A teen’s first outing without parents is a big milestone.
Most teens are eager for more freedom and parents often are nervous about what will happen when their children aren’t supervised.
“It’s the parents’ job to guide and protect their teens,” said Dr. James Meyer, an adolescent medicine physician at Marshfield Clinic. “Letting them step into some responsibility while you still can set rules will prepare them to be independent when they leave home.”
Reward good decisions with more responsibility
Give teens more responsibility in steps, like letting them go on group dates before they can go on individual dates, or limiting how far new drivers can travel and how long they can use the car. Think about your kids’ extracurricular activities and how much sleep they need when deciding how long they can stay out.
Consider their history of making good decisions when deciding if teens are ready for more independence. Kids who make impulsive decisions may need more time and guidance before they can handle more responsibility.
“Most parents say trust is earned,” Meyer said. “Teens get more freedom and responsibility if they make good decisions.”
When teens do make minor mistakes (and they will), let them learn from the natural consequences instead of being too hard on them. Save the serious consequences for riskier decisions.
Stay connected and communicate
Going out in groups can help teens stay safe if they look out for each other, but it can lead to trouble if friends encourage them to make risky decisions.
Know whom your teens are spending time with and if any adults will be present. Talk about your family values and what to do in uncomfortable or unsafe situations.
Find out where your kids are going. Ask them to let you know if plans change or if they will be home late.
“When your teen tells you about something that happened, listen without judging,” Meyer said. “It’s important for parents to know what’s going on, and getting angry can shut down communication.”
Remind teens of safety tips
Before teens leave the house alone or with friends, go over tips to help them stay safe, even if they’ve heard them before.
This list includes good safety information for teens:
- Have your cellphone charged and with you in case you need to make an emergency call.
- Let a parent know where you will be and whom you are with. Update them if plans change.
- Pay attention to your surroundings, including traffic, people around you and where you parked your car.
- Walk in well-lit public areas at night.
- Wear reflective clothes when jogging or biking at night.
- Keep headphones at a low volume if you wear them while walking or jogging.
- Don’t text and walk or drive. Remind friends to put down their phones while driving.
- Don’t drink alcohol or use drugs. Don’t get in a car with a driver who has been drinking or using drugs.
- Use parents as an excuse to leave an unsafe or uncomfortable situation.