MAINTAIN OPEN COMMUNICATION
There are so many things to consider these days in terms of keeping your teenage child safe. Teens are driving. Teens are dating. Teens are on the Internet. On top of that, teens can be impulsive, rebellious and not always conscious of the consequences of their behavior.
So, how does a parent keep their teenager safe? First, and foremost, you want to maintain open lines of communication between you and your teen. Yes, I understand that this is sometimes easier said than done. Consider the possibility of agreeing to disagree; for there is value in being able to talk to them, as well as listening to what they are telling you.
I have found that teens can be very forthright and honest. They often want to tell you about the mischief they are conceiving, as they are quite proud of themselves. For every secretive child, there are 5 more who don’t think twice about enthusiastically sharing about some of the outrageous things they are planning–or have done.
Try not to shut them down with quick judgments. If they are open to sharing with you, you have a wonderful opportunity to use that conversation to help them explore and understand the possible consequences of their behavior. Ask questions like: “So what do you imagine could be some potential problems with building a bike ramp off of the roof into the pool?”
SAFETY BEHIND CLOSED DOORS
Sometimes, what goes on behind teen’s closed doors is totally innocent. However, sometimes what goes on behind closed doors may not be so innocent. What with sexting (sending inappropriate pictures of oneself over the internet or phone) and cyber-bullying (posting hurtful information or photos of another teen), it is helpful for parents to have and idea of what is going on in their child’s room when no one is watching.
For this reason, I like the concept of not putting a lock on a teen’s bedroom door. This does not mean that a parent can enter without knocking first. But it does serve as a reminder to teens that parents have access to their room. In the case of younger siblings, who do not understand the concept of privacy, a lock may be indicated. (with the understanding that if a parent knocks, the door must be opened immediately)
Another interesting choice I see parents make is allowing their teens to entertain their boyfriends and girlfriends in their bedrooms. If teens are simply looking to go on the computer, perhaps a community computer can be made available in a community space. If the intention is to have some privacy for their conversation, perhaps a space can be designated for them to chat without interruption. If, however, space is limited, then you may want to consider the possibility of requiring that the door be left open…
KNOW WHO THEIR FRIENDS ARE
It is not uncommon today for teens to have friends from outside of their school. Instead of just staying in their immediate neighborhood, they are biking, taking a bus, or asking parents to drive them to nearby cities to meet up with their friends.
Parents may think they know where their teen is, but this is not always the case. Telling a parent that they are spending the night at one friend’s, they get another parent to drive them across town to a party, working out their ride home however they can.
Although this may not reflect your teen’s behavior, the point I am making is that it is important to know who your child’s friends are. I would even go further to suggest that you also get to know who their parents are, that you might have a sense of the type of values they uphold in their homes.
In your home, there may be strict curfews, as well as restrictions around alcohol and other mind-altering substances. But in other homes, parents will sometimes turn a blind eye to their kid’s entertainment activities, including drinking, and unsupervised access to bedrooms.
I believe that it is a wise parent who asks to meet all of their teen’s friends, and gets contact information for any sleepovers or parties, including the address, phone number and the name of the adult in charge of the event. Although your teen may balk at the idea, it is responsible behavior to call and introduce yourself, verify the details, and get a feel for whom that parent is.
The boundaries you set for your teen show your caring. Do not give in to pressure when presented with the claim that “all the other parents let their kids…” (fill in the blank) I can assure you that there are plenty of parents who still expect their children earn their trust.
Teens are often oblivious of the fragileness of these human bodies we reside in. They think they are invincible and will live forever. Do you remember when you used to feel that way? The good news is that you survived your Teen Years. Now it’s your turn to pass on your wisdom — to this next generation.
*Note: If your teen is struggling, I can help you to discover the cause and remedy it. Help is just a phone call away! Click on the following link for more information. – Sandra Dupont–LA Teen Therapist