Trust your kids until they give a reason not to

In a week long series, parent coach and teen mentor Eileen Keane Haly looks at issues facing teenagers, from education, to relationships, friendships and more. Today: Freedom and trust
Trust your kids until they give a reason not to

Communication with your child is key.

AS our kids start their teenage years, many of them will be ready to take that jump happily, for others it may not be quite so easy.

For the outgoing social teenager - discos

I remember my daughter going to her first disco, I was a nervous wreck. The clothes (or lack of), the fake tan, the girly giggles, I wasn’t sure how to handle it. It took me a while to accept she was growing up and needed the freedoms that this entailed. I also realised very often the most important part of these nights was the ‘getting ready’ before hand, the disco was usually secondary.

For the quieter, less social teenager

- discos

For many young teenagers, the thought of going to a disco would be horrendous. They do not have the interest, the need or the desire to go. Do respect their decision, they will go when and if they are ready.

Discos are not for everyone, some teens will be protecting themselves by not going, they can be quite clever at times. Maybe they do not want to be subjected to peer pressure or maybe they just do not want to go, either way we do need to listen to them. I have worked with many kids who can feel under a lot of pressure to go to these discos, pressure from friends but also at times pressure from home.

Try not to put pressure on your kids to fit it, to do what we presume they should be doing, they are well able to decide what is right for them, we just need to listen and respect their decision.

Always give your teenager an ‘out’!

By this, I mean it is so important that your teenager can escape any social situation if they feel the need. They need to know they can contact you and you will support them. I used to tell mine to pretend they feel sick and text me and I would come and get them.

A teenager who finds themselves in a risky, scary situation and has no-one to call to help them is not where any of us want to find our kids. We may be upset with them (if drink, smoking, etc, is involved) but we need to be there for them.

Try to remember what you were doing at their age, what pressures you may have been under. 

Pick your battles with you teen, you do want them to know that they can call on you when ad if needed. Of course there will be consequences if they have broken a trust but keep communication open at all costs.

‘They are all doing it, they are all allowed to go’.

You may hear these phrases over and over again during your kids teenage years. In my experience they are rarely the case. Teens can be very clever and they know how to get around us. I have always made contact with other parents to make sure we were all on the same page.

Your teens won’t like it but it is important. We are their parents and we do need to know where they are and who they are with. It all comes back to boundaries, what time is your teen allowed out until? Do you have rules around drinking, smoking, weed etc`? Where are they allowed to hang out?

These conversations need to happen. I have worked with many 14 year olds who believe weed is better for you than cigarettes! Our teens are growing up in a different world to the one we grew up in, we need to have open conversations about all of these issues so we can set age appropriate boundaries within the home.

Many teens will have no interest whatsoever in all of the above, but I still suggest having the conversations as you do not know what situations your child might find themselves in.

All Grown Up

At 13/14 they want to feel all grown up, but we know they are still kids, they want their privacy, but we know we still need to keep an eye on them, they want to believe they know it all, but we certainly know they do not!

I learned to accept that things needed to change. 

What I found most helpful was sitting them down and having an honest chat with them. We needed to agree on new boundaries, more age appropriate boundaries and freedoms. My motto has always been ‘trust them until they give you a reason not to’. So many kids can be judged unfairly, maybe compared to an older sibling, a cousin or a neighbour, this is just not fair.

Kids and especially teens need to push their boundaries, they will all make mistakes at some point and hopefully they will learn from their mistakes, how else can we expect them to grow into resilient young adults. As hard as it may be at times, we do need to give them the freedom to grown and develop as young teenagers. Be very firm on your boundaries and give them the benefit of your trust, at least until they give you a reason not to.

Tomorrow: Eileen writes about Communication

About the author:

Eileen Keane Haly, is the Director of and author of The Parent. Eileen is a qualified Parent Coach, Kids Confidence Coach and Teenage Mentor, with a background in child psychology. Most of her professional life has been spent gathering information about how our younger generation work, how they deal with difficult situations, how social media is affecting them socially and emotionally, how their school life, social life and home life impact on their everyday experiences.

She has recently published her first parenting book called The Parent which can be purchased on her website You can also follow Eileen on her Instagram page jumpstartyourconfidenccork and Facebook page.

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