Curfew times are often a source of tension.

What Is an Appropriate Curfew for a Teenager?

by Scott Thompson

Setting an appropriate curfew for your teenager depends on several factors, including your teen's age, her school and work schedules, as well as her past track record for behaving maturely and responsibly. An appropriate curfew is one that is reasonable, safe, enforceable and early enough to ensure healthy sleep habits.

1. Do the Math

Teens who are sleep-deprived are at risk of failing a test or falling asleep at the wheel due to sheer exhaustion. The first step in setting an appropriate curfew is to make sure your teen will get at least the 8 to 9 hours of sleep, which is what most teens need, according to the KidsHealth website. For example, if your teen has to get up at 6 a.m. to get ready for school, he would need to be asleep by 9:30 p.m. to get 8 1/2 hours of sleep -- which means a 9 p.m. curfew might be appropriate for this teen on a school night. If he has a weekend job that starts at 9 a.m., an 11:00 p.m. weekend curfew would give him time to get the sleep he needs.

2. Check with Other Parents

The next step in setting an appropriate curfew is to check with other parents. If your teen has the earliest curfew in her peer group, it might strongly motivate her to sneak out, or to find ways around her curfew so her friends don't think of her as the baby of the group. If your teen has the latest curfew of the group, it could motivate him to try to influence his friends to break their own curfews and stay out with him. If you talk to the parents of your teenager's friends, you can come to a consensus so that all the teens in the group have the same curfew or close to it.

3. Discuss With Your Teen

Teens don't always see the logic behind parental curfews, especially older teens who will soon be able to set their own schedules. Your teen is much more likely to respect the rules if he understands the reasoning behind them -- and has some input into the final decision. To an older teen, staying out at a party until 1 a.m. might seem perfectly reasonable on a Friday night. However, psychologist Carl Pickhardt, Ph.D. in a December 2011 article for the Psychology Today website notes that the later you stay out, the greater the likelihood of your exposure to people who are fatigued, celebrating, drug or alcohol affected, as well as more inclined to social violence, which means you are at greater risk for a fight or car accident in the late hours. Explain to your teen that the curfew is a tool for reducing the risks he faces. A curfew can also provide a convenient excuse for your teen to leave a party before it gets out of control.

4. Flexibility

Your teen will be more likely to respect your curfew if you show some willingness to be flexible when appropriate. A concert by your teen's favorite band or a going-away party for a best friend might be an occasion for relaxing the usual curfew, especially if she is generally responsible. One way to encourage your teen to respect the curfew is to give her a cellphone and make a rule that she must answer immediately if you call or text. If you know that you can check up on her to make sure she's OK, you might feel comfortable letting her stay out later sometimes for a special occasion.

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