It may be hard to believe, but Circle of Moms member Jamie K. wants her house to be the go-to hangout spot for the neighborhood teens. She encourages her kids to invite their friends over as much as possible, and welcomes the noise, dirt, and extra expense these frequent guests bring. Jamie does this because, as she says, there’s a major benefit to making your house into your teen's favorite hangout: you always know where your child is and what he and his friends are doing.
“We have a revolving door and at times the family room downstairs looks like a hurricane hit it,” she says. “But my kids and their friends are safe, and it gives me a chance to get to know the kids' friends. There are times my kids aren’t even home and the friends are vegging in our basement playing Xbox or outside skateboarding on our driveway.” Shawnn L. agrees: "I'd much rather be the neighborhood mom than think they may be elsewhere getting into mischief.”
But how do you reap the benefits of being "the neighborhood mom" without getting overwhelmed? “My house is like the community center,” says Constance, who frequently hosts the friends of her seven kids. She cautions that hosting a pack of kids requires a parent to set limits: "Limits remind them you are watching.” Jodi H. agrees: “The thing with teens is to really consider the rules and boundaries before agreeing to their requests."
Here, Jami, Shawnn, Constance, and other Circle of Moms members share three smart tips for creating a safe and fun "kid house" for your teen.
1. Who and When
Among the rules Jodi and other Circle of Moms members impose are limits on the number of kids allowed at any given time, the frequency of gatherings, and on the time these gatherings have to wind down. Otherwise, a request to invite over "just a few friends" can result in an all-night party for the entire junior class.
To determine a reasonable end time, Ashley L. recommends finding out what time your city enforces as a curfew for teens. "That’s how I got mine to realize that my curfew was not unreasonable.” Jodi H. only allows her teens to have friends over afternoons and early evenings, and never on weekends. “After school and that is it in our house,” she says.
Karlee M. encourages her son to invite his friends over, but only when they can be supervised. “We are very comfortable having our son’s friends over and welcome them, but not when we aren’t home.”
Several Circle of Moms members suggest designating a separate place in your house where teens can hang out. Ideally, it should be close by but somewhat removed from you, like the basement or the garage, and to furnish it with casual, comfortable seating. You may also want to establish rules around where your teenage visitors are not allowed, such as behind the closed doors of your child's bedroom, advises Samantha D. “We have an open door policy with my kids, which means we make surprise ‘walk bys’ at different times when their friends are over."
Sheila allows her sons' friends to hang out anywhere in her house, but has a “no girls in the bedroom rule.”
If you want your teen to bring his friends to your house, you have to make the friends feel welcome, points out Shawnn L.: “We've been the ‘kid house’ since before we even had kids. . . . because we have always made [kids] feel welcome. . . As my kids were born, and have grown, we're still the kid house."
One way to make kids feel that welcome is to keep their hangout stocked with snacks and drinks and equipped with the games and gear your teens like, such as skateboards, a Wii, an Xbox, or even a good old fashioned pool table.
Finally, a word of caution: many moms advise sticking with bottled water and soft drinks, and flatly forbidding alcohol. Not only is it illegal for adults to allow minors to drink, but as Dede C. and Jeri D. point out, you are responsible for your child's friends, "even if their parents say it is okay."
Do your teen's friends like to hang out at your house?
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