Keeping tabs on your teen

Ian Munro
Ian Munro
We’re now into the teenage years in our family and one of the biggest angsts that most parents face at this point is over how to keep them safe while allowing for growing independence, writes parenting columnist Ian Munro.

How do you keep up with where they are, who they’re with, and what they’re doing without them feeling overly constrained and rebellious?

From an early age, setting ground rules about the sort of places they can go, the need to seek permission, and our expectations about how they’re to behave in other people’s houses or public places is vital.

As they move on into their teenage years, we should still have these expectations until we’re comfortable with relaxing some of them to varying degrees.

Since they’ve become used to us granting permission to go off somewhere, it’s easier to retain the right to know where they can be found. They also need to know that, from time to time, we’ll check that they are where they said they’d be. It doesn’t mean, however, that we need to stake out the mall!

If a party is involved, at the very least we need to check with the host adult about alcohol and supervision and to understand any transport arrangements.

These days there’s no excuse for teens not being able to check in with us once or twice. Having a phone fully charged before they go out also means it’s very easy to let us know when they’re heading home or need us to come and collect them. There can be absolutely no excuse for being in a car with a drunk driver.

The basic checklist:

• Where are you going?

• Who are you with?

• What are you going to do?

• When will you be home?

• Is your phone fully charged?

Of course, they will try it on from time to time, but there should always be an appropriate and firm consequence when they do.

We also need to assure them that we’re happy to be painted as ogres in their friends’ eyes in the interests of their safety. "Mum and dad will kill me if ..." is a great excuse if the friends know we’re the sort of parents who mean business.

As they get older, and as we negotiate changes to the restrictions, they should always have a clear understanding of our reasons for setting any limits - that we love them and care about their safety.

If, over the years, we’ve taught them about risks and given them strategies for dealing with them and, if they can trust that we’ll be there for them when they need us, whether for advice, as back up, or to get them out of a potentially dangerous situation, then we’ve probably done as much as we can.


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