Around the time my son turned 13, he started spending more time away from our home. School activities kept him busy after school, and he and his buddies would take turns hanging out in basements to play video games on the weekends.
In the last two years, most of his time spent away has been spent supervised by teachers or other parents, but as he crossed over to being a full-fledged teen, he developed a social life right along with a heavy case of acne.
The first time he wanted to go to the movies with his friends without a parent, I was sceptical. Though he is a mature 15-year-old, I wasn’t sure how to handle the pick-up and drop-off logistics for a teen who wanted to hang with his buddies. He and his friends wanted to see a movie and walk to a local diner for a snack afterward. When he was coordinating with a friend about carpooling, he said, “What time do I have to be home?” I was at a loss.
Because he’s our first teenager, my husband and I had never discussed curfews and we weren’t sure how to handle the situation. On one hand, we wanted our son to feel as though he had the freedom to spend time with his friends away from our watchful eye, but on the other, we know all too well that unsupervised teens can get themselves into sticky situations.
So, I did what I usually do in situations like this: I asked my friends with older teens for guidance.
And one of my friends gave me genius advice.
“Curfews need to be fluid,” she said. She explained to me that the curfew you’d give a non-driving 15-year-old is much different than the one you’d give your college-aged kid who is home on winter break. “Curfews have to grow with your child or they will never work,” she advised.
And it makes total sense. When I was a teen, my parents gave me a fixed curfew of 11:30 PM that lasted well into when I came home from uni to visit. And it was infuriating. We had plenty of battles over extending my time out by a half an hour here and there. Now that I’m a parent of teens, I’d like to avoid battling over what time they arrive home.
Many states have mandatory curfews for new teenaged drivers, as well as laws about how late children can be out without an adult. Obviously, when it comes to setting a fluid curfew for your teen, respecting your local laws is necessary. In our state, licensed teens must be off the road by 11 PM, and while that helps us build a concrete curfew for now, it won’t be long until our son is allowed — by law — to be home after 11 PM.
So, what’s the best way for a parent of teens to figure out a curfew that works for both parties?
Simply work backwards
Start by deciding what time you’d like your 20-year-old kid to come home. If you decide that your 20-year-old should be home by 1 AM when she’s home on winter break, it’s perfectly reasonable to tell your 15-year-old 11 PM.
Simply thinking ahead about how curfews will work when your kids get older will make it infinitely easier to set curfews when they first start needing guidelines.
And, when your child knows that their curfew will extend as they get older, it can be easier to swallow an early arrival time. Curfews help teens develop time management skills and force them to plan their evenings so they are not speeding home unsafely.
We’ve had many discussions in our house about curfews and respecting our rules. We’ve told our son that, while we expect that he’ll abide by the curfews we set, we also recognise that sometimes, road conditions or unexpected issues arise that will prevent him from making it home on time. And that’s ok, too.
For now, we are taking it one social gathering at a time, and we will go from there. His current curfew is 11:30 PM, and I’d be lying if I said I can’t wait for him to start driving. Because staying up until 11 PM is way past my bedtime.