Summer Rules - Teen Vs Adult: What They'd Like (or Not) and How to Manage That

Sweet(ish) sixteen year old Daniel expresses how he would like to be treated over the summer, while our coach Iole Matthews gives some top advice on how to make that work within the family.

Summer holidays can provide wonderful opportunities for family bonding but there are also a whole host of issues that can be thrown up regarding parenting rules and expectations of kids - especially as they make that tricky transition from dependent tween to self-sufficient teen.

In a bid to get the inside track of how to navigate this potential parenting minefield, we asked our resident teen to tell us what he does and doesn't want rule-wise this summer. And in a bid to be of practical use, our coach Iole Matthews, responds with some useful advice to help bridge the potential gap between his requests and parental rules.

Daniel, age 16, says:

Curfew & Bedtimes: Please don't restrict my curfew and make me come home before midnight when some people can stay out till 2am. I'm not saying 12am isn't late, but having friends who are allowed to stick around when you have to go home is annoying and a shame as you can't continue having fun and then feel left out.

Trust: I am getting older and want you to have trust in me. If you make it seem like a massive interrogation and investigation every time I go out, asking for my friends' parents' numbers when I want to sleep at someone's house and locating me through my phone all the time, it makes me feel like you don't trust me at all.

If we agree that I'll let you know where I am, then perhaps you can stop checking up on me all the time

Tech: It is my holiday after all so please don't constantly restrict my video game time or force me to read. I know I can't play all the time.

Let's discuss and agree a pact about tech, and I will try stick to it. We could make an agreement that I read half as much as I game.

Holiday activities: I know sending me away for week or two makes your life easier but please don't force these camps on me. I know you've heard 'good things' about the camp etc, etc but I don't want to be sent away. I've been waiting a long time for my holiday, and I want to have some time at home.

If we do have to go to an activity club, please don't send me away. Can we pick one together that's close to home so I can still see my friends and play my video games when I get home.

Helping around the House: Please don't just give me loads of chores to do. Realistically, I know I have to do some but please don't just give me a long list.

If you pay me a little for each chore, it won't make that much difference to your wallet, but it will make a big difference to me.

What I would like you to do: Please do spend some quality time with me when you're not on the phone or working.

My Family Care Coach Iole Matthews says:

Holidays are a time to rest, recuperate and refresh, but it doesn't mean dropping all the daily rituals or your values.

The overriding points that Daniel - and many teens - are asking for are trust and freedom. Holidays can be a good time to try increasing levels of freedom in a graduated way, giving them the opportunity to learn (and even fail) in a safe space with less pressure and more time for decision making.

The key for parents is to remember the importance of communication, discussing issues, listening to them, hearing them and coming to an agreement together before controversial situations arise.

Consider talking through issues such as:

  • Trust and freedom work both ways, if you trust your teenager with more freedom they have a responsibility to behave in a way that's trustworthy
  • With rights, comes responsibilities; it's a two way street
  • Acknowledge that they will make mistakes, it's part of growing up. Emphasise that it's key for them to be open about this and not scared of admitting mistakes, but it's also important to then discuss how to learn not to make the same mistakes in future
  • Agree the consequences for when trust is broken or things go wrong before they arise. Try to make these immediate, so it's not you 'punishing' them, it's just the natural consequence of not keeping their side of the agreement.

And things not to do:

  • Try not to get lulled into delivering the parental side before the child delivers
  • Try not to come up with cliché's like "my house, my rules" or threaten them with punishments on the spot. These will just alienate your child and make communication and trust harder to build in the long term.