When Your Teen Goes Out, Demand a Plan
I grew up before the time of cell phones, email and instant communication. So if I wanted to ask a girl out, I would have to call her house on a regular phone. And if she said “Yes,” a date went something like this…
- Pick her up at home and probably meet her parents.
- Go to dinner and a movie.
- If you hit it off, call her again… and maybe go out with another couple on a “double date” next time.
My two teen daughters have no such roadmap. They “hang out” with their friends in groups and travel in packs. They text and Facetime each other, rarely using their phones to talk. And there is very little opportunity for them to individually get to know the boys who are part of their groups of friends. As a result, some of the rules I grew up with – like having a boy come to the door to meet the parents – don’t really apply.
So, we’ve come with our own rules for “going out.” They’re aimed at keeping our daughters in a safe environment, keeping us informed and making sure they don’t accidentally end up alone, stranded or with strangers. Here are our two rules:
Have a Plan: First, our daughters must come to us with the answers to our Who, What, Where, and When questions. If they don’t have an answer for each one of them, or if the Who is made up entirely of people we don’t know, then they probably need a different plan.
Keep in Touch: We need to know every time our daughters get into or out of a car. So, if their plans include multiple stops, they will be required to text us multiple times over the course of a night.
These two rules cover all the major bases, but there is a lot more happening behind the scenes. For example, our daughters have a curfew, and we wait up until they get home to say “Good night” (a tried-and-true strategy for keeping kids honest). And they know that if they ever feel unsafe while they’re out, they are free to call for a ride home, no questions asked.
One additional strategy we’ve adopted – one my parents never used on me growing up – is to encourage our daughters to bring their friends to our house. As long as we leave them alone and don’t act like nervous parents, we’ve had good luck getting them to play along.
So far, so good. But then, we still have a lot of teen years to go.