We go down to the park on a Saturday afternoon just to kick a ball around. I’d actually forgotten how much fun running around a park can be!
– Richard, father of 14-year-old son
Free time with friends
Your child will also want to do things with his friends. Agreeing on some rules about free time can help keep your child safe when he’s out and about.
Here are some things to think about when you and your child discuss free time with friends.
How much do you need to know about where your child is going, and who with? What details is it OK for your child to keep to herself? Can she ring you if her plans change? Will she leave her mobile phone on while she’s out?
Monitoring your child is OK, as long as you’re doing it with the intention of making sure your child is safe. As your child gets older, you can reduce your supervision and involvement in his activities.
You could think about how available you’ll be for providing transport. Can you drive your child to things if you have enough notice? Are you available in an emergency? Will you offer transport to other friends? Do you expect your child to use public transport unless she gets ‘stuck’?
Although being your child’s taxi can be a hassle, it’ll help you to know he’s travelling safely. It also gives you the chance to get to know his friends.
Getting to know your child’s friends shows your child you understand how important her friendships are.
One way to do this is to encourage your child to have friends over and give them a space in your home. You could think about how open you want your home to be. Will there be a curfew? Will you provide meals, snacks and drinks? Does your child need to take responsibility for having friends over – for example, tidying up the kitchen or family room afterwards?
Your child might find that some of the activities he’s interested in cost money. You might talk to your child about what activities you’re willing to pay for, how often and how much. You could also talk to your child about pocket money. Consider how much seems to be a fair amount in your family. Can extra jobs earn extra money?
Free time on their own
Sometimes your child will just want to spend time by herself, not doing very much. You might notice this as your child spends more time studying – it’s partly about recharging her mental batteries. Solo free time is fine, if it’s not all the time and is balanced with spending time with friends and family.
It’s also OK for your child to feel bored sometimes! Being bored can motivate your child to find something creative or new to fill his time.
Healthy screen time for teenagers
Your child might spend some of his solo free time watching TV or DVDs, using a computer or tablet, playing video or hand-held computer games, and using her mobile phone.
is about choosing quality programs and apps and developing healthy screen habits. It also includes limits on daily screen time. Some negotiation about screen time during the school week, on weekends and in the holidays might help your child develop valuable time management skills.