When your teen asks to have friends to sleep over, or asks to sleep over at a friend’s, your first response may be a no, or you may be feeling reluctant. Visions of risky behaviour may flash through your mind.
But the fact is, at some point you are going to have to take a risk and leave your teenager on their own with others. Says Paula Hall, Relate counsellor, psychotherapist and mum of two teenage daughters: “If you feel you always need to be there to supervise, you need to ask yourself: what is it you are worried about that might go on – and what really are the chances of that happening?
“If we don’t give teenagers responsibility then they won’t ever take it. Unfortunately, at times, you are going to get it wrong – but you are going to have to get them to take responsibility for things at some point.”
Paula adds that if you’re going to allow teens to be home with friends alone, set boundaries beforehand such as: no deliberate damage to property; no smoking in the house; no taking your things; don’t touch the alcohol; don’t help themselves to food without checking with you first.
If you’ve said yes
If you have agreed to allow their friends to come over for a get together or a party, there are some things you can do to set some simple boundaries.
- decide on numbers – and stick to it
- agree your house rules with your teen in advance
Decide what your rules are. What will you absolutely not accept? Tell your child what they are and stick to them. Speak to other parents about what they feel is appropriate and make it clear what your rules are, whether it’s no alcohol, no music after a certain time and so on. If you have allowed your teens to have alcohol at the party, agree some boundaries on this so there are no issues. Be around at the party too so you can give a helping hand if needed.
Impose a consequence if any of these rules are broken. You have to make sure it’s something that your child will be really anxious to avoid and you must be prepared to carry it out. Says Paula: “I once put a nine-week ban on my daughter having friends round, which was very effective as she adores having friends to stay.”
Decide beforehand where you’re going to be when the get together takes place. Don’t leave parties completely unsupervised – stay out of the way by all means, but be there for any unforeseen emergencies or gatecrashers. Speak to your child about responsible attitudes and appropriate behaviour.
If you've said no
Don’t give in to pestering: “So and so’s mum lets her have sleepovers/everyone else goes to them,” etc. Kids only nag and pester when they are rewarded by winning.
It’s perfectly ok to say no if you aren’t comfortable and don’t feel you have to justify it. Don’t leave the idea there is a ‘maybe’ possible if you really aren’t happy. Say something like: “Yes, I’m sure it does seem unreasonable to you, and I’m really sorry I can’t give you an explanation you’re happy with, but the answer is still no.”
When your teen is the guest
Check with the host’s parents who will be supervising. Ask if alcohol is going to be allowed and tell them your feelings on this.
Always have a number for the home they are staying in. Tell your teen if they are worried or uncomfortable about anything, they can phone you and you will pick them up.
It may help to chat to other parents on our forums to find out how they are dealing with this issue within their family life. You can also talk to us online via our live chat service, email us at email@example.com or call us on our helpline on 0808 800 2222 to speak to trained family support worker.