Teenager's social life
My son will be 14 years old this week. He is an only child unfortunately. He was born 2 months premie and a multitude of problems. One condition is Aspergers Syndrome, which is a form of high functioning autism. This of course has lead to many challenges over the years with him, however you can look at him and not have a clue that anything is different.
Now at 14, he is showing more independence, wants to go more places alone, hang out with kids from school that I haven't met and I'm not comfortable with this at all.
At what point do you loosen up the reigns? There is still the risk of his inability to make proper decisions with his health condition. I do want him to be as normal as possible, but also don't want to risk him getting with the wrong crowds.
We are very careful about the influences on our children for as long as they are living in our home. Of course, when they become 18, 19, 20 - we do tend to allow them to make almost all decisions even while they are living at home. But we have raised them to be able to make good decisions by that point.
Everyone makes bad decisions every so often, and we learn from our mistakes, and that's just part of growing up.
But it's our responsibility, as parents, to properly shelter our children until they are mature enough to handle "the next step". A 14 year old will often be much better prepared to sit at a table by himself, with a burning candle, than a 3 year old would be. The 3 year old may not realize the risks associated with fire and might try to touch the flame or pull the candle towards him (dripping wax on his skin). But most 14 year olds would recognize that if they tip the candle, wax will spill, or if they're not careful, the candle could fall over and catch other things on fire.
So when it comes to influences, we choose the shows they watch on TV, we cut commercials out (or teach the children to turn the TV off during commercials) and we train them to do this from the time they can hold the remote.
We choose their friends by getting to know other families who have similar values, and doing things together, as families. This feels very natural to our children, helps us to keep their hearts and helps them not to want to search out friendships on their own.
If your son has already been with his peers on a regular basis (i.e. school), he will see what other children are doing, and he will want to be like them.
I wouldn't allow him to go anywhere alone. If he wants to hang out with kids from school, tell him he's welcome to invite them over to your house. You'll need to set house rules so that he's spending time with his friends in rooms where you and others can walk in freely at anytime. Make a rule that he shouldn't have his friends in his room, so that he is less tempted to do anything or have conversations behind closed doors. You want to be your son's main influence, but when he has private conversations with friends, they will become his main influence.
The time to loosen up the reigns is when he demonstrates maturity on a consistent basis. When you feel confident that he will make the right choices on his own. Until then, it's important to be a guiding influence in his life, in all areas that you feel he's not ready for.
I wish you and your son all the best.
One of my friend's sons has Aspergers Syndrome and I have also worked with children who have Aspergers Syndrome in the past.
I think it's so difficult as children become teenagers who become adults to know what boundaries to put in place and how much freedom to give them. But with children who have this syndrome in particular I believe we have to be even more careful as sometimes these children do not think through all the risks associated with what they are doing. This can end up with them getting in trouble for something which isn't really their fault.
I have come across some great agencies that match younger teenagers up with experienced 'befrienders': trained young adults (usually in their twenties) who can take children who have syndromes like Aspergers out on trips like to the cinema or bowling or shopping. The idea is that it is a step between being out with their parents and just being with people their own age (who may not act maturely). I don't know if he would be interested in this sort of thing or if it's on offer in your area? If not, perhaps you have a family friend or relative who could act in this role? This might enable your son to feel you are giving him some independence without you having to be concerned about him being on his own.
It sounds to me like you are wisely considering what is best for your son. As my friend's son has got older he has taken on more and more independence and is getting on so well. It just needed to be one small step at a time.
With best wishes to you and your son.
Great insight, Laura-Jane. Nice to know there are resources available like what you mentioned.
Thanks. There is help out there available: sometimes it's just knowing where to look or what to ask for.