Parenting teens: Know what your young people are up to

Parenting teens: Know what your young people are up to

Kids whose parents know who their friends are, where they are - and what they are up to - are less likely to get into trouble.

Key points to remember

  • kids whose parents know who their friends are, where they are - and what they are up to - are less likely to get into trouble
  • following the practice of keeping your kids aware of where you are is a great way of showing that you expect the same from them
  • teenagers who have a variety of adults watching out for them are less likely to engage in unhealthy and unsafe behaviours
  • your home should be a welcoming place for teenagers if you want them to spend time there and for them to want their friends to visit

Photo of group of 4 teenagers with the words "Kids whose parents know who their friends are, where they are - and what they are up to - are less likely to get into trouble".

Kids whose parents know who their friends are, where they are - and what they are up to - are less likely to get into trouble

Boy on skateboardWhen your kids are leaving the house, do you know or ask:

  • where they are going?
  • who they will be with?
  • what will they be doing?
  • when they will be home?

If they are staying away from home overnight, you will want to be assured that other adults are going to be present. Get the phone number of the place they will be staying and talk with one of the adults there.

These are the things you should and need to know. These should be part of your “house rules” from the day they first head off by themselves. If they can’t – or won’t answer these questions – they don’t go, its that SIMPLE!

All this works best when you have good, open, and caring relationships with your kids. Remember – they will be more willing to talk to with you if they think you can be trusted, have useful advice to offer, and are open and available to listen and talk without judging them.

Teenagers who are satisfied with their relationships with their parents tend to be more willing to follow the rules. You can help this by involving them: - listening, asking questions, asking for opinions, offering support and praise, and staying involved their life.

Strategy: Model the practice of keeping family members informed of your whereabouts outside the home

Following the practice of keeping your kids aware of where you are is a great way of showing that you expect the same from them. It also means that if they need you urgently – they know where to get hold of you. Kids learn lots from what they see you do.

Privacy

The teenage years are when your kids start to develop their own personality and their own need for privacy. As they take on more responsibility, knowing what they are up to is important – but this needs to be balanced with a respect for their privacy and their need for ‘space’.

Michael started to keep the door to his room closed and made a fuss if we didn’t knock before we entered. We felt suspicious about what he might be hiding from us in the first place – but in the end we all agreed that if he cleaned his room up once a week, and put out his dirty washing, we’d leave him to it.”

Strategy: Share the load

Teenage girl and an adult womanTeenagers who have a variety of adults watching out for them are less likely to engage in unhealthy and unsafe behaviours.

When work or other activities keep you away from home and you are unable to supervise your kids, involving other adult whānau members, family friends, or neighbours can be helpful in bridging the gap. It could be a:

  • neighbour
  • friend
  • friend’s parents
  • grand parent
  • uncle or aunty
  • older brother or sister

Make sure that whoever it is has your contact details (such as mobile phone number) just in case for emergencies.

Make your home fun for your teenager

Your home should be a welcoming place for teenagers if you want them to spend time there and for them to want their friends visit. Remember that your teen wants to be with their friends, and not always with you. Have an area available where they can be on their own and not always under your watchful eye. But make it a place where, while it is fun for them and their friends, you can also occasionally breeze in and out.

The content above is based on pages 27-30 below (PDF, 1MB) from the Whānau pack: Tools for families and parents with teenagers.

Image of pages from "Whanau pack" booklet

Acknowledgement and copyright notice

The Paediatric Society of New Zealand and Starship Foundation are very grateful to Northland District Health Board (NDHB) for permission to reproduce this content from the Whānau pack: Tools for families and parents with teenagers (PDF, 4.16MB). NDHB own the copyright in this material and it must not be copied or reproduced except as expressly permitted by NDHB. 

Image of the cover of "Whanau pack" booklet

This page last reviewed 25 February 2015.
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