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Creating A Climate of Openness

What is appropriate social behavior for a high school coed? Your son or daughter is sixteen and a junior in high school. What kind of social expectations should you have of your children?

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What is appropriate social behavior for a high school coed? Your son or daughter is sixteen and a junior in high school. What kind of social expectations should you have of your children?

In the past twenty years, life has changed radically. Computer technology has exposed our children to so much more at a much earlier age.

Knowledge and information are good things. However, many of our children are ill equipped to handle and process all this newfound information in a positive way.

As parents, we need to set healthy boundaries for our children. We need to realize that parenting is a full time job.

What kind of social experiences are okay for a sixteen year old in your home? Do you have a weekday and a weekend curfew? What is your position on social drinking, cigarette smoking and smoking weed for high school students?

When can your child begin dating? What kind of dating is appropriate? What about parties and sleepovers? Is adult supervision a mandatory component?

We live in a relatively rural community. Public transportation, at best, is very limited. Do you allow your children to use their permit and/or junior license illegally for social and recreational purposes?

What about the phone and the internet? Are there any restrictions?
Both you and your husband work in order to live comfortably on the North Shore. Do you eat together as a family? What kind of accountability do you have regarding your child's daily whereabouts?

Education is a gift. Do your children respect this gift and use it in a positive way? Or do they misuse it by cutting and not doing their daily homework? As a parent, do you support your local high school or are you constantly rescuing your son or daughter from being responsible for his or her choices?

For example, KC has a hard time getting to school on time because he stays up half the night. It is school policy that if a student is late without a written parental excuse, he or she is to serve an on-campus detention. You constantly write excuse notes for KC so that he does not have to serve detention even though it is his irresponsible behavior that causes him to be consistently late for school.

What about friends? Do you as a parent have the right to forbid your teenager from connecting with certain young people in your neighborhood?

How often do you and your children really talk about the things that matter? As a parent, do you create a climate of openness where you as a parent are approachable? Or is the climate in your home that of a "war zone," where hostility and anger are the norm?

Parenting on a good day is an adventure and a challenge. We can no longer parent as we go. The issues and concerns are too delicate and critical to be handled on the run.

The present generation of teenagers is asserting their independence at an earlier age. They are less likely to be "seen and not heard." Few will "put up and shut up" without a fight or an argument. This generation is less likely to do what they are told just because they are being told. They will want an explanation and a rationale for what is being asked of them.

Therefore, as parents we need to be reasonable and think through our explanations. We need to be clear on our family guidelines and our consequences for non-compliance.

Inconsistency will not work. Playing as you go will have disastrous effects on family life. If there are parents or stepparents on the scene, all must present a united front. If your children suspect weakness in each parent, they will skillfully use the divide and conquer technique to get what they want. Often it is very effective!

You don't have to have a lot of rules, but whatever rules you do have should be clear and enforceable. For example, if you have a weekday and a weekend curfew, you need to hold your children accountable. Regularly suspending it for no reason does not help.

It is dangerous to not expect your children to be supervised by adults at sleepovers and parties. It is not wrong as parents to ask about the supervision and about what the host parent will permit regarding social behavior.

Our children will not be thrilled about much of this. However, you have an obligation since they are minors to see that they are not put in circumstances that could be dangerous and/or potentially harmful.

They have a right to gripe and express their dismay, but that should not deter you from acting as responsible parents. Just as you have the right to express your concerns about their friends, but don't have the right to forbid high school students from connecting with whom they choose.

High school social behavior should not be prison-like or like that of a reform school. However, it should not be a free-for-all. We parents need to be in concert with each other and not at cross points.

No parent should tolerate or condone illegal behavior. If we are providing adult supervision for our children, then it should be exactly that. Parents should talk to each other and share concerns. "No" is not a dirty word and sometimes needs to be employed.

Teenage years should be among the best years of our children's lives. They should not be a nightmare. As parents, we should not help to create the nightmare.