Teens and Partying
Throughout elementary school you've probably been in close touch with the families of your children's friends. As your kids enter middle school and high school, it's more important than ever that you keep building those connections. You can stay in touch by meeting them at school functions, or simply chatting if you run into them around town. If your parent-chain is strong enough, you ought to be able to find out what's really happening on any given weekend with only a phone call or two.
While the Cat's Away…
If you're going to be gone for a few days and are planning to leave your 17- or 18-year-old at home alone, you need to carefully evaluate the situation. Here are a few pointers:
- You may want to re-think your plans. If your teen can't hold off a crowd who learns you're not at home, both you and your teen may be very sorry you ever left town.
- If you have to be away and your teen can't or won't come along, consider asking a relative or hiring someone to come stay during the night.
- Ask if your teen can stay with a friend.
- Tell neighbors you trust to keep an eye out while you are gone. Ask that they call the police (or a person you designate) if a large gathering shows up at your place.
One mother of a basically good teen who ran into problems when she went on a weekend trip tells the following story: “This winter my son, who is a senior in high school, said to me, ‘Mom, why don't you go skiing on the weekends anymore?' and I replied: ‘Because when I went away for a weekend last year, you proved to me why I can't.' And he's a basically good kid.”
Like it or not, our child care responsibilities don't necessarily get easier as our kids get older. (You may remember fondly the days when relief was a phone-call-to-the-sitter away!)
Setting Curfews: Pumpkin Time
Just as Cinderella's fairy godmother did not hesitate to give her a curfew, neither should you pause before telling your teen a time by which he is to be home.
And just as adjustable mortgages have their advantages, so do adjustable curfews. Most families have success by establishing a set time for nights when the kids are “just hanging out” and another time for special occasions. If you're in sync with the rest of your teen's friends, enforcement will be a snap.
The consequences for missing a curfew and not calling should involve coming in earlier the next night, or not going out at all—depending on how serious you consider the infraction.
As if parenting isn't tough enough…your 16-year-old daughter skips through the living room and announces, “Bye, Mom. We're all sleeping over at John's tonight.”
You really needed to deal with coed sleepovers, didn't you? Yeah, right, as the teen set would say.
With this issue, like everything else, you have to decide what makes you comfortable. If the thought of your son or daughter participating in a coed pajama party drives you crazy, then forget it. Lay down the law: he or she just can't, because you say so. (You do have the right to say that occasionally; just not too often, or you'll lose your ability to communicate effectively.)
However, if you're at all open to learning more about today's social scene, consider the following reasons given by parents who permitted coed group sleepovers:
- “My son went to a coed sleepover the night of the junior prom,” explains one mother. “He attended the prom with the group of kids he hangs out with. There are both boys and girls in the crowd, but none of them are romantically linked. When they asked if they could come back to one of the girl's houses for the night, we agreed. We know the family well, and we found it far preferable to them going to clubs or looking for a ‘party' in some other way. They're good kids, and all things considered, this seemed like an acceptable alternative.”
- “Kids today aren't dating the way we did,” says another mother. “My daughter socializes with a big group of kids, none of whom would be said to be dating. They've had one or two social all-nighters, and because we knew the family—and knew the parents would be home—we permitted her to go. Even though I doubt that the parents stayed awake all night, we felt she would be okay.”
Note that in both situations there were no serious couples in the mix, and the exact location where the kids would be was known to the parent giving the “okay.”
And what about a sleepover with a “significant other?” Liberal parents have been known to permit it: “I know they're ‘doing it,' so I'd rather have them at home,” goes the thinking. You have to make up your own mind on this issue. Be sure to read What to Tell Your Teen About Sex for tips on sex and sexuality. And if you just don't like the idea, you can always simply say, “I'm not comfortable with that in my home.”
So the next time your teenager comes home with a sleepover request, you might double-check the guest list (now you'll know to be heads up on this one!), and if it turns out it's coed, you can consider it with these comments in mind.
When young adolescents say they're “going out” with members of the opposite sex, it doesn't mean going anyplace; it just means being romantically linked.
What to Do About Other Household Rules
Like boys in your daughter's bedroom!
Life was certainly simpler when you and I were growing up: No members of the opposite sex in bedrooms, right? Well, it's a new day. You need to be reasonable and flexible about some of the issues that come your way. Because coed groups of friends are a part of many teens' social lives, it's awfully hard to say, “no boys (or girls) in your room” (especially if that's where the CD player is). Try this:
If the member of the opposite sex is a friend, then the bedroom is on-limits, even with an occasional closed door. If the member of the opposite sex is your teen's “significant other,” then being in the bedroom is permissible only if the door is open.
More on: Teen Behavior and Discipline
Excerpted from The Complete Idiot's Guide to Parenting a Teenager © 1996 by Kate Kelly. All rights reserved including the right of reproduction in whole or in part in any form. Used by arrangement with Alpha Books, a member of Penguin Group (USA) Inc.
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