Power of Parent Networking

Click the audio player below to listen to the conversation.

Karen’s teenage son Ben has asked to attend a party at his friend Luis’s house and spend the evening. Karen has met Luis’s mother, Maria, but doesn’t know her very well. She has some concerns about the party, including the possibility of drinking, so decides to give Maria a call.
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(knock, knock at the door)
KAREN: Maria? Hi, this is Karen Johnson, Ben’s mother. Is this is a bad time?
MARIA: Oh no, not at all. How are you?
KAREN: I’m doing pretty well, thanks. I’m calling about Luis’s party this weekend. Ben would really like to come, but I had some concerns and told him I’d call you.
MARIA: Oh, sure. I completely understand. My husband Mark and I will be home all night. So the party will be supervised. There will be girls here for a while but we have very clear rules with Luis about what’s appropriate. So we will be checking on them
every so often.
KAREN: Great. That makes me feel much better. I also wanted to make sure that there wouldn’t be any drinking there. Ben knows we feel strongly that he is not permitted to drink but I know some parents are more lenient.
MARIA: I know, I’ve heard about some parents hosting drinking parties. Don’t worry. We forbid drinking as well, so there will be none of that. We’ll be checking on the kids regularly to make sure nothing is going on.
KAREN: Terrific. I’m so glad to hear we’re on the same page. As long as we’re talking, maybe we should compare notes about some other things. I’ve been meaning to call you for a while.
MARIA: Absolutely. Actually, we’ve been talking to Luis about his curfew. He insists he has to be home much earlier than all of his friends.
KAREN: Well, Ben has to be home at 9 p.m. on school nights and 11 p.m. on weekends, unless there’s something special going on.
MARIA: (pause) Oh good, that helps. I’ve been talking to some other moms too, and that seems to be about the right time.
KAREN: Good, I’m glad to know that too. Ben always tells us we’re the strictest parents! I’ve always thought he’s been exaggerating.
MARIA: That’s funny. I hear the same from Luis! You know, this conversation has eased my mind. Maybe we should really exchange phone numbers and email so we can stay connected.
KAREN: Great idea. I’ll send you mine and maybe we can connect with some of the other parents of our kids friends so we can all keep in touch about the kids.
MARIA: Sounds Great!
KAREN: Thanks again for your help on the party. Ben’s really looking forward to coming.
MARIA: Happy to do it. Let’s talk soon.
Your teen’s friends’ parents can be key allies as you deal with the ups and downs of parenting teens. Here are some tips:

  • If you don’t know the parents of your teen’s friends, take the initiative. Call them up or invite them over to get to know each other a little better.

  • Create a network of parents to compare notes and help make monitoring easier. Organize a directory of phone numbers and email and keep it handy by the phone.

  • Don’t be shy about calling other parents to get advice or help with a problem, to share ideas, or to use them as a sounding board.

  • Be proactive about calling the friends’ parents to give them details about a party or other activity your teen is hosting. Then they’ll be sure to do the same.

  • Routinely compare notes on rules around drug, tobacco and alcohol use, curfews,
    movies, computer use and other issues to make sure other parents know where you stand.

  • If a friend’s parents don’t supervise as carefully as you would like, or if they have different rules, address the issue with your teen. Remind him/her of your family’s
    rules and the consequences for breaking them. You can’t expect the friend’s parents to enforce your rules. If there are issues related to safety, you may have to restrict your teen’s time with that friend.

  • If you suspect one of your teen’s friends is in trouble, talk to your teen first about the situation and get his/her opinion. Then ask yourself if you would want to know the information if it was your own son or daughter. Most likely, you would. Approach the parents carefully and know that they may be defensive at first.

  • Meet with other parents, neighbors and adults in your teen’s life, such as coaches or teachers. Share your expectations, develop common limits and forge an “early warning system” to identify kids having problems.

  • Identify “hot spots” in your community where trouble occurs, including sources of alcohol, tobacco and illicit drugs. Restrict your teen’s access to these spots and talk to other parents about your concerns. Let officials know about these areas and enlist businesses and community leaders to help keep teens safe.

  • Get involved with parent groups and school organizations to connect with other parents and address risky teen behavior in your area.