Our home grows frequently with over energetic teenagers! They blaze into our house brimming with smiles, flailing hair, bags of clothes, giant oversized art folders, the crinkly sound of bags full of snacks and junk food, all engulfed with the beat of their Friday Spotify playlist… But, like most things when it comes to raising teens, having some ‘welcoming teenagers into your home’ rules in place will see things run smoothly for you, your teen, and their friends.
Sometimes my teen’s friends swish into our house in a cluster of giggles, say a quick hello and head straight to Miss 14’s room.
Other times they rock in and sit down to chat about the crazy-as thing Mrs Timberlake did in School assembly today. Or to talk through the logistics of how they’ll plan their movie marathon tonight, whilst still having enough energy for their Paint Ball massacre tomorrow.
We are a tiny family of only 2 but sometimes our home grows by an extra teenager, often 3 extra, sometimes 8, and one-time by 21 extra teenagers ( yup, that was a bit nuts ;-)) and that’s fine by me.
I just roll with it, as long as the girls in our home are polite, friendly and considerate, they’re welcome.
As we live in the central city, all Miss 14’s friends know they can come to our place anytime if they were in town and needed us. They know where we are and that they’re welcome.
Growing up in my own family’s home, we were very fortunate to have parents who also welcomed our friends happily into our home anytime day or night. We were encouraged to have them around often, and Mum and Dad would happily pick me and my bunch of friends up, and bring us home.
I now know it was very clever on their part, as it kept them involved. They knew all of our friends quite well, and at least they knew where we were and that we were safe.
I’ve been happy to encourage this over the years, so our home has been descended upon by kids, and now teenagers since they were around 7 years old.
I haven’t always been perfect, and there has been the odd teen ‘issue’ that we’ve had to deal with. But along the way I have learnt a bit about what works, and what doesn’t. So here are my top tips for…
Welcoming teenagers into your home
- Roll with it and take their cues
~ Are they hanging out by the kitchen choosing to talk with you? Sweet, then talk away. I will still look for the natural cue from this, when it’s time for me to go and do something else. Or are they wanting to do their own thing? If so, then leave them mostly to it. Take their cues.
- Be there
~ Meaning if they want to talk, great, be that listening ear. If they want your input in things, great, gently give it. If they want you helping with their crazy activities, or to take the photos or to be their audience, do it.
- Give space where you can
~ In our tiny apartment I still have a couch area up in my room, so I can do my own thing there. I write, I blog, watch DVDs/TV online, catch up with friends on the phone, French Paint my toes, I have no trouble using my time. The girls generally really appreciate their own space so I give it where I can.
- Have plenty of food on hand
~ Oh my gosh, teenagers are hungry!
Sometimes they want to fend for themselves and make their own giant spread of food, other times they request just loads and loads of your homemade ham and cheese pizza! So have plenty on hand, or send them up to the supermarket to stock up. Yes, there is going to be a good sprinkling of junk, but they also do appreciate plenty of things to mix it up with like carrot sticks, apple slices, plain popcorn, sliced capsicum, rice crackers, grapes etc…too.
- Use glass charms
~ If we have 4 teenagers here and throughout the day/night they use 3-4 glasses each, that could be 16+ glasses knocking around our lounge and bench. So we have these cute little suction ‘glass charms’ that stick onto the side that identify their glass for them all night. Perfect solution!
- They are responsible for cleaning up
~ Yes sometimes this doesn’t work at all…eg. when it’s a 5am wake up call for start of winter sport games…bluurggh…we won’t do that again. But generally they need to put blankets away, put the lounge back to normal, dishes in dishwasher, clear rubbish and vacuum if necessary.
- Many parents DON’T…be the parent that DOES
~ Over the years I have come across many parents that ‘don’t’. For a variety of reasons, some valid. But if possible, be the parent that ‘does’. It goes a long way in your teenager’s eyes that they carry with them through life and that of their friends.
- It’s a great way to get to know the girls and honestly keep an eye on the ones you’re not so keen on your daughter hanging out with
~ Yes parents, you know there is always one you don’t like…don’t pretend you don’t! 😉
- Be prepared to laugh your head off
~ Oh my gosh, these kids are hilarious, whether they mean to be or not. Take your parent hat off and just enjoy them. This short time that you are in this stage in their lives will be gone in no time, so just enjoy it.
- Make sure they know how to get out in an emergency
~ Miss 14 hates when I do this, but I don’t care. Anyone who hasn’t been to our house before has to know where the exits are, as they are not 100% obvious in our apartment.
- “Once they are in, they are in”
~ It’s a blanket rule. Do not make me be that parent that has to call other parents and say “Our kids have snuck out, I don’t know where they are”… Once you’re in for the night, you’re in!
- Be cool, but don’t do things out of your Parent Comfort Zone
~ Whether it be small things like for me not allowing horror movies or bigger things that I am loathe to yet to encounter. I’m happy for them to have loads of fun and can be casual about things, but I still have boundaries and if something doesn’t sit right with me, it’s out. Trust your instinct.
- Understand the being a Friend vs Parent thing
~ It’s always a super hard balance. But I am parent first and foremost and friend second.
- Have an expectation of respectful use of cellphones, iPads, internet etc…
~ I preferred it when they were younger and they didn’t have any, but I’m realistic that time has moved on. As long as they are used respectfully in our house they can stay, otherwise they will be out.
- I turn off the wifi when I go to sleep
~ Yes I know it’s not foolproof as 3G exists, but at least it shuts it down from my side.
- Let them have heaps and heaps of fun
~ Play the music loud, use the building for Hide ‘n’ Seek, completely take over the place, absolutely have heaps and heaps of fun, as long as you are still respectful of our home, neighbours and each other – sweet.
- Breakfast, everyone has to have some
~ Don’t care if it’s reheated Pizza, or even if it’s only a little bit, you’re going to leave my house with some food in your tummy. Especially if you’re heading off to Saturday morning sport!
- Yes, it takes effort and energy to have them, but in the long run it’s worth it
~ Oh my gosh, sometimes it’s the absolute last thing I feel like on a Friday night after a long week…and if I really don’t feel like it, I say no… But 95% of the time it is totally worth it. Even just for the uplifting effect of having five energetic, funny as hilarious teenagers around cracking you up at every turn or hearing the insatiable sound of continuous giggling permeating throughout your house.
Forever I will be thankful to my own parents for welcoming my friends into our family home. They set a great precedent on which to base my own family life. I love it when our family grows with a bunch of hilarious teenagers. Each of them and how they interact with my Miss 14 enriches our lives in different ways. I hope we, in turn, enrich their lives in a tiny way each time too.
For more top advice on raising great teens, check out our Teens section.