The teenage years are tough. Suddenly, that child that wanted to be with you every second of the day, that drove you mad by not letting you have a shower or go to the toilet on your own, is spending all of their time at home alone in their room. Even if you have managed the impossible, and you still get on well with no arguments and a good relationship, they probably spend more time out with friends or alone in their bedroom than they do with you. While this is a completely normal part of growing up and is to be expected, it can be hard.
Harder, perhaps, than them spending an increasing amount of time alone, is them wanting more freedom and independence. That child that used to run to you at the end of school no longer wants a lift home. They want to walk with their friends. They might not even want to come straight home. They might no longer be content playing with their friends in the street in front of your house, instead wanting to explore further afield, going shopping and to the cinema with their friends.
Again, this is an entirely normal part of growing up, and it’s essential that you do give them more freedom. It will teach them responsibility and independence. It can increase their confidence and help to prepare them for adult life. Freedom also allows them to grow, to learn more about themselves and who they want to be, and to form deeper friendships and relationships. But, as a parent, you will always worry about them taking these first steps to independence. So, let’s take a look at some of the most crucial things that you can do to keep them safe while letting them go into the world.
The very best thing that you can do for your child as they gain freedom and grow in independence is to educate them. The world can be a scary place, and you certainly don’t need to frighten them with gruesome details and tales of specific events. Fortunately, you don’t need to.
Teach them about the dangers that they might face. Give them tips on how to spot trouble and tell them to trust their instincts. If something doesn’t feel safe or comfortable, get away. Educate them on safe relationships and what can go wrong. Teach them safe sex and answer any questions that they might have about the subject as honestly as you possibly can. If you don’t know something, research together.
Then, teach them where they can get help, who they can turn to if they are out and in trouble and who to call to come and get them. In the big scary world, knowledge is one of the most powerful tools in a teens arsenal, and you are the best person to give it to them.
Once they’ve got the knowledge, they need the tools. Many parents worry about letting their children have a mobile phone. But, when they are out and about, having a phone with the numbers that they need (like your number, other family members and trusted adults, a taxi number or app and emergency services) can be a great way to keep themselves safe. And the Family Orbit app means that you can keep an eye on them too. You should also make sure they know details like your name, phone number, and address, and some cash in case they need to get home quickly.
You might also want to talk to them about the idea of carrying a rape alarm or even taking some basic self-defense lessons together.
It can be tough letting them go. But, showing them your fears, checking up on them all of the time, ringing them every 5 minutes or asking a million questions when they do get home won’t help. It will just make the more secretive and keener to be away from you.
Instead, try to be calm. Check up on them discreetly if you need to, but respect their space and trust them. Ask questions and chat with them, but offer them your support and guidance. Be there if they need you, but know when to back off and they’ll be much more likely to confide in you, to come to your with their questions and ask you for your support. Giving them space is often the best way to keep them close. You know your children, and your relationship, trust your instincts and trust them.
What are some ways you give your teen freedom while keeping them safe? Let me know in the comments below!