It’s summer which means your teens are likely to be more social than usual. Our undercover teacher offers advice on how to navigate the path between overbearing fun-sucker and responsible parent.
Teenage get-togethers, social events (and parties in due course) can be difficult to navigate as they emerge. It’s an especially tricky issue for some parents, as they start, often for the first time, to seriously negotiate independence and trust boundaries with their child.
There are many conflicting factors to consider and navigating the space between adequate protection and enabling your children and their friends to have, what they consider to be, a good/cool/fun experience is not easy.
If your child is just starting to attend social events, then drawing clear boundaries at the outset and saying ‘no’ on a few occasions will be helpful in the long-run. Remember, this is a marathon, not a sprint, and the standards you establish early on will set the tone from now, until young adulthood.
Some regular conflict areas arise – predominantly around alcohol and supervision as parents take different views on the provision – or lack of – each. Here are some strategies to employ and conversations to consider that will help you and your children manage this transition.
- Details It’s important and OK (even if they tell you it’s not!) to check with your child about the details of any event. Who is hosting? What are the parents’ contact details? How many children are going? Who is supervising? What time it is ending? etc.
- Parental Comms Don’t be afraid to contact the host child’s parents and ask for more information about the event. You may want to check that an adult (rather than a sibling) will be around throughout, or that there’s been some thought given to the numbers and the limitation or banning of alcohol (depending on their age).
- Peer Group Pressure If you are still worried about an event, you may want to contact other parents to discuss your concerns. It may well be that others feel the same as you, and by talking and acting together, you can break what might sometimes seem like an inescapable teen-mantra of, ‘but everyone else is going and you’re the only ones who are making a fuss’.
- Hosting If you are hosting, remember that some kids may try to bring contraband items, like alcohol or drugs, to the event and that, crucially, whilst those children are in your home, you are responsible for their health and welfare. This places a burden of responsibility on parents to ensure no child comes to harm while ‘on your watch’, which is why it’s often advisable to insist on adult supervision throughout and set expectations with your children and their friends well beforehand.
- Timing – Think about the timing of any event. In term time, school nights are, for obvious reasons, not a great idea, but does your child or their friends have sport commitments on Saturday mornings? Perhaps a Saturday night or in school holidays may be a better time.
- Frequency – At the start of their social evolution, it’s useful to agree limits with your child on how many events they can go to. It’s probably not advisable to have more than one event per weekend as tiredness can impact a child’s ability to focus in school for days afterwards.
- Scenario Planning Don’t’ forget, it’s always a good idea to discuss with your child the ‘what ifs’. It’s useful to discuss what they would/could do if they were to get drunk themselves or need to support a drunk friend or their plan if drugs are being offered. As with much teen-parenting, keeping an open dialogue is key and it may help to have a code phrase they can text in an urgent situation, meaning, ‘come and pick me up now, I want to leave’. Talking in advance means you can provide options to help them stay safe, even if they or their friends have made a poor choice.
- Further Action If you’re concerned that parents are condoning alcohol or drug consumption and that due care has not been taken to protect children’s safety, then you may feel you need to pass this information to the statutory authorities to investigate further.