The summer my fifteen-year-old daughter started her first camp job, she stepped into a fun, cohesive social scene with other teens, college students, and twenty-somethings. The kids hung out after camp, sometimes walking to a nearby ice cream shop.
It wasn’t long before the older kids organized a Saturday night party. She was thrilled to be invited. I knew that parents wouldn’t be present, that kids would drink, do drugs, and a fifteen-year-old girl would be vulnerable.
Not that I suspected my daughter would drink, or worse. She was a strong, smart person, who made excellent decisions. But it was our job as parents to assure her safety and set boundaries appropriate for her age.
It’s easy to write a sentence about it. It’s a gigantic job to carry out.
“Fifteen-year-olds do not belong at parties with kids in their twenties,” I said, explaining why.
My daughter emphatically disagreed. She didn’t care that there’d be other parties, she wanted this one. We were rewarded with a few days of pleading, pushing, arguing, bargaining, She wanted to belong, I know.
Setting boundaries with teens requires parental fortitude and consistency. Although it’s easier to give in–after all, what’s the big deal about one party, she’ll be fine–teens need to know we’re on their side, even when it’s not what they want to hear. It’s our job to teach them and not give up.
I think that saying “no” as a parent is very hard. Many times while parenting teenagers, it’s hard to know what to do. Teenagers are separating, growing brains and bodies, and their development is supercharged and fast paced.
That’s why teenagers aren’t always accurate in predicting safety. We parents need to step up and do the tough work of “no,” even when it’s easier to give in, and hope for the best.