When Can Parents Trust a Teen?

Hi Readers — Let’s help this teen together, shall we? Here is his letter:

Dear Free-Range Kids: You probably don’t get too many emails from kids and teens, but being a child with overbearing parents I have some things I’d like to ask.

I’m in the middle of reading your book (how sad, a kid reading a book on parenting) and I find it very intriguing. Actually,  my parents let me be fairly free in my childhood. The problems I’m facing now are being free enough in my teen years.

I can now drive and my social life is returning (I used to be quite anti-social). I can handle the curfews  and the need to answer the cell phone when my parents call, but the problem that I am facing is what happens when my friends’ parents are not home, or when my parents want to call someone’s house before I go over. My parents go insane over the prospect of a friend not having a parent home, or of me not having them home when I am hanging out with a friend. I feel like this is very detrimental to my social life and I’d like to give you an overview of different factors that come into play.

I’m an avid reader (non-fiction books on politics, economics, and history), and my parents always tell me I am very mature for my age. As a matter of fact I socialize very well with many adults (sometimes better than I do with kids). I am in a martial arts class (Oom Yung Doe, to be specific) and I truly have developed a system of responsible/socially conservative principles that I adhere to — not because my parents said so but because I truly believe in them.

I have been offered drugs (only weed thus far) and have always turned it down. Nowadays kids don’t put as much pressure on other kids to drugs — contrary to what many adults think. As a matter of fact, there are many situations when one kid will put more pressure on someone and the rest call him out and tell him to “stop being a dick… dude.” They realize that peer pressure is a bad thing. Furthermore, I suffered from a major depression in 8th grade and I saw, first-hand, many kids with psychological problems (many of them pertaining to drugs) and I saw how much drugs can screw up your life.  I would never take that risk.

I have a close enough relationship with my parents to let them know that I have been exposed to drugs and always turn them down (and they believe and trust me). But I really feel let down when they feel that I cannot make a proper judgment on what friend’s house it’s ok to go to. They build up my ego with this praise of my maturity but then shoot me down and act as if I can’t make proper values assessments. I feel as if this will tear our relationship apart because exposure to these things is inevitable unless I’m truly locked in cage and became a “teacup child.” (But generally teacup children go off to college and then get incredibly drunk and high and it works against what the parents were planning.)

What I now have been driven to do is to say that I am hanging out at a friend’s house and then, when I get there,  we all head out somewhere else. I don’t like lying to my parents but I want to maintain a social life and get a girlfriend for once (that is right, age 16 and I have never had a girlfriend).

So, as you can see, I have a few questions. Where is the line drawn? Should I really not be allowed to go to a kid’s house if the parents aren’t home, or without my parents and theirs being in contact? How do I get this across to my parents?

Please, please, please respond and I will be incredibly grateful.

That’s the letter. Personally, I’d say two things to the writer:

1 – His parents may be more worried than they’d be otherwise because they remember his bout with depression and it scared them to the core. (Understandable.) If it reassures them to have some basic contact with his friends’ parents, that shouldn’t be such a big deal.

2- Knowing that their fear comes out of love and perhaps trauma, he has to assure them that he is almost of legal age, he has made the conscious decision not to take drugs, and he is both mature and responsible. They can’t ask for more than that, except to have him also promise never to get into a car with a friend who has been drinking or doing drugs. Of course, if it would help, maybe he and his parents could also pay a trip together to his former psychologist or his pediatrician, who could assure them that at some point kids need to be able to hang out together without direct parental supervision.

I’m wondering if you, readers, have any more advice for the parents, or for the letter writer. If so, please add it. Maybe he can share your thoughts  with his folks. Thanks! — Lenore