Keep your kids around by welcoming their friends.
Most parents want to know who their teens are hanging out with and what they’re up to. A good way to do this is to have a teen-friendly home – one that’s welcoming to your teen’s friends and where they can relax together in a safe environment.
For Aidan and his friends, it’s all about food, says mother Louise. “Aidan and I have fun making dinner and having a BBQ for his friends – male teens are always hungry, so that’s a good way to keep them around,” she says.
Tom, a single parent of Sam and Ry, agrees. “Sometimes Sam will come home on a Friday night at 7 p.m. with his friends, and I’ll be thinking, ‘I wish I had known ahead of time, but I don’t say that!’” he laughs. “I’ll usually involve them in meal preparation, slap together a stir-fry, and add some meat to some of it. It helps that I usually know who’s currently a vegetarian or vegan. I don’t worry too much about it; I just try to be flexible.”
Food can be a good starting point when making your teen and his or her friends feel welcome in your home, according to Beverlee Hafeli-Timlin, Health Promotions Coordinator at Kinark Child and Family Services. “Stopping by their room with popcorn, or a snack, shows them that you’re happy their friends are around,” she says.
Having their own space
Deb, mother of Margot, says it’s important for teens to have their own space in which to hang out. “Teenage girls can get very noisy and make a huge mess. So I’m happy we have a family room where they can let loose and have a good time, without affecting the rest of us!” she says. “I like knowing where they are and that they’re safe. I also try to strike a balance between being friendly, but not too intrusive into their lives.”
Tom’s philosophy is that it’s ‘our house, not my house.’ “It’s important to allow them to have their own space,” he says. “And they have equal access to all the main entertainment areas, such as a big screen on which to watch movies. We also have a common computer room with four computers, so that even working on an assignment or being on Facebook can be a communal activity – they’re not all cloistered away on their own computers.”
Tom says that he isn’t too fussy about neatness. “I don’t impose my own standards of tidiness and cleanliness onto them – I try to meet them halfway and get them to help when it’s time to clean up,” he says. “I also don’t go to bed early – I’m up as late as they are, so that I know what they’re up to. It’s harder for them to get into any risky behaviour if they know I might walk into the room with a book at any moment.”
Show the right attitude
It’s important for parents to have a non-judgmental attitude towards their teen and her friends, according to Beverlee Hafeli-Timlin. “Teens need to know that the door is always open and that their home is a “soft” place to land,” she says. “We need to be accepting of their friends. Instead of saying to your daughter, after Melissa has gone home: ‘Boy, Melissa sure swears a lot about her family, I don’t want her here anymore,’ you can wonder aloud, in a caring way, ‘how is Melissa dealing with the difficult situation she’s in?’ This may open a discussion with your teen rather than a confrontation about their choice of friends.”
Being accepting of your teen and welcoming to their friends can bridge whatever gaps may be in danger of developing during the teen years as they are learning to become more independent from their parents. “Sam doesn’t always tell me what’s on his mind, so I like it when he brings his friends over because while we’re eating together, I’ll raise an issue and the friends will offer their comments. Eventually my son will be drawn out and speak up, so I find out what he’s thinking about,” says Tom.