Parents and children play tug of war with curfews weekend after weekend. In some households, children may have strict curfews and know that it will not budge, in others it may be more flexible and the rest may not have curfews in place at all.
As someone who was not raised with a strict curfew, I see the pros and cons of instituting them on teenagers. Curfews can go a long way in ensuring the safety of teenagers, who may not recognize the danger of being out late or of drivers with whom they share the road. Overall, I support the concept of an open-ended curfew, like the one I had. I believe that this promotes a parent-child relationship where both parties trust each other, supports the safety of the teenager and helps him or her grow toward independence.
My curfew depended on what I was doing, where I was, who was driving and was rarely set ahead of time. My parents would ask me to return home when it was getting late or if they didn’t want me driving past a certain time. If they were picking me up from somewhere –– because I didn’t get my license until the summer before my senior year of high school –– it depended on their schedule the following day, which is a logical compromise.
The negotiation of curfews between parents and children involves many complexities, the most important of which I think are trust and safety. Parents and teens should consider who is driving, where they are driving from and the details surrounding the situation. Being somewhere public at midnight is not the same as being at a friend’s house at midnight, so the curfew discussion could start with discussing the safety of the circumstance.
Both parents and their children should understand where the other party is coming from when trying to set an open-ended curfew. Parents should have their child’s safety as the number one thing in mind, and teenagers should understand that. Once this level ground is met, an open-ended curfew helps to create a stronger bond between parents and teenagers.
Not instituting a strict curfew shows teenagers that they are trusted to make responsible decisions as young adults leading into their college years. They are expected to recognize when they are getting tired and should head home –– a skill that helps in the long term. They are also expected to take into consideration what they will be doing the next day and know that if they are tired, it is the consequence of their own action.
Another benefit of an open-ended curfew is that when teenagers return home from college, the dynamic between them and their parents is not thrown off. If parents used to institute a strict curfew on their children, they may feel the need to do so again. However, after their young adult children might resist this, having enjoyed months of setting their own curfew.
The fact that my parents did not set strict limits on when I could and couldn’t see my friends allowed me to form tight bonds with my friends that have lasted through the years. It also taught me to evaluate the safety of certain situations and make responsible decisions once I moved to college. My open-ended curfew helped to secure a strong and trusting relationship with my parents, which stays durable across many channels.