When our children are young we sort of pick their friends. You know it’s true – we plan play dates with the kids we want our children to hang out with, we put them into activities with the kids we like. It is comforting to know that your children are being influenced by the children you approve of.
Then as they become tweens and teens, who they hang out with becomes less and less under your control. They have a mind of their own and they get to choose whoever they want to like, hang out and spend time with – this is where the rub happens for many parents. That lack of control and not knowing enough about their peer choices can be disconcerting and cause relational problems.
How do you get around that?
I say, stick with what has always worked – in a way. You may not be choosing the friends for the playdate, which is now referred to as “hang out time” but nonetheless, invite your teens friends over to your home. The only way you will ever get to know the friends your teen wants to spend time with – is by you spending time with them yourself. Now don’t get me wrong here, you do not need to always insert yourself into their fun – just provide a place for fun to happen.
It is a joy to be preparing snacks in the kitchen while on your dinner table you witness a 100 pound teen girls body go flying across your table top to snatch up the lone remaining spoon during a game of “Extreme Spoons” – really, it happened. It is hilarious fun to watch your teen daughter try teach a group of your teen sons friends how to play a friendly game of Texas Hold Em.
It is also comforting to see the quiet, handsome young man who has taken your daughter to Prom treat your daughter with the care and respect she deserves – while being kind to her little brother and a role model to his friends.
Allowing teens a safe, fun, welcoming place to gather (and eat) will set them, and you, up for success as they navigate their way through their teen years and you work to parent well, while letting go.
Now, be forewarned – your grocery bill is going to go up, but it will be worth it!