Parenting teens can be one of the biggest challenges you will face in raising children. They are at that age where they are starting to look grown up, act grown up, and want to be treated like a grown up. But the truth is they aren’t adults yet, and your job as a parent is to prepare them to be adults as best you can. It can be hard to delicately and appropriately address issues when they are wanting to rebel against authority and make their own way in the world.
While you may want to address their new attitude with a “friend” approach rather than an authoritative one, this can sometimes do more damage than good. You are first and foremost a parent, and it’s your responsibility to teach your teens how to make good choices and be responsible. Every parent approaches common teen issues in different ways, and if you’re not sure which stance to take on what issue, read on for some middle-ground insight.
We were all in high school once, and whether you were an active participant of the party scene or not, you knew that underage drinking was going on — you might have even partaken yourself. While some parents have zero tolerance on their teens drinking alcohol, others don’t think it’s a big deal.
There are parents who will host drinking parties for their kids and their friends because they believe it’s better that it’s happening under their roof where the teens are being supervised, rather than some stranger's house. This thinking could actually land you into a lot of legal trouble. While it can differ from state to state, many states hold hosts liable for any damages that may be caused by intoxicated teens. Not to mention, parents may take legal action against you for facilitating access to alcohol to their teen. It’s not your right to make decisions about drinking alcohol for other parents.
Whether you are against underage drinking, or don’t think it’s a big deal, always keep communication about the topic open with your teen. Let them know that if they ever do choose to drink, they can rely on you for a safe ride home no matter what; a teen afraid of what their parents will do if they get caught is more likely to make the dangerous decision to drive home themselves.
Sex education in schools is always a huge topic of debate in politics and among parents. Some parents believe that sex education should not happen in schools, and that abstinence is the only thing that should be taught. Others believe that schools have a responsibility to be teaching what many kids don’t learn at home, everything from puberty to safe sex and consent.
However you feel, or whatever your local school district does, it is your responsibility as a parent to be talking about sex with your teens. While most people don’t want to think about their teen thinking about sex, the fact is that they are growing up, and it’s important they are informed. Make sure that you always keep open communication about it, and never make it seem like a shameful topic. Only with open and healthy communication about sex will your teens be able to make informed and safe decisions. And even if you wish to promote abstinence with your teens, you should still inform them of what safe sex entails, since, in the end, you can’t be there to make decisions for your teens — you can only give them the knowledge to make good choices.
Curfew and Friend Groups
Issues around curfew and friends seem like small potatoes compared to sex and alcohol, but really, they are all connected. Who your teens hang out with influences what kind of activities they get involved with, and how late they are allowed to be out opens or closes what kind of things they can get up to. Once your teen has their own means of getting around, you no longer have much control over their whereabouts, what they’re doing, or who they're hanging out with.
At this point, you have to trust that you have cultivated a relationship with your teen where they feel they can be honest with you, and that they have made good choices in friends. Consider setting more boundaries on curfew and hanging with friends on school nights, and offering a little more freedom on the weekend. Set reasonable times and expectations, and make sure they have access to a phone — even if it’s just a prepaid emergency phone — so they can check in with you or you can contact them.
Watching your babies turn into little adults is hard, but inevitable. Making sure to promote a good and open relationship with your teens is going to make a big difference in how they approach the issues and situations around them. Finding a balance between setting rules and letting them experience life and make their own choices can be challenging, but with a careful and thoughtful approach, you will come to the right decisions for you and your teens.