Let’s face it. It’s hard to let go, and even just the vaguest thought of them learning to fend for themselves is enough to give us parents a serious case of empty nest syndrome, and we’d really rather enjoy their early years to the fullest.

But all the experts will tell you the same thing: sooner or later, you’re going to have to let go and start teaching your kids to begin taking care of themselves. Over time, children will become less and less dependent on their parents for even the smallest things, and this prepares them for the demands of adulthood, and helps them grow into independent, self-confident members of society.

Of course, you might want to hold on to your children a bit longer, and to keep them from growing up for as long as you can. Unfortunately, experts have found that even small things like limiting their risk-taking, making them snacks, and helping them with homework could all have potentially hazardous long-term effects on kids. What most of us see as normal parent behaviour, when continued past the early years of kids, could leave kids as even more dependent people.

The trick is to slowly give your kids a bit more responsibility and to start letting them make small choices, such as what to have for dinner, and what to wear to school. It may seem to be a small choice for many parents, but experts have seen that many preschoolers use their clothes as an outlet for self-expression. Speaking for the American Academy of Pediatrics, Alanna Levine, M.D. said that, “Preschoolers are also at a stage where they’re trying to assert their independence and test limits,” before going on to explain that “Getting dressed provides an opportunity to put both things into practice.”

This doesn’t just mean letting your children dress themselves, though – you also need to give them a bit more flexibility when it comes to selecting what to wear. Dr. Bobbie McDonald, a Los Angeles-based psychologist, tells the Metro Parent that when selecting clothes, “what happens is, parents want to buy the clothes, bring them home and the kid should like it.” This undoubtedly sets them up for failure, as they don’t just end up with kids who are dissatisfied with their clothes, but also piles of unwanted clothes too.

The best thing to do is to bring your kids to the store with you to pick out clothes. To be more practical, it’s also important to look into finding clothes that don’t aren’t just stylish, but can also be mixed and matched with ease. Unfortunately, as Claire Dwyer Hogg reports to The Independent, many of today’s children’s clothing is designed in line with current trends, whether these are appropriate for kids or not. Tootsa MacGinty, a brand specialising in gender-neutral childrenswear, presents a rather feasible solution: “Supremely practical, our mix and match collections are ideal for layering to suit the temperature and changes in weather, with a range of fabrics, patterns, prints and plains, allowing you to be as creative as you like putting outfits together”. Investing in unisex clothing could allow parents to give their kids a bit more freedom when it comes to their clothing choices, as they’re much easier to mix and match, and kids won’t need all too many items to be able to build their own outfits.

At best, children who dress themselves are given the chance to express themselves, and at worst, kids end up dressing in extravagant attires. Katie Holmes, who’s often come under fire for letting her little daughter Suri dress however she wants, has said that she lets Suri dress in whatever she wants, provided that she doesn’t end up freezing in New York winters or hyperventilating in the summer. This seems like sound advice, and parents need only remember to make sure that their kids still dress appropriately, as opposed to dictating every single item they’re putting on.