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Daughter Wants to Hang Out at the Mall

Toddler and Teenager Expert Advice from Carleton Kendrick, Ed.M., LCSW

Q: My sixth-grader would like to be dropped off at the mall on Friday nights to hang out with her friends. The friends and their parents are people that I don't know well. I want to say no, but can't come up with a good reason other than it makes me uncomfortable.

A: Ask yourself why you feel uncomfortable -- for example, concerns about her personal safety -- and then explain those reasons to your daughter. Not wanting your 11-year-old to hang out at the mall unsupervised with kids you don't know well, and/or without the presence of an adult, is not an unreasonable rule to administer in your family. Whether her friends' parents, whom you do not know well, are willing to allow this to occur does not weaken your arguments. "But everyone in my grade hangs out there without any grownups" will no doubt be offered up by your daughter as reason enough to let her hang out at the mall with her friends. Call her friends' parents and talk to them about how they reached their decision to let their children do this. It's a good way to get to know them better, and you may find they have some concerns, too.

Hanging out at the mall has become a popular way for young adolescents to socialize with their friends. Put yourself in your daughter's shoes when she says, "There's no place in this town for kids to hang out except at each others' houses." Is there any place in your area you're comfortable with, where your daughter could hang out with friends without an adult chaperone? Offer your home as a place where she and her friends could spend time together on these nights and tell her you will stay out of their way when they're together. See if these other parents might do the same. You might also go to this mall on a Friday night and spend some time observing the social life of the adolescents who hang out there. Then you and your daughter can both talk about something real, not imagined. Let her make her arguments about why she believes that it's okay for her to hang out at the mall on Friday nights. Show her respect and empathy after she presents her case. Then present your case and opinions.

After following these suggestions, I hope you'll feel more comfortable with whatever decision you make.

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Carleton Kendrick has been in private practice as a family therapist and has worked as a consultant for more than 20 years. He has conducted parenting seminars on topics ranging from how to discipline toddlers to how to stay connected with teenagers. Kendrick has appeared as an expert on national broadcast media such as CBS, Fox Television Network, Cable News Network, CNBC, PBS, and National Public Radio. In addition, he's been quoted in the New York Times, Washington Post, Chicago Tribune, Boston Globe, USA Today, Reader's Digest, BusinessWeek, Good Housekeeping, Woman's Day, and many other publications.

Please note: This "Expert Advice" area of FamilyEducation.com should be used for general information purposes only. Advice given here is not intended to provide a basis for action in particular circumstances without consideration by a competent professional. Before using this Expert Advice area, please review our General and Medical Disclaimers.


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