Guest Author - Beverly Patchell
With adolescents, it is a constant dance of being close and giving space. A key aspect of adolescence is developing independence from parents/caregivers. Yet they still need supervision and guidance through the pitfalls of the modern world and the impulsivity of their developmental stage. On top of that, there is a big difference between a 13 year old and a 19 year old adolescent, so the supervision, freedom, and guidance must be constantly evolving and changing to meet the changing needs of the adolescent.
The key to all supervision and guidance is to communicate clearly your intent in providing it. Although they may protest, if supervision is done with the intent of providing for safety and expressing love, the protests will not be so stringent. If the intent is based on lack of trust, then the message is different. Certainly an adolescent can lose your trust and then must incrementally earn that trust back. Be clear what the steps are to earning that trust and then move on without condemning the adolescent to being in the forever-earning position.
Special events can be times for adventures in freedom and trust for the adolescent. These events can be concerts, road trips, camp-outs, holiday parties, etc. Whatever the occasion, the rules of engagement can be clearly defined and provide the safety net that the adolescent needs. A common pitfall for young adolescents is playing pranks and/or sneaking out during a sleepover. The pressure to follow the group can be overwhelming, so make sure you let them know that it is a concern. You can also discuss this concern with the supervising adults to alert them to the possibility of fun getting out of control. Another common group pitfall is to single out another child or teen for teasing or hazing. As we know from news reports, this occurs much too frequently, often with tragic results and life-changing results. Even if these seem like remote possibilities, it is better to bring them up, talk to your child about how they will handle it, and help them determine the appropriate response if it does occur.
With older adolescents, the overriding concerns are always drinking, drugs, and driving. Again, the best way to prevent a problem is to help the adolescent walk through the issues without the peer pressure or the need for instant decisions and help them problem-solve how to handle it. Doing this can also be a prerequisite for you considering allowing them to attend, and if becomes a family requirement, the adolescent will begin to filter the invitations themselves and gradually learn to think like you do regarding their safety and being able to discern the best choice for them.