It’s a Friday night at 1 a.m., I’m exhausted and my daughter isn’t home yet. She is out with friends and tonight she’s the driver. I want to go to sleep. In fact, I’m in my jammies under my covers, but my eyes won’t shut. I’m thinking about that proverbial ditch that parents think their children are in when it’s late at night and they haven’t returned home.
Yes, I know what you are thinking. Why don’t you track your daughter with a cell phone locator? You were thinking that, right? The truth is I did track her and I know she is still out with her friends in the hopping area of town about 20 miles away. Here’s the thing… I haven’t given my daughter a curfew since she arrived home from college, and now as I lie awake, I’m rethinking the whole curfew thing.
Actually, this summer, the teen curfew has been on my mind A LOT.
A week ago, my youngest son got his driver’s license. By law in Florida, new drivers under 16 must be home by 11 p.m. What a blessing for this law!! Because most of my son’s friends who drive are 16, too, I have temporary relief from late nights awake, waiting up for him to arrive home. But in just a few months, some of my son’s friends are turning 17, and that means their driving curfew by law gets pushed to 1 a.m.
I just don’t want my son out that late. When my fellow blogger Raquel and I chat about our experiences raising teens, we have often discussed how nothing good happens on the road after midnight. I tell my kids often that anyone on the road after midnight probably shouldn’t be on the road. Okay, so maybe I shouldn’t be soooo dramatic…not everyone on the road late at night is crazy or drunk, but the chances are much higher.
Informally, I’ve been polling other parents of teens, asking them how they handle the curfew situation. I’ve gotten a mixed bag of answers. My one friend sets her alarm to wake up at the time her teen is supposed to be home. Another gives her teen a curfew depending on the radius he is away from home. Another has a curfew set in stone and he enforces it strongly. My sister, who has two teen boys, keeps a certain light on in the house and she knows everyone is home safe when she wakes up and sees the light off.
When I think back on my teen years, curfew brings back memories of negotiation — begging for more time. My sister and I even devised a plan where we would set the clock back to our curfew time before waking our mother up to let her know we were home safe. At least I’m now on to that trick as a parent!
While by law my son has to abide by the 11 p.m. curfew as a driver, I have decided to give him a midnight curfew when he isn’t the driver. I searched around a little online for some guidance. The American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) recommends 12 to 13 years old should have a 10 p.m. curfew on weekends and 14 to 16 years old should have an 11 p.m. curfew. There’s not a whole lot of guidance after that. The experts recommend setting a curfew regardless of age because it sets clear boundaries for your teen. But here’s the important part — If you set a curfew, you have to enforce it!
In their book “Raising Resilient Children,” Dr. Sam Goldstein and therapist Robert Brooks say the consequences should fit the crime and teens should be aware of the rules and consequences in advance.
Here are a few dos and don’ts of teen curfews that experts recommend on healthline:
Communicate. Involve your teen in the initial curfew discussion and mention the agreed upon time before they leave the house. Make it clear that if there is an issue, you expect a call before the curfew.
Be reasonable. Make the curfew based on the event and be aware of who’s driving, where they are going, and the transportation issues. Sometimes, a teen who is a passenger can’t demand the driver take them home by a certain time.
Negotiate. After agreeing upon a time, stick to it. If curfew is broken, there should be consequences.
Overlook good behavior. If your teen shows reliability over a period of time, you might want to consider extending the curfew a half hour.
While I plan to take those dos and don’ts into consideration, I have pretty much decided my weekend nights will never be the same with teens in the house. (Please ignore the bags under my eyes!) I just can’t sleep tightly until everyone is home and that means there is going to be a lot of negotiation and exhaustion. (Did I mention my husband sleeps soundly regardless of who is still out?) I think setting a midnight curfew for my 16-year-old son when he isn’t driving is a step in the right direction — at least for now.
I’d love to hear your experiences setting a curfew. Any dos and don’ts you can share?