by Courtney Drake-McDonough
My tween daughter recently told me she has a boyfriend. They text and chat, but I’m not sure how to handle it. Should I be monitoring their communications? How do I do that without breaking her trust?
The expert: Melissa Michaud, LPC, of Riverpath Counseling Colorado
The solution: Parenting is hard during the tween years. You’re absolutely correct in your goal to balance independence with safety. As a therapist and a mom, I believe it’s best to have the hard conversations well before your child gets into a sticky situation; phone safety is one of the big ones. It’s often best to focus on phone habits rather than the budding relationship, so your child does not feel that she’s done something wrong.
Your conversation might sound like this:
“Honey, now that you’re older and have the privilege of your own phone, we need to talk with you about the responsibility that comes with it. Phones can be a lot of fun, but there are some things that we need to avoid, too.” (A few topics you might want to discuss: what makes a picture or text inappropriate, what to do if she receives something that makes her uncomfortable, and any limits on time/after-hours use.)
“We trust you to make good decisions, but we also know this is a lot of information and some of these things are new to you. So we’ll be checking your phone occasionally to make sure everything is safe and OK. As we see you continuing to make good decisions, as you get older, we’ll give you more freedom and check less. Sound good to you? Do you have any questions?”
Trust is a two-way street and relies on good communication and earned behaviors. This is a great opportunity to teach your kids how to communicate with you about more adult topics. They’ll also feel that they can trust you to help rather than punish them when they do make honest mistakes. It’s a learning process for both parents and kids!