We all know that we have to allow our teenagers to spread their wings and learn responsibilities and one area that is constantly on parent’s minds is curfews and how much freedom they should allow teenagers to have. The main queries we get from parents is how late their curfew should be and what to do if they break the curfew. Let’s look at some of the issues and explore solutions.
With regard to how late you should allow your teenager stay out, this depends on many factors. One is their age – obviously you won’t let a 14 year old stay out as late as a 16 year old.
The curfew time can vary by age, where they are going, how they are getting to/from the venue and who else they are with. You may have a curfew time of 10pm for your 15 year old during the summer when they are 'hanging out’ with friends. However, during school term and darker nights in the winter, you can change the curfew time to be earlier. This is perfectly reasonable and you should discuss the curfew time with your teenager and agree the time.
You may also want to insist that they must have their mobile phone on so that you can contact them to check in that they are okay. If explained to your teenager, i.e. “you need to be home to get good rest for school and I need to be able to check that you are safe and okay by being able to contact you” then it should be easier for them to understand and realize that you are not setting the curfew to be a spoil sport but to help to keep them healthy and safe.
Think up a consequence that you will have for breaking the curfew rules and communicate those to your teenager. For example, if they are between 5 and 15 minutes late, they have to be home 15 minutes earlier the next night. This can be escalated, so more than 15 minutes later means curfew time is brought back 30 minutes. It may be that being more than 30 minutes late means that they don’t get to go out at all the following night – this should depend on the original curfew time, if there was a genuine reason for them being late and your own instinct as a parent.
If there is a break in curfew, try to ensure that you don’t react to the problem when you are angry and stressed (possibly due to pacing the floor while you waited!). It’s okay to not know what to do just at that time, leave it, sleep on it and deal with it when you are calm and have had a chance to decide what way you want to handle it.
When you do sit down to talk about the problem, remain calm and respectful towards your teenager. Explain how worried you were and ask what happened. Give them a chance to speak – there may be a good explanation for their late arrival home and this may influence the consequence that you impose. By listening respectfully, you are showing your teenager that you want to hear their side of things and you’re not just ‘out to get them’ for being late.
Depending on the outcome of this conversation, you can decide on a consequence. Make sure that the consequence is fair and communicate it clearly to your teenager. Most important of all, follow through on the consequence – your teenager has to believe that the consequence is real and encourage them to behave better in future.
Remember our key areas of building rules for children; health, safety, education and respect. Curfew times are to ensure the health and safety of your child. If you can help them to understand that, then you are less likely to have huge conflict around setting curfew times and contact rules.