on.
Becoming an adult is hard work, and covering these bases while she’s still at home can make a world of difference.
Final Thoughts – How To Build Independence In Your Stepdaughter
Raising successful humans takes a village, and as a step-parent, you play an essential role in showing your step-daughter how to become independent. Just because you are not her biological parent does not mean that you should not put in the effort to build her up as the woman she needs to be.
Whether she came to you as an infant or a young teenager, there will always be room for her to grow and build independence that will serve her later on in life.
Creating that independence in your step-daughter is not just for her, but also for you and your partner. As much as taking care of your daughter can bring you joy, there will come a time where she will need to do things on her own so it is important that everyone understands that.
Parenting is hard work, and the support you’re showing your partner and step-daughter by taking this on can make all the difference and build a stronger marriage.
For more details on building independence, sciencemag.com takes a deep dive into how indecency formulates in a person.