By: Jennifer Griffin-Wiesner
Your friends did WHAT??? Where were their parents?!
I have it on fairly good authority (my son) that several teens in my kids’ social circle recently attempted to sleep on the roof of a nearby park building. They each told their parents they were sleeping at one of the other boys’ houses. Eventually, they got cold, came down, and tried to find an indoor spot for the night. I still don’t know where they ended up sleeping (since they’d all already lied to their families!). A series of Adam Sandler-worthy antics ensued ending with them back on the roof, hiding from police. Fortunately, no one was hurt, although a few people were very frightened. And things could have gone horribly wrong.
We know from research on Developmental Assets that young people benefit from adults in their lives—parents and otherwise—who know where they are, where they are going, when they’ll be back, and whom they are with. They also do better when their peers and the adults around them are positive influences.
So, as I’ve said before (and will probably say again enough times to be annoying) BE THE PARENT WHO ASKS QUESTIONS!
If your child or teen is spending the night at a friend’s home, going on an outing with another family, hanging out with someone after school, whatever; call the other parents and find out what’s up. If you agree to let a young person be at your home or go somewhere with you and the other parents don’t contact you, BE THE ONE TO REACH OUT! Even if you think no one else “does this” anymore, you can take comfort in knowing that you are doing the best thing for your kids.
But I Don’t Even Know These People!
Don’t know your children’s friends parents? Hate cold calling? So do most of us. It’s occasionally unavoidable if you want to keep tabs on your child or teen’s whereabouts, however, so here are some tips for making it easier to connect:
- When picking your kids up from school, sporting events, music classes or other activities, arrive early and linger a bit making casual conversation with the other parents who are there picking up their kids.
- When you drop off or pick up your kids at a friend’s home, always go to the door rather than texting that you are there and staying outside.
- Invite one or two of your teen’s friends’ parents to join you for tea or coffee, “just to chat” about things going on in your kids’ lives.
- Get to know your teen’s friends so that when you do meet their parents you can comment on something you like or appreciate about the young person. Parents will appreciate it and it sets the tone for knowing one another’s kids being a positive thing.
Your Kids Can Provide a Lot of Good Information As Well
- During casual down times when they aren’t in the midst of making social plans, ask your teen positive things about their friends and their friends parents: Which parents help their kids be their best? Which parents are really fun? Are there people they feel like they can talk about important stuff? Is anyone particularly trustworthy? These kinds of conversations open the door for your kids to tell you about concerns they might have as well.
- As your kids get older, they will want and need more freedom and flexibility to roam, wander, and explore. That’s a good thing as long as there are parameters. Rather than hover via cell phone or in person, schedule check points with teens (times by which they must be at a certain place or let you know where they are).
- Host gatherings or events. I can’t stress enough that your kids DO want to spend time around you. So whether it’s play dates for kindergartners or pizza and movie nights for sophomores, welcome young people into your home and let them know it’s a safe, comfortable place to be. In addition to building a positive connection with them, you might find you really enjoy having them around.
Image via garryknight on Flick’r.