I have a new puppy and a new appreciation for the importance of unstructured play. And of summer. Kids need a summer escape from homework, tests, and The Schedule. They need fun with friends and time spreading their wings. They need time to practice good judgement. And we need time learning to relax and let them.
I recently heard from a teen who wants to play, but he’s having trouble earning a recess pass:
Teen: I’m 14 and my parents don’t let me do anything. I only get to relax with my friends like once every 5 months. I asked to go to a theme park with my friends and my parents started freaking out and said no. They hold it against me for when I went to there last summer.
Annie: Parents don’t freak out for no reason. What happened the last time?
Teen: Nothing. I was completely safe. I didn’t do anything bad and neither did my friends. Besides my mom was there with us too. She just didn’t walk around with us.
Annie: Hmm. Sounds like you don’t know why your parents don’t want you to go to the theme park. You should ask them.
Teen: I always ask my parents nicely and very respectfully when I just want a day to relax with my friends. Even though my friends are good, my parents say no. All I ever get is school, swim practice, and go home and study. I’ve been doing that since I was 4 or 5. I talk to my parents about me growing up and I need to get out to experience life and they won’t listen to me. They say that other parents are the same, but when I ask other kids of overprotective parents, they are treated completely different.
I’m overall a good kid. They know I can make the right choices. I do my chores, do great in sports, have straight A’s, but my parents don’t give me anything in return. I guess they still don’t trust me. I’m getting very sick of being locked up in the house all day when school isn’t in session. I only ask once in awhile if I can be with my friends, but they always say no and never give me a reason why. If they told me why, maybe I would understand their thinking. Please help.
Annie: Maybe your parents are very afraid of your being out on your own. But it’s impossible to know what they’re thinking if they don’t tell you. When parents don’t help kids understand their perspective, it’s frustrating because it doesn’t give you anything to hope for or to work with. So how can you change their minds or the situation? You can’t. That’s unfair, but it is what it is.
For now, your parents make the rules. You want to earn the right to make more of your own decisions, so try negotiating with them. Say, “I want to go to ____’s house this afternoon from 1pm-3pm. We will be walking from here to there. I will call you as soon as I get there. I will call you when I leave to come home. May I please go?” If they say no, ask if you can go for one hour. Hopefully they will allow you more independence, a little at a time. If not, try to accept it and continue making good choices (you won’t be 14 forever.) If your parents give permission, make sure you follow the rules. Call when you say you will. Be home a few minutes early. In that way, they will learn to trust you and your ability to make healthy choices even when they aren’t around. That’s all parents really want, the peace of mind knowing that their kids know how to keep themselves safe. I hope this helps.
Teen: Yes. Thank you. 🙂