I am 17 years old, and my curfew is set 1 1/2 hours earlier than my friends’ curfews. My mother doesn’t want to stay up late waiting for me to come home, yet she will not go to sleep until I am home; therefore I have to suffer with the same curfew that I have had since I was 13. Do you think this is fair, and what can I do to help my mother realize that I am growing up, and I need more freedom?
It certainly doesn’t sound fair. However, I haven’t heard your mother’s side of the story. If your curfew is 12:00 and your friends’ is 1:30, then she may be reasonable. If there’s a special reason why your curfew is early (e.g. you’ve been in trouble with the law), then she may be reasonable.
But she may just be an anxious mother, reacting to all the scary things the media says about teens, or perhaps to things that happened to her in her own teens. It’s important for teens to understand their parents’ anxiety. We parents are the people who changed your diapers and held your hand when you crossed the street. We have that intense attachment to you which enabled us to keep you safe when you were little. It amazes us that you have become so grownup, so fast. And we’re always one step behind in understanding your maturity. You sometimes still need our help – but it’s hard for us to figure out when you do and when you don’t.
I used to lie in bed wondering where my kids were, and whether they were safe. I couldn’t relax and go to sleep until they were home. I think all parents of teens experience this, unless they really don’t care about their kids. However, I knew my kids needed to have freedom appropriate to their ages, so I bit my lip and let them go out even though I was anxious.
One thing that might happen is if you carried a cell phone and called your mother at a predictable time just to let her know you’re safe. That would reassure her. But of course she would need to agree not to keep calling you every half hour.
If your mother isn’t able to give you freedom appropriate to your age, family counselling might help. An experienced family counsellor can help your mother see that kids your age need to try their wings in the outside world, and it’s important for your development that she allow it, no matter how anxious she feels. If there are issues from your mother’s own youth that are getting in the way of her letting you grow up, the counsellor can help her with these issues without you having do deal with them yourself.