Let’s face it: The only ones who can keep teenagers safe at home is, well, teenagers. A parent’s job is to start conversations with their near-adult kids, and a parent’s prayer is that their teens will collaborate in their own well-being and safety.
“You have to partner with a teen so they have some ownership in the rules,” said Sherryll Kraizer, director of the Coalition for Children, a Denver-based child well-being group. “The key is to have an agreement on how they’re going to handle situations, as opposed to dictating to adolescents. Otherwise, parents will walk out the door and teens will do what they want anyway.” Take a deep breath, lay out some snacks, and talk to your teens about the subject of child safety.
Security Code Secrecy
Adults know that the security system code is a family secret and should be shared only with people who live in the house. Teenagers, however, often think their besties are “family” and sometimes reveal the code as a declaration of friendship.
Parents should discuss the dangers of revealing the code. Not only does it put the BFF in danger – what if he enters the house and is taken for an intruder? – but once a teen lets the alarm code out of the bag, there’s is no telling to whom and how quickly this very private information will spread.
Ask your teen if they’ve ever shared a secret with a friend who swore to keep it … then didn’t. The same can happen with the alarm code, which will put the entire family in danger.
Locks, Cameras, Action
Modern home security systems offer surveillance options, cameras and locks that allow you as a homeowner to watch over and secure your home while you’re away. As a parent, it also allows you the ability to help your teenager practice good safety while you aren’t around. Having a camera trained on your front-door will help you keep an eye on who’s coming and going — and when.
Your home security system can also come in handy if you have alcohol in the home. Some parents place a micro door sensor discreetly in the liquor cabinet so they can be alerted if it’s opened.
It’s important to note that your teenager may view such measures as “… a message of mistrust, and a violation of privacy,” Kraizer says. In the end, you will need to find the right balance between the family policies regarding alcohol you establish and communicate to your teenager and their desire to feel trusted and respected as young adult.
More Topics of Conversation
Make sure that mutual respect is a key component of any safety conversation with teens. Here are some topics to discuss.
- Should teens keep the doors locked at all times? The knee jerk answer is, “Yes.” But Kraizer says the answer really depends on your neighborhood and who’s likely to come in and out of your home.
- Who’s allowed in the house when an adult is not at home? All friends? Some friends? No friends?
- What are the expectations surrounding cooking? Is using a microwave OK, but not the range?
- Should teens and their friends use your pool or hot tub when an adult is not around?
- Should your teen open the door to a delivery person or salesman? Role-play what a teen might say during these situations.
Get Out of Jail (figuratively) Free Card
If teenagers didn’t sometimes make poor choices, they wouldn’t be teenagers. Kraizer says families should have a “no questions asked” opportunity for teens to call their parents for help when they find themselves in scary or dangerous situation. That doesn’t mean parents should never discuss the choices their child made and necessary consequences; just delay the conversation until after you’ve rescued your child.