Parents around the world who are fortunate enough to raise children understand that certain phases of childhood are more difficult than others. Parenting is unique in the sense that it requires constant and steadfast attention to detail. Any lapse in judgment can compromise the safety of children, and successful guidance starts in the house.
A particularly difficult phase of childhood is the time surrounding the teenage years. The combination of puberty, peer pressure and curiosity forms a tornado of risk taking behavior. Below, I list main areas of the house for parents to safe proof with the goal of making the teen transition a safe one.
1. Make the house a forum for communication.
One of the most common struggles that parents encounter with their children during the teenage years is lack of communication. It’s hard to foster a safe environment if the ability to understand one another is lacking. If you are a parent or another guardian figure, make sure that you explain to your children that you are always available to talk with them. Your house should be their safe haven.
When parents don’t hear from their children they have no means to intervene and be helpful when teens are going through tough times. Be open, friendly and trustworthy as a parent and you both will be rewarded. There will be ups and downs, but making your house a place of two way communication can contribute to mental and physical safety.
Minimum action: Have a sit down conversation every week with your child. Sunday is a convenient time to start. Just before the school week starts is ideal because your child may want to share what happened over the weekend and what they’re worried about heading into the week.
2. Loosely monitor internet activity.
While avoiding the “Helicopter Parent” label, make sure as a guardian that you are aware of your teenager’s internet presence. It’s crucial to understand the general activity that your child is involved with when it comes to the cyber world. Try not to dwell on the worst cyber-related news stories you’ve ever heard, but at the same time, take into account the possibilities. Set ground rules, and monitor usage to an appropriate degree. Some ways to accomplish this:
-Briefly check the computer’s history each week.
-Enable cookies on the browser in case you really need to investigate at some point.
-Frequently ask your child what they are doing on the computer.
-Make it clear you are monitoring usage. If not, a child can feel he or she is not trusted.
Minimum action: At the very least, you as a parent need to have a good idea of what your teenager is using the internet for. In 2013, this is a prime area of concern when children are involved. Monitor usage to the degree that you feel is necessary within your relative situation that will lead to the highest level of safety.
3. Lock up alcohol and firearms.
Two extremely dangerous factors in American teenage culture are alcohol and firearms. The combination of the two can be fatal and it’s very, very important to make sure they are locked up. The only time a child should come into contact with either of these items under your watch is when they are legally able to. For one, it is very illegal for adults to provide alcohol to minors. Similarly, it’s very illegal for a teen to operate a firearm without any training or license. Safety can be compromised and completely turned upside down if firearms or alcohol are used inappropriately.
Minimum action: In a perfect world, there wouldn’t be guns in your household. If there are, lock them up in a gun safe. Putting them on the top shelf of a closet is not sufficient in 2013. With alcohol, make sure to put it in a place where you can adequately monitor it. Alcohol is a complex issue for parents to handle when it comes to teenagers. The best course of action is to be up front with your children and monitor bottle counts and levels.
Teenage years are an important phase in life for children and possibly even more so for a parent. If you are a guardian, your true test will come during this time. It’s important to put safety above all else, and it starts in the house. Your property is where your child will spend a majority of his or her time, and with all of the risks in society, it’s vital to safe proof the house.
Naomi Broderick is a professional writer who’s secure in her abilities and even more confident in her parenting. When she’s not juggling her three children in the front yard she writes for ProtectYourHome.com, a leader in home security.