Letting go - how much freedom should my daughter have?
Written by Isabel Tobias on 18/06/2013
Q. I am having great difficulty in letting go of control in respect of my nearly 17 year old daughter. She has finished her GCSE’s and is now in the frame of mind “that this is her time now, until she goes to 6th form, to party party party!!” She turns 17 in September so I am aware that things are going to change drastically over the next few months. My problem is that I have taken and fetched her most places, and we have built up a close relationship. We have tried to work with her on going out at the weekends, but we have always had a curfew time and to a large degree I have known where she was. However, it is now, I am told, the “in thing” to go out at 10/11pm at night to a party and that she doesn’t want to be picked up, rather she wants to get a taxi with a friend. She tells me that she would never get a taxi on her own or be the last one left, and to be fair she has always been reliable about curfews and staying in touch. She has also just got herself a boyfriend, who we have met, and she wants to spend more time with him, and generally wants to “come and go” as she likes!! So what do I do? I can see that I am probably overprotective, and that my parents didn’t know where I was 24/7 when I got to my daughter’s age, but I just get so nervous when she leaves the house!
A. It is very understandable that you feel anxious about your daughter’s push for more freedom, there are risks for her and these will be in the forefront of your mind. It is also entirely natural that she is wanting to do more, unsupervised. Moreover, within two years she will be getting ready to leave for university and you will know nothing about where she is or with whom, so this is a good time to be giving her the opportunity to test herself while you are there as a safety net.
The fact is that late night freedom is often less attractive and more of a practical disappointment than she currently suspects, so given a chance to take some responsibility she is most likely to realise that it is not all it is cracked up to be. At the same time she will take some risks – that is natural in young people.
Being told where she is going, with whom and when she is returning are still reasonable things to expect. It remains your house and she remains your responsibility in the eyes of the law and you can tell her this. When she is 18 she will be legally responsible for herself – in the meantime she is preparing for that.
At the same time you can afford to ask for this information rather than dictate it. You can remind her of your expectations about alcohol and drugs so that if she abuses this she knows where she stands with you. And you can expect her to remain in text/phone contact at all times.
Most of all show an interest in what she is doing and with whom, without showing disapproval. Your good opinion of her does still matter to her, but she does not actually want you to give her your direct opinion of her friends and what she is doing. She just wants you to be there when she needs you. Parenting a late teenager is tricky but keep calm. You will get through it and perhaps enjoy it along the way as you see your daughter mature and become an adult! Good luck.
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