Teen curfews are one of the best tools parents have to keep kids out of trouble. Regardless of your teen's age, you are responsible for his safety at all times, and you could wind up legally responsible for problems he causes.
To keep your child safe without the constraints of constant supervision, it's important to keep the channels of communication open. A curfew is a form of communication. You are communicating to your child that her safety is of the utmost importance to you, that you love her very much and also that you trust her to follow directions as well as recognize your authority and guidance.
How to Set Teen Curfews
Curfews are a very good way to keep your child out of harm's way. As long as you know where your child is, who he is with and when he will return, you can be sure you have done all you can to maintain a level of safety away from home that is comparable to the level of safety you provide when your child is at home. Providing your child with a cell phone to use for emergencies while he is away is another step toward keeping him safe.
Teen curfews should be set in place according to age. A responsible 13-year-old child is still only 13 and should not be allowed out after 7 PM. As your child grows more responsible, you can add an additional half hour per year until you have reached a curfew of 11 o'clock for an 18-year-old.
While you may be able to trust your child to do the right thing in most situations, you cannot always trust the other people she may bump into away from home. The same is true of location. If you live in an area that has high traffic or is a known crime area, set curfews accordingly. Make sure you or an adult you trust are the designated drivers, especially after dark.
A 13-year-old should be allowed to attend several dances or movies as long as he is accompanied by either you or the parents of a friend who is also attending the event. A 13-year-old should not be allowed to go anywhere alone. Keep in mind that a young teen is not equipped to handle adult situations where peer pressure comes into play. If compromises must be made, compromise on the most favorable side: yours.
While a 14-year-old should be allowed some free time with friends on weekends, teens should not be allowed out late on school nights, regardless of age. If you start out with a 7 PM curfew for a 13-year-old, adding a half hour at the age of 14 will give her a curfew of 7:30. At the age of 15, an 8 PM curfew can be put into place. By the age of 16, you should feel comfortable allowing your child out until 9 PM.
If your child has earned the added time, when she turns 17 increase the curfew to 10 PM and then to 11 PM for an 18-year-old. Remember, however, that any increases in time should be given only if your child proves that she deserves it and can handle it. Do not reward a child who continually breaks curfew.
Life is filled with special occasions. Though occasions such as birthday parties, school dances and sports events are generally known well in advance, you should still expect some surprises. Teens, especially young teens, are still finding out who they are. They are often insistent on going to a wide variety of events. While sorting out the events your child will attend, keep in mind age appropriateness, the responsibility level of your child and the area in which the event will take place. If anything causes you concern, just say no.
Set rules well in advance so that your child knows how many events he is allowed to attend and can pick and choose. The same is true for older teens. Teenagers do not need to be out every night, nor do they need to be at every party that takes place in the area. As the adult in the equation, it is your job to find out what's going on in your community so that when you do allow your teen to attend a special event, you are more aware of what types of activities might take place at the event and who, in addition to your child, will be in attendance.
Be consistent in what you say and how you react. Do not change punishments or change your mind about allowing your teen to go to an event unless it's necessary. Your main job is to keep your child safe; sometimes that means going back on your word. Even if you have promised your child something, such as sleeping overnight at the neighbor's, do not hesitate to change your mind if you get an uneasy feeling about the event or the people who will be there.