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Rules & Boundaries for Your Teenager

by Kathryn Walsh, studioD

Creating boundaries for your teen shouldn't keep her from exploring, growing and creating friendships. Rather, boundaries should allow her to navigate the rocky teen years with a safety net. She might roll her eyes or perfect her use of the silent treatment when you introduce a new rule, but your teenager probably knows deep down that you set boundaries and limits to keep her safe.

General Rules

Rules vary from household to household, but your teen will be in good company if you require her to follow a curfew. Consider adjusting her curfew on an as-needed basis because she might be more willing to come home early on weeknights if she's allowed the occasional late night to attend a concert or party. Rules about school, extracurricular activities and worship services are also fair game for parents to make. You might set a minimum grade point average you expect her to keep in order to keep social privileges, declare that school work comes before club activities or require her to join you each week for church, if you see fit. It's also fair to make your teenager contribute to the household by doing chores such as unloading the dishwasher, care for a pet or help with weekly cleaning tasks.

Friend and Dating Rules

You can try forbidding your teen from befriending or dating someone you don't like, but she'll likely find her way back to that person anyway. Instead, try making a rule that you need to meet anyone with whom your teenager is spending a lot of time. Tell her she needs to communicate with you about where she goes, who she goes with and what parental supervision will be in place. You might simply ask that she text you before going to a friend's house and let you know when she plans to come home. If she dates, you might make a rule limiting the number of dates she can have a week. It's also wise to make a rule that a parent must be home when she has a date over, says Dr. Anita Gurian of New York University's Child Study Center, and that they must remain in public areas of the home.

Computer and Phone Rules

Your teenager's eyes probably spend most of her free hours focused on the screen of a computer, cell phone or other electronic device. Set some boundaries to protect her from threats to her safety and reputation. Ask your teen not to talk to people she doesn't know online or by phone, and tell her firmly that she is never to arrange a meeting with someone she talks to online without your approval. MayoClinic.com also suggests telling a teen not to say anything in a message, either online or by text, that she wouldn't say to someone's face. She might not like having her activity monitored, but HealthyChildren.org suggests making your teen use a computer only in public spaces of the house and limiting the number of daily minutes she's allowed to be online. If you're concerned she's engaged in inappropriate activities, you might also tell your teenager that you'll be doing unscheduled checks of her computer history, social media pages and phone.

Risky Behavior Rules

When her friends and classmates are trying drugs, alcohol and sex, your teenager might feel weak to resist joining in. Create some firm boundaries about risky behaviors and back them up with regular talks about dealing with peer pressure. MayoClinic.com recommends making rules forbidding drinking and urging your teen to leave gatherings where other teens are drinking. Tell her exactly what you expect her to do when offered drugs or alcohol. Because she might slip up, consider also telling your teen you expect her to call you if she needs a safe way to get home after she or her friends have used drugs or alcohol. If she has a driver's license, limit the number of passengers she can have in the car and tell her that she is not to use her phone when the car is turned on. Talking about sex is hard for most parents, but telling your teen what you expect her to do about birth control and waiting for sex gives her the necessary guidance to make the right decisions.

About the Author

Cooking, travel and parenting are three of Kathryn Walsh's passions. She makes chicken nuggets during days nannying, whips up vegetarian feasts at night and road trips on weekends. Her work has appeared to The Syracuse Post-Standard and insider magazine. Walsh received a master's degree in journalism from Syracuse University.

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