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Can You Let Your Teenager Go?

let your teenager goI thought I’d do a fun quiz this week as it’s the Easter holidays and what better way to relax than doing a fun quiz about parenting? It’s not one of those quizzes designed to make you feel bad about yourself, honestly, it’s supposed to make you laugh at yourself if you get mostly A’s and feel a bit smug if you get mostly C’s. The quiz is called ‘Can You Let Your Teenager Go?’ and it’s a little test to see how you’re doing since your child turned about 12 and how you’ve adapted to the change from primary school to secondary school and your child has moved into the teen years.

This is the time when you need to stick to your own boundaries and be honest with your kids, but at the same time allow them more freedom to make their own mistakes, stop waiting on them and over-protecting them, relax the parent role so you talk to them more as fellow human beings and less as little children, and chill out and trust them a bit more. They need to separate from you and find their own way and you make it easier for them to do that without having to become obnoxious if you relax your control a bit and let them go. And then you have a nicer, easier relationship and they are more likely to listen to you. So here we go: a little check-list for your use on the journey:

Quiz: Can You Let Your Teenager Go?

Your daughter texts you in the early hours of the morning from a school camp saying she’s scared of the dark. Do you:

A) Jump in the car to go and pick her up and bring her home

B) Text back “Wake up the teacher and let me talk to her”

C) Don’t get the text till the next morning because obviously you switch your phone off at night, and you immediately assume she was fine and probably just went straight back to sleep

You realise that your son has forgotten to take his packed lunch into school. Do you:

A) Drive down to the school to deliver it

B) Call the school to see what they can do about it

C) Think “I’m sure there’ll be some of his friends who’ll share theirs”

Clothes. Do you:

A) Buy all your daughter’s clothes according to your own taste and make her wear them

B) Take your daughter shopping for clothes so that she only gets things that you approve of and if she ever buys anything herself which you don’t approve of, don’t let her out of the house

C) Buy her tights and basic items only, if she wants anything ‘designer’ she has to get a baby-sitting job to save up, and otherwise leave it up to her

Mealtimes. Do you:

A) Always order your son to go upstairs and wash his hands before coming to the table

B) Keep telling him to sit up straight at the table and remember his manners

C) Talk about your day and ask him about his

Homework. Do you:

A) Do your daughter’s homework

B) Set up a homework schedule for your daughter and monitor and police it rigorously

C) Say “Come and ask me if you need any help with your homework” and expect her to take responsibility for sorting out her own schedule

Bedrooms. Do you:

A) Go into your son’s room every morning after he’s left for school, make his bed and “tidy up a bit”

B) Ask him if he’s made his bed every morning before he leaves for school and send him back upstairs to do it if he hasn’t

C) At some point mention to him in passing that it’s best to roll the duvet back to air the sheets

Cups. Do you:

A) Regularly go into your daughter’s room to collect up all the cups and the encrusted cereal bowls and wash them up

B) Have a strict rule that cups may only be taken to rooms if they are brought straight back after use, and enforce this rule with techniques such as endless lecturing and unrealistic threats

C) Every so often thunder “Where are ALL THE CUPS???!” and wait for her to jump up guiltily, fetch them and wash them up, shame-faced

Sleeping. Do you:

A) Let your son still sleep with you

B) Have a strict bedtime routine of no screen time or snacks in the 2 hours before bed, lights out at 8pm, but leave the light on in the hall in case he gets scared

C) Give him all the information he needs about how to get a good night’s sleep, make a time when he needs to be in his room and leave him to it

Friendship issues. Do you:

A) At the first sign of any problems, contact all the other parents and convene a meeting of all the girls involved for a Circle Time at your house to “talk things through”

B) Get extremely worried, give her loads of advice, keep checking on how things are and endlessly encourage her to “talk about it”

C) Listen, acknowledge, empathise, trust she’s capable of sorting it out by herself and give her advice only when she asks for it

Screens and t.v. Do you:

A) Not have a t.v. or any screens, you’ve never allowed him to watch t.v. before and you’re not going to start now

B) Have a strictly policed screen time policy which regularly involves taking them away as a “consequence” of his bad behaviour in other areas

C) Give him the information he needs in order to make sensible decisions himself, and when he doesn’t, occasionally get exasperated, poke fun at him or massively exaggerate the harms for comic effect

Staying out. Do you:

A) Not allow your daughter to go to teen parties because, you know, alcohol, cigarettes, sex…

B) Have a strict time policy and always go and pick her up from wherever she’s been, to her great embarrassment but better safe than sorry

C) Allow her to go out with friends and come home when the party ends even if it’s quite late, as long as she’s with someone, you know she’ll always text you when she’s leaving and she’ll always get back to your texts, you trust that she’s sensible enough

And here are your results:

Mostly A’s: Is this your first child?

Mostly B’s: Your child is older than you think.

Mostly C’s: You’ve done this before haven’t you?

Of course, this isn’t a black and white, right and wrong list, but if your child has entered the teen years and you’re still a resolutely A/B parent, just remember that you are on the path to C anyway, and my advice for happier, easier teenage years (and happier, easier teenagers…) is: don’t resist it for too long.

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