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Encouraging Heroes. You can be one too.

As our little darlings enter their teen years, our job is to foster their independence and self-sufficiency. As parents, our ultimate goal is the same: to raise kids who will, eventually, venture out into the great unknown and leave us in much-deserved peace. The number of people ages 18-31 living in their parents’ home was a whopping 36 percent in 2012, according to the Pew Research Center. We find this number downright scary. The good news is, your teen most likely wants to strike out on his own just as much as you want him to go, so he’ll be interested in brainstorming ways to make that happen. Read on to find out how you can help develop independence in your teen and set everyone up for success:

Higher Education vs. Vocation

The first step in launching your fledgling’s journey into the world involves a bit of reflection. What is he interested in? Does he enjoy going to school, or was he ready to leave before high school was finished? Does she show aptitude for working with her hands, or is she more interested in refining her intellect? Ask these questions of your teenager to gauge where his interests are.

If your kid wants to attend a four-year college or university after high school, great. Now help him navigate the application process. Not every kid is cut out for four more years of school right out of high school, however, and that’s OK too. Help him look into certificate programs or career schools in his field of interest. Certificates and diplomas are available in a variety of areas, from gunsmithing and wedding planning to medical coding and billing to education and child care. If your teen has a heightened interest in taking care of animals, for example, then hop online and get more information on the veterinary assistant program at Penn Foster.

Volunteering and Giving Back

If your teen can’t identify a field he or she might be interested in pursuing, the next step is to get him or her involved in the community. Sit down and discuss what kinds of opportunities interest him or her. If she just doesn’t know what might be her calling, volunteering is a great way to expose her to things she might not have considered. Visit the American Red Cross for a variety of ways she can help, a guide to get started and a search engine that generates volunteering ideas based on your geographic location.

If he’s interested in a specific cause, search volunteer opportunities with a similar mission. For example, if he’s passionate about ending hunger in the community, check out Feeding Americaโ€”the site provides comprehensive information on how he can spread the word and help in your own town. You never know, volunteering could set him up for a position in social work.

It’s not easy, but you can strike a balance between having patience with your teen and starting him on the path to adulthood..