Independence is not the Same Thing as Being Alone

A brand new school year can bring a rainbow of mixed feelings and emotions.  The idea of a new beginning can lead to feelings of anxiety, strength, fear, courage, and hope just to name a few.  Although there are many uncertainties, one thing you know for sure is that more will be expected of you as you move on to a higher grade.

Is this because the subjects are getting harder?  Are there more projects assigned?  More activities to manage?   All of that could be true, but also true is the expectation that you will become more independent with each passing year.   You will be expected to personally manage all the new demands that come your way.

Some teachers are very direct about their expectations.  They may say things like, “Now that you’re in (fill in the blank) grade, we expect you to (fill in the blank).”

Parents, coaches, or other adults may also bring this to your attention in various situations.  Whether it’s pointed out or not, you may begin craving a new sense of freedom but also feel conflicted by all the new demands you’re experiencing.

Doing things on your own does not mean you’re alone.  Consider the following guidelines to help you achieve success during this new transition:

  • Know who you can count on for support.  Make a list of people whom you can turn to that will be able to assist you.  Think of at least one or two people in each area of your life.

Academic Support: a teacher, advisor, or classmate

Emotional Support: A coach, parent, relative or best friend.

Social Support: A friend, school counselor, or religious leader

  • Ask for help when you need it.  Even adults need to lean on others at times or ask for advice or support.  Maybe you need some tips on time management skills or need certain supplies to stay organized.  Recognizing your needs and asking for help to accomplish your goals shows a lot of independence.
  • Know your limits.  Maybe you would like to join the band and try out for a new sport.  That’s great, but consider your other responsibilities before you take on too much at once.  Maybe adding only one after-school activity is the best option for now.  If you’re unsure, consider trying out for something new in the spring after you have a handle on your schoolwork, than decide what you feel you can comfortably manage.

Achieving independence comes with maturity, growth, and practice.  Don’t feel ashamed or be afraid to let someone know when you need support.  Ultimately, you are still the one that carries through with the guidance or advice you are given.  You have the last say on how you’re going to solve a problem, manage your time, and stay on top of your responsibilities.  Believe in your abilities, and praise your efforts when you take positive steps that lead to your success.


Independence isn’t doing your own thing; It’s doing the RIGHT thing on your own.– Kim John Payne

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