Back in the “good ol’ days,” when all the neighborhood kids played in each neighbor’s yard together, the rule of thumb was: “Be home by the time the streetlights come on.” As children get older, though, the rule doesn’t stick as well. Setting a curfew for your teenager can seem difficult and trying on both parties (the parents and the teen) but in the end, it sets a safe limit of freedom.
Teens and Curfews
Teens are practically nocturnal. Even though they need much more sleep than they usually get, they somehow always wind up at the end of the day with a ton of energy. As your child grows into a teen, they expect later bedtimes and more freedom to go out on dates, hang with friends and spend time away from their parents. Yet they are still not adults. As their parent, you know they still need guidance and caring. As often as they seem to think they know everything, there is still much to learn. Setting a curfew sets a safe boundary for exploration and independence.
Talk It Out
Discuss setting a curfew with your teen. Let them know this is their opportunity for a bit of freedom on a controlled level. Also let them know why a curfew is important. They may not think they need many hours of sleep during the week because they can always make up for it on the weekend. Nonetheless, a rested mind and body is well-charged to learn new things each day. It also relieves your teen of the social pressure to make a late night decision about staying out.
Setting It Up
It may be difficult to find a time that you are both happy with, but consider the following:
- The first step is to consider the city limits or curfew restrictions. Whatever your decision is, it should obey the law.
- Consider your child’s afterschool activities; are there any days of the week that would grant an exception to the curfew due to the activity?
- Make sure you decide if the curfew changes on the weekends or it’s a time that stays consistent seven days a week.
- Decide what information needs to be known in the event of an evening activity. It could be mandatory to mention who will be involved, where they expect to be going and if they have to notify you of a change in plans.
- House phones used to be the only mode of communication but now there are many types of communication available. Decide what will be yours: call, text, smoke signal, carrier pigeon?
- Make sure that you as a parent feel comfortable with the curfew and that you are not just abiding by your teen’s persistent wishes.
Break It Down
Maybe one of the most important aspects of the curfew is to specifically name what the consequences are for breaking it. Explain to your child that a curfew is an opportunity to show the parents just how much they can be trusted with responsibility. When curfew is broken, so is the level of trust. Will they be grounded? Given an earlier curfew? Have certain privileges or prized items taken away? Consider adding it to a written document, like a “house law” or contract and have them sign it. With a written version they can see every day, your teen will easily be reminded of their responsibilities.
You Are in Charge
Curfews can be a great way for teens to learn how to handle a bit of freedom and also a way for parents to start giving their children more independence. By having an open conversation about the need or desire for a curfew and setting up all the formalities, you both have a chance to express your concerns and come to an agreement. It’s all just one more part of growing-up.