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Life Notes: The Importance of Setting Limits
by Kimberly Tremblay, MA, LPC
Parents can be confused about setting limits for their teenager when it comes to socializing. Social activity is very important for adolescents. They are learning and practicing skills they will use for the rest of their lives, both personally and in the world of work. It is important, however, to set limits on the type and length of time for social events.
Structure and consistency are very important aspects to remember when setting up limits. Adolescents are very skilled at finding inconsistencies and loopholes, and taking advantage of them! Before your child reaches the age that you deem old enough for unsupervised socializing, set up a plan for the structure you will allow your youth to operate in. Be very clear about curfew times, and any rules you will or will not have about extensions.
A graduated system that is communicated from the beginning gives a youth something to look forward to. For example, later curfew times can be earned in steps, based on age, maturity, or trust. Extensions of curfew for special events may be considered. Be clear about your expectations for entertaining others at home. For example, a parent may want to set a curfew, and allow others with later curfews to visit at their home after this time. The youth will be more amenable to honoring their curfew if they do not feel they are missing out.
Be very clear about the consequences for coming home late, or abusing your trust. If either happens, follow through with the consequences. Inconsistency equals opportunity!
Finally, before your child is allowed to go off on their own, set up ground rules for emergencies. Always make sure that the youth has a way to contact you if needed. Keep in mind that if an adolescent is in a position where they are uncomfortable, like a party with alcohol or drugs, they may hesitate to call for help if they feel they will get in trouble.
The Life Notes articles are written by staff of Louisiana Methodist Children’s Home and are published in The Ruston Daily Leader.