Teenagers are often characterized as self-centered or mean, but anyone who spends a lot of time with adolescents can tell you that these stereotypes aren’t the norm. Teens are devoted to their friends, and more often than not, they will sacrifice their time and comfort to support a struggling friend. They frequently offer advice, encouragement, and consolation to their friends without parental input.
Teens also go out of their way to protect each other’s secrets. Occasionally, they encounter situations where they can’t actually support their friends, but they wait until they are genuinely concerned for their friends’ safety before alerting a parent or a trusted adult.
Recently, my son, The Boy, asked a question that completely caught me off guard. He asked whether his friends could move into our house for an extended period. My initial response was, ‘Absolutely not! No.’
My son thought he was asking a simple question that would result in helping his friends, but he didn’t realize the answer required a great deal of thought and consideration. I knew he and his friends envisioned endless nights of playing video games and talking. So, before making a decision, I set realistic expectations about the challenges and adjustments that having others in our home would require. For example, there would be no financial support for the additional household members, and I had to explain how that would impact our family financially. Instead of ordering pizza or fast food when friends stay overnight, it would mean we would be preparing more meals at home.
In addition, I made clear to The Boy and his friends that in order to create a harmonious and respectful environment within our home, there would be non-negotiable rules, such as safety, respect, and shared responsibilities. If his friends moved in, they would be held to the same expectations for completing household chores, adhering to curfews and bedtimes, and maintaining their grades. I listened to their concerns and opinions because everyone should have a say in the rules that will affect them. I explained the reason behind each rule and the expectations associated with it, which helped them understand their purpose and significance. Then I agreed to allow my son’s friends to stay with us for an extended period.
Moving forward, I know we will face challenges, disagreements and frustrations. I also know it’s important to be flexible and adaptable, and recognize that some rules may need to evolve over time as circumstances change. When rules are broken and expectations are not met, there will be consequences with the goal of learning from the experience, eliminating unwanted behaviors, and providing opportunities for personal growth rather than imposing disciplinary actions. Addressing concerns quickly and directly will ease the adjustment period to the new family dynamic.
With this change within our household, I regularly check in with my son to see how he is coping. Even though I have other children in my care, my son will always be my priority. I want to ensure that he remembers he has a support system in place, whether it’s friends, family, or a therapist to help him navigate his feelings.
As parents, it’s our responsibility to manage the ever-changing dynamics within our families and adapt to the challenges that arise. Welcoming my son’s friends into our home has taught me valuable lessons and given me a deeper understanding of the importance of open communication, flexibility and patience.
This experience has reinforced the idea that teenagers, despite the misconceptions, are capable of empathy, compassion, and responsible decision-making. They can rise to the occasion when it comes to supporting their friends during difficult times. It’s crucial for us, as adults, to provide guidance, establish clear boundaries, and create an environment where trust and respect flourish.
It is my hope that this experience will not only strengthen our family bonds but also equip all of these young men with the skills they need to navigate the complexities of relationships and friendships as they grow into responsible and compassionate adults.
I will always try to provide my son and his friends with a safe space! What would you do if your child’s friend was in crisis?