Link copied to clipboard

Summertime, when the sun is hot and the days are long, might give your teen the idea that all the limits are out the window. But it’s also possible that it’s your teen’s friends who think that and not your own child. He or she may be looking to you to help hold the line.

So while certainly you don’t need to make your teen observe “school night hours” during the summer and you won’t expect your teen to cover up every inch of skin, there’s no reason to let all the rules fall by the wayside. A reasonable curfew and reasonable standard of dress are still reasonable expectations, even in the summer.

Your child may secretly thank you. There’s a lot of pressure to go along with the crowd, both to stay out till all hours and to parade around in clothing as revealing as possible. The pressure comes with name-calling. If a teen wants to go home before the rest of the gang, he’s a wimp. If a girl wants to wear more modest clothes, she’s a baby – or worse. So teens who don’t want to go along with the crowd may feel they have to go along, just to remain friends. Unless you help them out.

When you set firm rules and enforce them, you give your teen an ironclad excuse that doesn’t reflect badly on him. He can say, “My dad would kill me if I did that,” and everyone else will understand. Standards for behavior help your child maintain limits she wants anyway. And standards remind your teen that you are the parent and you care.

The idea that summer is a rule-free interlude separate from real life has its roots in the psychological idea of a liminal zone. The liminal zone is a mental state in which usual behavior patterns are suspended – like letting yourself eat junk food on vacation or read trashy magazines in the dentist’s office – and are suspended nowhere else. It’s the basis for the idea that “what happens in Las Vegas stays in Las Vegas.”

But of course the entire summer isn’t a liminal zone. It’s an important part of your teen’s life. What happens in the summer isn’t likely to stay only in the summer.

So negotiate some summer rules with your teen. Both of you may be glad you did.

© 2012, Patricia Nan Anderson. All rights reserved.