When Should Kids Go To Public Places With Friends?

Adolescents typically demand more freedom to run around with their friends and become independent. But parents need to keep tabs on kids' whereabouts.

As children enter their teen years, they expect to get more freedom to go places with school chums or neighborhood pals. As parents begin untying the apron strings, it may be difficult to know how much freedom kids should have, where they should go, and whether to check up on them.

If you're a parent struggling with this issue, here are a few tips that may help:

1. Know your children's friends. No matter your kids' ages, parents need and deserve to know who they are running around with. Whether a schoolmate or an acquaintance from the soccer team, a new kid in the group should be checked out to make sure he or she provides a wholesome influence. Encourage your kids to ask friends over to play video games or to study together. Observe them carefully to learn something of the kids' characters, manners, morals, and upbringing, as these are bound to influence your kids if they spend any amount of time together.

2. Understand your child. Keep an eye on your children as they head into adolescence, and pay attention to teachers' comments during school conferences. Is your child trustworthy? Does he or she fulfill obligations? Have there been incidents of lying or deception? How does your child handle temptation? Knowing these things will help you decide the extent to which your son or daughter should be permitted to spend time in public places with other kids of about the same age.

3. Find out where they plan to go. It's one thing to drop off a group of teens in front of the cinema to catch a movie. It's another to let them out at the mall with no specific activities planned for them. Start by letting kids go with their friends to structured events with a clear beginning and end, like a party or a movie. If your child follows through on timelines and avoids problems, you can loosen the tether to let him or her spend time with friends in less structured ways, such as shopping at the mall or going to the library to study.

4. Spot check their activities. It doesn't hurt to arrive a few minutes earlier than the scheduled pickup to see if the kids really do exit from the movie theater. Have your kids use the telephone in a room with a parent nearby so you can get the gist of conversations with friends. You don't want to spy, but you do want to ensure that your child is honest and not planning things that you will not approve of.

5. Keep an eye on external public conditions. Check the weather report before the kids head out. If the temperature is headed below zero, that's not a good time for anyone to be out, especially teens who typically lack experience and insight to protect themselves adequately. Listen to news reports of recent crime sprees or construction updates in the area to be sure kids will be safe from unexpected strangers or situations.

As kids become teenagers, parents will have to give them more opportunities to explore the world for themselves, sometimes with friends. But set healthy boundaries, expect check-ins and compliance with household rules, and be available in case of emergency.

© High Speed Ventures 2011