Setting boundaries, keeping them safe, and learning to let go…
Every teenager wants more freedom. As they grow up, they desperately seek independence and the chance to take on more responsibility and go wherever they want. It’s never easy to judge just how much freedom you should allow your teen to have – ultimately, that’s up to you. Many of the decisions we make around our child’s boundaries are based on their age, their level of maturity and often balanced against what their friends are (and aren’t) allowed to do.
“It’s not fair – all my friends are allowed!”
We’ve all heard this line before. Heck, we’ve all probably said it during our own teenage years… It can become increasingly difficult to say “no” to your teenager’s request when you know their friends’ parents are allowing their young people to do it. Whether it’s going to a gig, staying out later at night or going somewhere without adult supervision, there will be many situations where you and your teen will come to loggerheads.
Be honest with your teen about why you have certain worries or fears about the situation. A simple refusal of their request can make them feel misunderstood and angry, and even more likely to rebel against your wishes. Explaining to your teen why you’re concerned helps them to see things from your perspective – even if they don’t agree with your point of view. Equally, it’s important to listen to their reasoning and why they so badly want to do a particular thing. This sets a good foundation for further discussion and finding a solution.
Finding a compromise can help to put your mind at ease. For example, if your teen wants to take a bus to go to a gig with a group of friends, but you’re anxious about them using public transport late at night, why not suggest driving your teen and their friends instead? If your teen wants to stay out until 11pm every night, you could suggest a trial period of 10.30pm to begin with, making it clear that if they can prove themselves reliable and trustworthy, you will agree to a later time of 11pm. You can also ask them to call you at some point in the evening to check in and let you know that they’re safe. There are always compromises to be found and talking these over with your teen is the best way to agree on a scenario that works for you both.
Teens will always try to push the boundaries, as sure as eggs is eggs. Setting fair and clear limits for your teen helps to keep them safe but they will often challenge your motivations for doing so. Hold your ground on the limitations you feel most strongly about but do consider if there are any rules you could relax, especially if your teen has been pushing for some time and has sound reasoning as to why you should change your stance. Ask yourself
‘Do they have a valid point?’ and ‘Is there a way to find a compromise?’. Consider your options and see if there is any agreement that can be met.
Finding your way to a healthy balance is key. Think back to your own youth and how badly you wanted your own freedom. It’s also helpful to keep in mind that continually refusing your teen is more likely to lead to rebellion. There’s a delicate balancing act between allowing your teen to take more responsibility for themselves and feeling reassured and confident that they will do so in a mature way.
Situations change and as your teenager matures and becomes more responsible, you may feel more inclined to loosen the reins over time. The reverse of this is also true – a teenager who has become unruly, fallen in with the wrong crowd or is misbehaving may need more limits and structure to keep them safe – and to ultimately guide them along a better path.
Peace Of Mind
There are lots of practical steps you can take to give you added peace of mind. Simple things, like asking your teen to do regular check ins via text or a call, can put many of your worries to rest. If your teenager is heading off on a day trip or an overnight stay, ask them to provide you with the name and address of the place they’re staying at, in case of emergency. There are also apps you can use to keep an eye on your child’s whereabouts – these can be especially reassuring for parents of younger teenagers who are just starting out on their road to independence:
Find My Kids is a helpful app to keep an eye on your child’s location. You can link to your teen’s phone or GPS watch to track your teenager’s movements and the app will also alert you when your child enters or leaves the home. It can also notify you when your child’s mobile phone battery is running low – a helpful way to avoid that panicky feeling when you’re trying to ring your child and it won’t connect because their phone is dead.
Free (In-app purchases)
Life360 is another great app to help you protect and connect your whole family. Receive notifications when your family comes and goes from home, work, and school, and when they complete drives – great for parents of teens who have just passed their test! You can see your family’s journeys and locations in real-time and communicate securely and safely with the chat function. It’s also a great tool for tracking a lost or stolen phone.
Free (In-app purchases)