Helping your child to develop independence

The National Association for Headteachers (NAHT) and Family Action have produced some advice for parents to encourage their children to develop independence and a sense of responsibility so they are ready to learn every day.

Preparing for Reception onwards (age 4 – 7)

The start of independence.

Teach your child to use the toilet (and urinal) independently; this will improve their self-esteem when they are at school with their peers

  • Teach your child how to clean their teeth
  • Ensure they can dress themselves and put on their own coat
  • Teach your child to use a knife and fork
  • Encourage them to carry their own bag to school
  • Be confident when dropping them off at school; don’t let them ‘cling’ to you at the school gate
  • Encourage them to become a ‘playground friend’ or ‘school buddy’
  • Support them to hang up their school uniform ready for the next day
  • Include them when completing household tasks

Preparing for Year 3 onwards (age 7 – 11)

Supporting your child to organise themselves.

Take turns in finding the way to the shops, playground, etc; this will give them confidence when navigating their way around the school building and playground

  • Support them to make their own bed each morning
  • Make them responsible for organising their own homework activities
  • Ensure they pack their own school bag in plenty of time
  • Encourage them to walk or cycle to school by themselves or with friends when it’s safe to do so
  • Make time for your child to play out with their friends in a safe area
  • Encourage them to become a ‘reading buddy’ and to take on responsibilities at school 

Preparing for high school (age 11+)

Supporting your child to be responsible for themselves

Ensure your child is aware of the dangers of using social media and the internet inappropriately

  • Teach them to manage a small budget
  • Create a tidy space at home for them to complete their homework
  • Show them how to create a study timetable; encourage them to complete their homework without unnecessary help or intervention
  • Explain the importance of packing the right equipment for school each day; eg, calculator, books, PE kit
  • Encourage them to travel independently by public transport, bike or foot
  • Make them aware of the costs of using a mobile phone
  • Teach them how to prepare a simple meal
  • Ensure they change their bed regularly

Hints and tips for encouraging independence:

Set appropriate boundaries for your child but help them to try out new things

  • Try to guide your child rather than tell them what to do; this will encourage them to develop their own thoughts and ideas with your support
  • Give positive support when your child faces challenges
  • Praise effort rather than success and help them see we all learn from mistakes
  • Don’t do everything for your child, even if that seems easier!
  • Try to be positive when your child is demonstrating independence

NAHT and Family Action have produced a number of other leaflets providing support for parents and schools.