DR. WALLACE: My parents are very strict. They don't let me do anything or go anywhere unless they're with me. All of my friends go to the mall in the evening to do some shopping and hang out. Am I part of this girls night out fun? No way! My parents refuse to let me out of their sight. I know that bad things can happen to kids, but it's not too likely at a local mall.
What can I do to get my parents to lighten up and allow me to be a normal teenage girl? I'm tired of always being left out of the fun activities. My parents will only let me go to the mall if they tag along, and that's no fun for me at all. — A Girl Who Just Wants To Have Fun, via email
GIRL WANTING TO HAVE FUN: Some parents are extremely cautious about the safety and welfare of their children. To some extent, this is justified — there are, indeed, plenty of dangers in today's world — but parents can't be 100% protective forever. Parents exerting too much caution can also be counterproductive at times. Teens need to learn how to be responsible on their own; this can't happen if parents never let go.
A first taste of freedom can be difficult to come by. One strategy you might try is to put yourself in your parents' shoes and look at the situation from their perspective.
They love you and want the best for you, of course. But they are focused primarily on your safety, not your social development and ability to make good decisions independently.
Set up a time one weekend for a calm talk with your parents, when they are relaxed and in good spirits. Tell them you'd like to share something that's important to you. Make sure you don't try to have this discussion with them when they're in a hurry because that would make them less likely to carefully consider your request.
Identify your reasons. Before discussing your ideas, be certain you understand your reasons for wanting the freedom to make personal decisions and spend time with your friends on your own. Write these reasons down in advance to clarify them in your mind.
Communicate openly. Instead of making demands, simply explain what it is you want to do, and tell them exactly why. If your parents understand your reasons, they will begin to see you as an individual with needs of your own. And this may go a long way toward them giving true consideration to your request.
Go slowly. Don't expect an immediate answer the first time you sit down with Mom and Dad. Just ask them to think about what you've said.
Compromise. For instance, if your parents are dead set against you missing a family dinner, accept their decision gracefully. Then ask if you can spend a couple of hours at the end of the day at a friend's house. That way, the potential exists for everyone to be happy.
Begin with small changes. To make changes with a minimum amount of pain, teens should begin with small requests and gradually work up to more important ones. Most importantly, respect your parents' curfews and deadlines, and always be honest as to where you will be going and whom you will be with. Promise to call them if something changes with the situation so they can pick you up if your group changes plans to something they didn't agree to.
Do these things responsibly and I trust you will gradually be granted more independence, one increment at a time. That's a good path for you to proceed on considering you're presently not enjoying the freedom you seek.
Dr. Robert Wallace welcomes questions from readers. Although he is unable to reply to all of them individually, he will answer as many as possible in this column. Email him at [email protected] To find out more about Dr. Robert Wallace and read features by other Creators Syndicate writers and cartoonists, visit the Creators Syndicate website at www.creators.com.
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