Your Child's "Firsts"

Change is scary, especially when it involves your children. There's a first time for just about everything, but as many seasoned parents will note, they wish that some of these "first times" could be postponed until a later date!

As children's bodies change and mature, hormones kick in, and social pressures abound, our kids tend to have one thing in common — wanting to stretch the previously safe, agreed-upon boundaries and add all kinds of activities to their repertoire of desires and needs. Your fifth-grader probably loves to shop with you at the mall, but your 16-year-old would most likely prefer to go with her friends. Family movies were cool when your son was younger, but now as a ninth-grader he's pleading to be dropped off, of course without your scoping out the situation, and to link up with his buddies at the show.

What's a parent to do? Well, start with trying to be smart by picking your battles, listen to your child to understand where he or she is coming from, be ready to grow the rules with the kid and know what your limits are and stick to them. Also, discuss with your child how trustworthiness and usage of common sense are extremely important attributes when considering the independence-seeking that he or she is engaged in. I've found with my own two kids, as well as with many of the families that I work with in my clinical practice, that compromise and consistency are key parental behaviors. Now, let's take a look at some of the most common, and perhaps anxiety-producing, firsts for our kids:

Going to the mall or movies without you
Okay, your son or daughter has asked to go to either the mall or movies, and of course it's without you tagging along. Often children as young as 12 or 13 ask for this privilege as they see many of their peers dropped off and picked up by their folks without Mom or Dad participating. The primary focus should be upon safety. Face it, your kid really doesn't need you sitting next to him at the movies — you probably do though, as you might miss the bonding experience, actually want to see the show, or are afraid of either someone hurting your child or the kid leaving the movie to go off with his friends. Often parents feel better about the movie or mall trip with the group when these occur during the afternoon or early evening, and only allow night outings when the child is in high school.

When considering these outings, make sure that your kid is running with the pack when allowed at the movies or mall without you. There is safety in numbers but your child needs to promise (and stick to his word) to stay with the group and to not take off on his own to visit another store or to leave the movie theater. Trust is essential, and if your kid has a history of impulsive or irresponsible behavior, you might want to say no to such requests until he has proven himself to be dependable. If it makes you feel better, have him or her carry a cell phone, with the rule that they must answer it when you call. And, be sure that he's aware of when and where he'll be picked up and stress that he needs to be on time so that you're not worried. If another parent is doing the driving, double check that your child will be brought home at the expected time.

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