By Dr. Kenneth Shore
Curfew is a frequent topic of friction between parents and their teen-aged children. Parents set curfews in an effort to keep their kids safe. They feel that setting a reasonable time when their children need to be home will help keep them out of trouble and allow them to stay on top of their schoolwork. As with many limits on their independence, teens may resist these restrictions because they feel like they are old enough to monitor their own behavior.
Parents may have some questions about what is a reasonable curfew but they should have no doubts about the wisdom of setting a curfew. It is during these teen years that children are experimenting and testing limits. Curfews not only lessen the likelihood of inappropriate behavior but also teach them important lessons about being responsible and following a schedule.
Setting reasonable curfews can be tricky, especially in the face of their children’s likely protests. They may tell you that their friends are able to stay out later. They may play the “trust” card: “You don’t trust me,” they might claim. Keep in mind this is your decision, but allow them to have their say. Your child is more likely to accept your decision if she has been involved in the discussion and her opinions sought.
So what are reasonable curfews for teenagers? While there are no hard and fast rules about when teens should be required to be home, the American Academy of Pediatrics has suggested the following guidelines:
- A curfew of 7 to 8 pm for children aged 12 to 13 on school nights.
- A curfew of 8 or 9 pm for children aged 14 to 16 on school nights.
- A curfew of 10 or 11 pm for children aged 17 to 21 on nights they have school or work the next day.
- A curfew two hours later than the above on weekends.
Once you have decided on a plan, stay the course. This means not only sticking with your plan but also enforcing it by taking reasonable steps if your child breaks curfew. One possible consequence might be to require an earlier curfew for a set period of time.
Of course, enforcing these restrictions will require some flexibility at times. You might decide to set different curfews for different activities (for example, proms). Also consider not making an issue of your child is a few minutes late.
As with so many issues in dealing with teens, communication is the key. Before your child goes out for the evening, remind her of the curfew time. Talk about your expectations if there is a problem. For example, if she is going to be late through no fault of her own, let her know that you expect a call no later than the time of the curfew.