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Hanging Out with Friends After School
Q: My 13-year-old daughter is upset because I don't let her go to friends' homes that I don't know. She says that it's common for girls her age to hang out unsupervised, and that most of the girls can stay out as long as they're home by 6 p.m., which I don't believe. I'm concerned because I know that 3 p.m. to 6 p.m. is a dangerous time for young kids to be together alone. How can I make her understand that she can't do whatever her friends are allowed to do?
A: You are very wise to be concerned about your daughter being in unsupervised situations in the after-school hours between 3 p.m. to 6 p.m. This is the "danger zone" for adolescents, the time period when kids are most likely to do things that are illegal and self-destructive. More than any other time, teen drinking, smoking, drugging, sex, larceny and all other "risky business" takes place during these unsupervised after-school hours.
While many of your daughter's friends might have parents who don't check up on their whereabouts during these hours, that doesn't mean that you should follow these poor parenting practices. You need to know where your daughter is and whom she's with at all times. That's your responsibility as a parent who is concerned with the health and safety of your child. Your daughter will try to guilt you and test you to get her "freedom." You can offer her understanding; try to provide her with safe, supervised after-school environments; and explain your reasons and values regarding her after-school activities.
Setting limits and rules in this area is essential. It's a teen's "job" to push those rules and limits and it's your job to stand by them, always offering explanations about why the rules will remain in place. The after-school hours are tough for teens who don't have regular extra-curricular activities to occupy them. Brainstorming with other concerned parents about ways to get your kids involved in activities they would enjoy is something you might pursue.
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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.