When I was a teenager, my parents told me “It’s not that we don’t trust you, it’s that we don’t trust everyone else” whenever they put some kind of curfew or driving moratorium on me. This happened like clockwork on certain nights of the year: New Year’s, 4th of July, Christmas Eve. They were serious about those curfews! They didn’t want me out on the road late on a public holiday. And with good reason: Drunk drivers usually owned the roads on those nights.
At the time, I felt their curfews and rules were lame. Really, really lame. But now that I am older, I see the love and care behind their rules and all their concern.
My parents were very strategic in talking to me about what I would be doing, how to respond in certain situations, and what to do if ever I found myself in trouble. In light of end-of-school-year-party-season, I’d like to share some of the conversation points to use as your own teenagers head off to parties or friends’ houses:
First, start with some questions:
- Where are you going? (It’s ok to ask for an address of a friend’s house, the name of the restaurant, etc. Have your teen tell you all the details.)
- When are you leaving and when do you plan on being back? (Obviously if you have set a curfew for the night, you will need to communicate this very clearly).
- How are you getting there and getting home? Will you be driving to different locations? If so, who will be driving? (This was my parents’ FAVORITE question. Sigh)
- Who is going to be with you?
- What will you be doing?
- Do you have any concerns about the evening?
Secondly, set some guidelines for how your teen can respond if a situation takes him/her by surprise. Some strategies to go over include:
- What to do if alcohol is involved
- What to do if you feel unsafe when someone else is driving
- How to suggest different activities if the ones offered are inappropriate or make you feel uncomfortable
- What to do if someone pushes your physical boundaries (This, hopefully, has been preceded by a discussion about what your teen’s physical boundaries are. If this discussion hasn’t taken place yet, Mom and Dad, there’s no time like the present.)
- Have an escape plan (This is a good time to tell your son/daughter if they ever need you to come get them, you will.)
Thirdly, set some clear expectations about what you require your teen to do. You might consider the following (again, taking a cue from my parents):
- I expect you to call or text me when you arrive at the party, letting me know you got there safely
- Please communicate any change of plans with me
- Please provide the mobile number of a friend or parent who will be with you, just in case something happens to your phone
- Please send me an all’s well text a couple hours after you get there
- Don’t be afraid to tell me something is wrong. I’d rather you call me over a false alarm than feel like you can’t call and get into a dangerous situation.
- Let me know when you are on your way home
*I should note that my parents threatened to show up at the party if I failed to tell them I arrived safely, or if I didn’t send the all’s well text halfway through, etc. That threat alone helped me to remember all the steps!
Finally, pray for your teen before he or she heads off. Ask for God’s protection and for a really good, positive time. Remind your teens that sometimes situations come up where you have to be the “odd one out” and do something different than everyone else. It’s ok, really. They might feel ashamed or uncomfortable if they have to do something like that, but they’ll be glad they did later. Let your son or daughter know that you trust him/her to make the right decisions. Your confidence in your children will communicate a lot to them and could potentially give them the courage and motivation needed to make a good choice in a sticky situation.
– Megan Briggs