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Curfew times: setting them up and standing your ground

Remember when a curfew meant coming in when the streetlights turned on? Or calling to see if you could stay "just 15 more minutes, Mom"?

Yeah, kids haven't changed that much, but the world around us sure has changed quite a bit. With increased technology, it is easier to keep track of your children, but that may lead them to think that there is no need for a curfew if you can see where their cell phone is located. As parents, however, we know just knowing where a child is isn't the real reason for the curfew — it is about priorities, structure and having respect.

For young children, curfew really isn't an issue, but as they get older, they will undoubtedly push the limits. When that time inevitably comes, it is time to have a family meeting.

According to several child behavioral experts, you should sit down and discuss what you all believe is a reasonable curfew, but do some homework first. Talk to the parents of your child's friends to find out their curfew times. You don't have to agree with them, but it gives you a gauge. Your community also may have a set curfew for teens; while you obviously don't want to go beyond that time, you don't have to give them until that time either.

Many parents start out with a fairly early curfew and then add 30 minutes or so every few months as long as their teen abides by the rules. And, you still should know where they are, what they plan to do and with whom they are spending time. Schoolwork and household chores should be a priority before they take off to have fun.

You should make it clear what your child should do if he or she is running late. Is a phone call ahead of time sufficient if they are going to be a few minutes late? You also need to make it clear what will happen if curfew is broken.

Gaining independence is an exciting time for kids, and can be a real time of growth and maturity. As parents, we know it also means some worrisome evenings until we hear that front door slide open and the welcome sound of "I'm home!"

Jennifer is the sleep-deprived parent of two teenaged daughters.

Sources: The Learning Center

November 2011