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Fostering Independence Even While They Live at Home

For many parents, knowing how to get your adult child to develop independence while they are in the comfort of your family home is a real challenge! Last week, I spoke on this topic at Spectra Therapies, and I wanted to share a few of the specific quick tips by subject area I created for that event. I’ll share more tips that work for all areas in a separate post, but I hope you all find this helpful!


Here are some quick ideas to help “cut the strings” in certain independent living areas, even if your child is resistant to practicing: 

Sleep Routines

  1. Return responsibility for setting alarms (and reacting to them) to your child as soon as possible.
  2. Try to avoid going in and making sure they are up every day. You won’t be able to do that once they’re on their own, so it’s best if they can practice now. 
  3. If you can allow them to feel the natural consequence of sleeping through an alarm (late to school, miss an activity), then try to allow that to happen. This is how they will learn.
  4. When they stay up too late and have a hard time the next day, they are more likely to learn from the experience. At some point, you won’t be there to enforce a bedtime, and they will have to learn “the hard way” eventually.
  5. Try out a sunrise clock for children who have a hard time sleeping through their alarms. 

Cooking & Meal Planning

  1. Start with a meal that they particularly enjoy and request often. 
    1. Have them help you make it for the first couple of times.
    2. Next time that they want that meal, have them make it while you are with them to assist. Repeat this step for as long as necessary.
    3. When they are ready, let them make it – and make a special occasion out of it. A fun family dinner, friends over, special dessert. 
  2. Gradually build up their comfort with a couple of meals at a time. 
  3. Consider meal kits – they are a great way to start. Visual recipes, step-by-step instructions, pre-measured ingredients; everything is just a little bit easier. 
  4. Use peer pressure for good if necessary – remind them that cooking is an attractive skill to have. 
  5. Let them have a “dinner party” for friends or extended family. 
  6. Or let them make a video/photo to share on social media (if you’re comfortable with that). 
  7. Make a routine – maybe they get one night/week to cook for the family. 


  1. If your child doesn’t eat well of their own accord now, it won’t get easier when they’re on their own. 
  2. Find ways to make eating healthy more enjoyable – especially vegetables
    1. America’s Test Kitchen – try making green beans in different ways and find your favorite
    2. Iron Chef/Great American Cook Off – have a friendly family competition. Which broccoli was the best? 


  1. Consider getting your child their own bank account or card so that their expenses can be tracked separately from the rest of the family. 
  2. Have them go over spending with you.
  3. It can be difficult and sometimes embarrassing for families to talk about money, but having a monthly meeting really helps everyone understand better their current cost of living. 
  4. Without covering therapies and services specific to your child, it can be useful to go over the cost of other expenses, like how much the cell phone bill is, and if there are ways to cut back. 
  5. Have them add up how much the streaming services bills are, especially for the ones they use/enjoy. 
  6. Restaurant bills can be a great way to start – how much was their portion? Looking at the menu, are there any specials that are better value? 
  7. Try having them budget for specific events first (ex: vacation, party)
  8. Even if money isn’t a major concern for your family, having these types of conversations creates a mindset of financial literacy. 
  9. For adults living at home, I recommend that they do get into the practice of paying rent and their portion of utility bills (even if you give them an allowance to do so). Having them practice paying bills for their cost of living reinforces their sense of money management


  1. Do they know their own medication schedule? Do they know how to call in their refills? Have them practice doing it with you as they start to get closer to legal adulthood. 
  2. Do they make their own doctor’s appointments? Do they keep their appointments on their calendar, or wait for you to tell them? Having them start to take on these responsibilities is important for their overall self-sufficiency. 
  3. Make sure they know where to find emergency information and how to access their medical records, including their vaccination records. 
  4. Explain the differences between emergency rooms, urgent care centers, and regular doctor’s visits. 


  1. See what happens if you don’t remind your child about hygiene routines for a day or two (ideally on a weekend or vacation!)
  2. Have a non-judgmental conversation about what you observed
  3. Consider explicit timers/reminders – even daily ones if necessary. 
  4. Make hygiene routines consistent on weekdays and weekends as much as possible. 
  5. Check for sensory sensitivities that may be a factor – and help them problem solve now while they’re still at home with you. 
  6. Gradually go longer without reminders to let them show you they can stay on top of hygiene routines


  1. Have them start to do their own laundry as soon as possible. The more practice, the better.
  2. Rather than waiting for when the hamper is full, establish day(s) of the week for laundry. 
  3. Help them set their own reminders for laundry day – including towels and bedding.
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