The Family Project: pre-teen’s visits
Q. My 12-year-old daughter wants to start “hanging out” with her friends. I know I need to give her more freedom as she gets older, but this is so hard. What should I be checking out or asking her when she wants to go with her friends to the mall or a park?
The first questions to ask, according to panelist Pam Wallace, are: “Who are you going with? Where are you going? What will you be doing? Will there be an adult with you?”
The mother should stress that she needs to ask these questions because she cares about her daughter, panelist Mike Daniels said. “Kids today can’t stand to have parents in their lives, but they are whether they like it or not.” The parent needs to make that point, but at the same time acknowledge that the daughter does need some independence. “I recognize that you are 12, and you need to do this.”
Wallace and the other panelists suggested that the mother start by taking her daughter to meet her friends, and then arrange to meet her in one hour or so.
Panelist Chad Stefanyak suggested that the mother volunteer to drive the friends to the mall, then mention that it’s a lot to drive back and forth, “so would you mind if I did some shopping, and then pick you up after?” The amount of time can be open to negotiation, according to panelist Denise Continenza. “Start in small increments of time, and if she sticks to the boundaries, you can expand the time.”
“It is important to set boundaries,“ Daniels said, “but be flexible. If she is 10 minutes late, don’t freak out, but an hour late is another matter. “There also should be a conversation about expectations and temptations of life,” but he emphasized that the goal is to keep the lines of communication open.
“It is important today for kids to be trusted, so we need to give them opportunities to earn that trust,” Continenza said. “Start with small privileges and, if they meet the test, give them bigger ones.”
“I give my kids an out,” Stefanyak explained. “If things are happening that they are not happy or comfortable with, they can blame me. All they have to say is, ‘My dad is coming to pick me up.’”
This week’s team of parenting experts are: Pam Wallace, Program Coordinator, Project Child, a program of Valley Youth House; Denise Continenza, Extension Educator, Food, Families and Health, Penn State Extension; Mike Daniels, LCSW, Psychotherapist, CTS, and Chad Stefanyak, School Counselor.
Have a question? Email: firstname.lastname@example.org. The Family Project is a collaboration of the Lehigh Valley Press Focus section and Valley Youth House’s Project Child. Have a question? Email: email@example.com.