Thursday, June 23, 2011

Home Alone..Can Parents Of Teens Ever have A Social Life?

In my last video post I shared four ways to "teen proof " your home for the summer. A parent who viewed the post, wondered about the "never leave an empty house" tip. Does that only mean when you go on vacation? She asked, what about on a Saturday night when my husband and I want to go out with friends to a movie and dinner? The answer is m-a-y- b-e. Parenting a teen sometimes feels like you are being held hostage by your son/daughter. You try to wait patiently to make your plans for the weekend. But patience begins to wear thin as the teen plan-making machine goes into overdrive and verges on blowing up. The texts are flying, you keep bugging your kid to let you know what their plan is so you can make your plan.  The more vague they are, the more worried you get, bagging your own plans altogether. You are annoyed and cannot for the life of you understand how making the decision of how to spend the next three hours of a teen's life has become such a life or death process. But going out for an evening with friends, not knowing where, what and with whom your teen is, ruins the evening for you anyway. Glued to your Iphone, you are like a dog waiting for a treat, hoping that the next text from your son/daughter will have the definitive plan and you can relax. Of course that definitive plan may be that after you left for dinner in utter frustration and anxiety, your teen texted his friend who texted her friend and so on and so on, that they have finally found a house with the holy grail....a parent-less home!

Now that it is summer this is an especially important issue to come to terms with, because basically every night is a Saturday night in the summer. Though the parks and woodlands in your town are favorite teen destinations, there is nothing like an empty house where you can party in comfort, no pine needles, sand or bugs invited. It is also important to work on this with your teen, as they may also be home and free during the day, while you are at work, leaving them "home alone" plan-less, bored and in need of friends and diversion. You absolutely do not want your house to be the go-to hang house while you are at work. Think sex, drugs and rock and roll all day long!

Here is the "I get it " conversation you can have with your teen. "Here's the deal honey, when I/we are out at work during the day, or out for an evening you are not allowed to have friends in the house. I get its nice to be in your own home with all the creature comforts, but putting you in the position of having to monitor your friends to make sure they don't drink, do drugs, or have sex in our bed is too much to ask of you. I know you respect us and your home, but I/we get that kids like to party. And we know that for you to have to say to no your friends, 'you can't do that in my house' is unrealistic. So to make things easier for you on the nights you want to go out with friends, and we are going out here is the plan. We will tell you our plan the day before, including where and what time we need to leave. If you do not have a plan for yourself an hour before our departure time, we will drive you to your friends to continue your planning, so we can do our thing and you can do yours, without the temptation of kids coming to our house after we have left. We want you to be safe, and we want our home to be safe, and hopefully this plan will work. Having kids in our house without supervision is a disaster waiting to happen. If your friends are drinking or doing drugs and something happens, we/I are now legally responsible for that situation whether we are home or not. I know you would never want us to have to be in that situation god forbid something happened to one of your friends. We love you and want you to have a fun summer, just when we are in the house."

So that's the conversation. Be a little evasive with when you are returning home. Arrive home at unpredictable moments just to keep your kids on their toes in case they think they can "game the system".  Here is where the "maybe" part of my answer comes in. You have to trust your own gut here. If you have a teen that has a few close friends, who are not the partying kind, have shown little interest in partying, and are happy at home with a good video game, a friend and some popcorn, I think you can safely go on your way, leaving them alone.  If you have a very social, friend-loving, party-going teen, follow the directions above.

Having a teen does mean in adjustment in your life. Just when you are relishing the freedom from having to pay for a babysitter, you find yourself taking on that role yourself, as house sitter. It doesn't last forever, and keeping your teen safe and your house safe is worth the peace of mind. My advice, have a lot of dinner parties and be the go-to party house for your friends. At least then you get to have as good a social life as your teen!

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