So, when you’re a new mum, you hear about the sleepless nights; the worry; the fear about your little one getting hurt; the desperation to keep them happy and fulfilled at all times – and the fear for their physical safety that is greater than any fear about anything you ever had for yourself. And then they grow into teenagers and it all magically goes away, right?
Once you’ve got past the nappies, the cluster feeding, the 3am screaming, the multitude of issues that go with babyhood, then you’ve got toddlers. Then pre teens. Then teenagers. You’d be forgiven for thinking you can wipe your brow and relax for a bit at this point – surely, teenagers can look after themselves, right? They’re nearly adults, what could go wrong?
Oh, so so many things! Missing homework deadlines, lying, bunking off, stealing – these are just a few of the many issues that can beset you and your teenagers. Comfort yourself with the fact that these are normal – if disagreeable – behaviours, and you can try to fix any one of them, with lots of success. Today, we’re going to look at how to keep your teenager from sneaking out.
Why do teenagers sneak out?
Teenagers, like all kids, enjoy testing the boundaries and pushing the limits of what they are allowed to do. Sneaking out of the house, especially when they have been explicitly told not to, is an exciting thrill that can make them feel as though they are up to something deliciously thrilling and elicit.
There may be friends involved who are up to more reckless behaviours such as drinking, underage sex or reckless driving, that your teenagers find irresistible, and that may be much more of a worry for you.
Some teenagers may sneak out because they don’t feel much of a connection to the other members of their household; almost all teenagers go through a stage of feeling disconnected and misunderstood, and this can lead to their taking part in unwanted behaviours, such as sneaking out.
There are also tings such as discrimination at school, where they may not be getting any help inside their family.
Or, it may simply be that they are bored and looking for fun and exciting things to do.
How to keep your teenager from sneaking out
There are a lot of things you can do to stop your teenager from sneaking out – hopefully these things will help you and your youngster get over their problem:
- Find out why they are sneaking out. If you can discover a reason for your child’s absconding behaviour, you can work on things that will help stop it.
- Discuss the issues around sneaking out. Explaining the dangers to your teenager, preferably when you are both calm and ready for a meaningful chat, can help them see the error of their ways – children and teenagers have very little concept of the dangers and issues surrounding sneaking out.
- Create connections. If you can connect with your teenager in a meaningful way, and make them realise that they have a good, supportive, loving family at home, they will be more likely to talk to you and less likely to sneak out.
- Plan activities with them. Obviously, spending family time with a teenager can be more tricky than with a younger child, but you can still find things that you and your older child can do together.
- Allow some freedoms. To prevent your teenager feeling stifled and as though they never get to go anywhere or do anything, you can start to allow them greater freedom and autonomy. Provide a curfew that you have both agreed on, so that your youngster can still go out have fun, but in a safe way.
Dos and don’t for a sneaky teenager
- Apply consequences to unwanted behaviour. If your teen is still sneaking out, despite discussions and agreeing not to, you will need to let them know that this is not acceptable and will lead to consequences. Giving them chores to do, restricting access to privileges, and even grounding, can make a difference.
- Allow them some freedoms. Making your home environment too stifling for your teenager is likely to make them try to break out even more, so don’t go too far with keeping them in.
- Talk, and listen. You can reason with a teenager, in most cases, so discussing the ideas of curfew, and what you do and don’t expect from them, is a great way to prevent them sneaking out.
- Discuss safety and the reasons why they should not sneak out. Many youngsters have a limited concept of personal safety, so they should be made aware of the dangers of being out when no one knows where they are.
- Show both negative and positive reinforcement. Punishing your teenager for breaking rules is fine, but you also have to show them that good behaviour can be rewarded.
Your teenager sneaking out is a terrifying experience, which can lead to shouting and arguments, and a real fear for their safety on your part. For your teen, sneaking out can be thrilling and exciting, as well as sometimes a way of kicking against authority.
By working together, you can get over this – hopefully short – interlude, and enjoy a good parent/child relationship for the rest of your lives.