It’s hard making that decision as a parent to let your young teenager go out certain places in the first place, right! If you read my previous post on questions to ask your teen before saying yes to going out, you’ll already have thought about about some questions you might like to ask your teen before they head out on their own.
But once you have said yes, it is equally important to have equipped them with both in-built and practical things to help them make their way in their new found independence – before they go out.
Some things require the prep work from parents well in advance, as our teens are growing up; others are for in the hand, at the time, a bit like a Swiss Army Knife.
This is what has helped in our family to give a sense of preparedness when Miss 14 goes out to things and I hope it can help yours too.
13 things to equip your teen with before they go out
1. Do they know your home phone number?
Growing up in the 80’s, everyone knew their home phone number, as well as their neighbours, and at least 1/2 the class.
These days, it’s quite a different story and, in all honesty, I barely recall my own let alone anyone else’s.
It’s very easy to assume, yes…but does your teenager actually know your home number? If you have moved over the last couple of years, maybe it’s not so easy to remember?
If you have an 0800 number set up in place linked back to your home phone, can they also rattle that off easily?
2. ICE – Incase of Emergency numbers
ICE, it means “In Case of Emergency” is internationally recognised by emergency services. You list this number in your cellphone, and emergency services know who to call on your behalf in an emergency.
They recommend you list at least 3 in your phone, you type the word ICE 1 as the name of the person in your Contacts and then the phone number:
ICE 1 – eg. 055 555 555 (Mom or Dad)
ICE 2 – eg. 055 555 556 (Maybe a Grandparent/family member)
ICE 3 – eg. 055 555 557 (Maybe a close family friend/neighbour)
This article shows 3 different ways to add ICE numbers to your cellphone.
3. The Nana test
Who is that one person in their life that they can use as a ‘judgment’ test?
We talk about this often in our house, that if she is not sure about something while she is out, not sure if she is allowed to do something or if the decision she is about to make is ok.
She knows my expectations of her, knows to ring me and check, but if she is still not sure, give it the ‘Nana Test’.
Would Nana let me do this? If Nana was here, would she think it was ok? It’s a bit further removed that thinking would “Mom’ let me do it, but still with expectations attached to it.
4. Looking out for each other
What is your teenager’s relationship like with their friends? Do they have each others backs? Do they look out for their friends and stick together? If their friend is about to do something they don’t think is right, what do they do?
Discuss ways of how to speak up, stand up and do not be afraid to ask for help for their friend or for themselves. Talk about listening to that inner voice, that feeling in their stomach when they know something doesn’t sit right.
Encourage them to have a ‘Code Word’ system with their friends too, for if ‘something is not right’ (see further below).
5. The ‘check up’
Your teen needs to know that you trust them, but they also need to know that it is your absolute right as a parent to check up on them (just as your parents and their parents did before them).
They need to know that you might turn up unannounced, arrive early and check up on them. Don’t apologise, as, as long as they are doing what they meant to, it’s no problem.
6. Confirm the details – again
We all know that Teenagers have ‘selective’ hearing, so sometimes details of listening to us or communicating details to us in the first place can be ‘overlooked’!
Miss 14 hates when I do this, but she can’t go until she can repeat back to me, what the plan is, who she is going with, where she is meeting me afterwards, what time, etc….
No excuses for, “…..awww, I thought it was 5.30pm, not 4.30pm”
She knows I WILL also 9 times out of 10 ring and check with other parents the details also.
7. Change of plans
Locking teenagers into a plan is often like herding cats and those plans can change just as erratically. Our rule, is if there is a change in plans she must call me first to check if that’s ok.
No assuming. What’s the rule in your house, or do you even have one? Don’t leave this one to chance.
8. Plan B
Stuff goes wrong. Events get rained off. Friends don’t turn up. Or someone has a fight with someone and they have stormed off. Does your teen have a Plan B for if stuff goes wrong and they can’t get hold of you?
What is the suitable Plan B.? eg, Go back where they came from and call me.
What caregivers/adults should they go to if need be? Does a friend live nearby; they could go there if they need to. Go back to School. Think through some of those typical scenarios with your teen.
9. Have ‘Code Words’
How do you say something, when you can’t ‘say something’?
Miss 14 and I for years now have had 2 different code words. Let’s say one for example is ‘Hawaii’ and the other is say, ‘London’.
Hawaii = means “Come and get me now!”
(I can’t easily talk to tell you why, so don’t ask questions, but just come get me now.)
London = means “I’m in trouble, help”.
(For you to then act as best you think.)
Or instead of a word, you could make it a ‘phrase’ that doesn’t sound so out of place in a phone conversation. For example, “have you picked up Aunt Sally yet?” (Both of you know that you don’t have an ‘Aunt Sally’, but it sounds like a conversation.
Yes, I know that’s a stock standard thing these days in many teenagers’ lives. But a couple of extra thoughts.
Is the cellphone charged up and has it got credit?
Ensure they have actual numbers ‘saved’ into their phone including Mom’s, Dad’s, other family members who could help them out, a couple of family friends perhaps.
Also make sure they actually have their friends numbers ‘saved’ in to their phone, so if they are trying to meet up with them, or they have lost each other, they can make contact.
11. Have a ‘call sign’
Credit on a Teenagers phone seems to disappear faster than lollies at a lolly scramble.
To save at least some credit, we have a ‘Call Sign’ set up for when Miss 14 is needing to talk to the likes of Me, her Dad or her Nana etc…
It’s simply; they call your phone and let it ring for just 2 rings, then hang up. That’s your sign to call them back (yes, using your credit/call plan instead of theirs ;-)). If they call for longer than 2 rings, simply answer it like normal.
12. Emergency $$money$$
Aside from any pocket money they have with them, think about giving them some Emergency $$Money to have tucked away in ‘another’ pocket in their wallet.
$5 to $20…Enough to be able to pay for a phone call, catch a bus or grab some food if something totally changes. The understanding is this isn’t used unless necessary and needs replaced.
12. They know you will come
It’s a juggling act between letting our teenagers stand on their own two feet and learning to work out things for themselves when things go array vs you being there when they need you (but also not just using you as a Taxi service).
Miss 14 knows though, at the end of the day, no matter what, I will come and get her if she needs me anytime/anywhere.
My parents did it for me and I will always do that for her. If she’s not comfortable, I will come. If something has happened, gone wrong, I will come.
It was something I no doubt took for granted myself as a teenager and abused sometimes, but most importantly I KNEW it was something I could ALWAYS rely on. No matter how much trouble I had got myself in, whether through circumstances or my own fault ;-), I knew they would come. It didn’t still mean I wouldn’t be grounded the next day, but in that moment, they would come.
13. Remind them to make good choices… then pray 🙂
After all the best preparations, take a minute to give them a kiss and hug, and remind them to make good choices. This will be the last thing they remember you saying. Hopefully it will ring in their ears for at least part of the evening.
Tell them to call if they need you for anything, and tell them you hope they have a fantastic time. Then send them on their way, with their new found independence…
(It’s at this point that I say a small pray that God will make up for all my short comings as a parent, and fill in the gaps 🙂 )
For more great advice on raising great teens, check out our Teens section.