Written by: Cally Worden
As young children blossom and grow into young adults they seek more independence, and the teenage years can be a time of great friction as a result. The issue of staying out is a hot topic, so how late should you let your teen stay out? To teens, it represents freedom and independence and a chance to experiment with life on their own terms. To parents, staying out represents a loss of control, and a recognition of potential exposure to dangers about which your teen may be blissfully unaware or unconcerned. And we responsible grown-ups know that late nights can affect schoolwork too – not necessarily a high priority for your teen. So how to find a suitable compromise?
Establish a Good Relationship Early On
Having a strong bond with your child as they grow-up will engender a sense of mutual trust and respect. When you hit the teenage years, a good relationship with your teen will help you in communicating your fears and concerns with your teen, and hopefully encourage them to share any issues with you too. When the question about staying out late inevitably then arises, you will already have the basis in place for a rational and grown-up discussion, where boundaries can be established that work for your both.
Treat them Like Adults
Staying out late is a responsible act. Your teen should be able to demonstrate that they are deserving of this privilege by showing that you can trust them. If you start incrementally it will be easier. Agree a sensible home time, and ask your teen to not let you down. Most of the time, when given this responsibility, a young person will respond positively. As they earn your trust you can gradually extend the curfew.
A Lot Depends on Age
Age and maturity are key factors in your decision regarding how long to let your teen stay out. Some 14 year olds, for example, are very responsible – others could find trouble in their own bedroom. Other considerations should revolve around how much rest and sleep your teen needs, what stage they are at in their education, whether they have school the next day and where and with whom they may be hanging out.
Get to Know your Kids’ Friends
The best way to do this is to welcome them into your home. Allowing friends over for a sleepover from time to time is a good idea, as is setting up a room where your teen can chill with their mates. The latter will also give you an idea as to the home time curfews issued by other parents, so you have a benchmark for your own rules.
It Works Both Ways
If you plan to go out yourself, make sure you let your kids know where you will be and when you plan to be home. Treating them with respect in this way will encourage them to accord you the same courtesy when they are going out. Suitable Compromises
- Allow your teen out later only on non-school nights, and only if they have completed their homework
- Allow one later night on a Friday or Saturday, and have an earlier home time on all other days
- Agree to pick them up from wherever they are going – you will know they are getting home safely, and have a chance to see where they may be hanging out
- Explain your rationale behind whatever home time you choose – this establishes the boundary but also respects your teen’s right to understand a decision that has a direct impact on their own life
- Tell your teen that if they let you down then they are breaking your trust, and that may have the consequence of an earlier curfew for a while. This gives your teen choice, and helps them to feel empowered
Remember When …
We were all teenagers once, and I suspect this memory is one of the reasons we all worry so much about what our kids are up to at this age. It’s a time for pushing boundaries, for testing out right and wrong, for having fun. Sooner or later you teen will be completely independent of you anyway. The best thing you can do is instil in your child from a young age good values and a sense of respect and of moral and personal responsibility. Then you simply have to trust that they will make good choices most of the time and find a path for themselves that is safe and true.
We all make mistakes, it’s a part of growing up. So cut your teen some slack, keep the lines of communication open, and follow your instincts. Hopefully, your teen will follow suit. I can remember times as a teenager where my Mum made a decision that I outwardly resented, but for which I was internally relieved – her boundary got me off the hook from doing something I didn’t feel comfortable about, but to which I was unsure of how to say no. Be aware that your teen may appreciate your boundaries sometimes too, whatever their facial expression may be communicating.
I had the privilege of watching from the sidelines as my husband steered his way through this minefield with his two older children. I saw him beat a path of compromise that somehow managed to simultaneously generate a sense of responsibility in his kids that saw them arrive safely in adulthood unscathed. Hats off to him. I’m dreading it when our little ones get big – I’m not sure I will be quite so rational! At least I know what’s possible, and that being firm and acting in the best interests of your teen, while also being prepared to let go, creates a balance that leads to success.