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A Basement Hangout and a Dead Cellphone

Dr. Catherine Pearlman on

Dear Family Coach: My 16-year-old son has a girlfriend, and her mom does not allow them to be alone at my house. They prefer to hang out in our finished basement, but I don't want to keep going down there. Should I tell them they can't go down there or tell the mom I can't watch them every single second? -- Stuck in the Middle

Dear Stuck: I have mixed feelings on this one. Dating teens certainly need supervision. But honestly, where there's a will, there's a way. Even with constant supervision in the home, the kids will go to the beach or the park or just spend more time in the car to find alone time. There is no way to completely oversee their time together.

It's great that the kids want to hang out at your house (and not the park). When they are in your home, your rules apply. It isn't your responsibility to enforce another parent's guidelines. However, imagine the feeling you might have if your son were to come to you one evening to tell you his girlfriend was pregnant. Yeah, it could happen. So if they are in your house, keep an occasional eye on them and have an open-door policy. If the girlfriend's mother decides her daughter can no longer visit your house unless they abide by her rules, let your son decide how to handle it. They might choose to only visit at the girlfriend's house or decide to follow her rules in yours.

Focus most of your attention on talking to your son about his relationship. How is it progressing? What are his thoughts on sex? Does he have access to condoms, and is he prepared to use them? He may resist this discussion, but press on and on and on. Teens need constant reminders that there's a chance of pregnancy and sexually transmitted diseases even after just one encounter.

Dear Family Coach: It seems like every time I try to reach my 14-year-old, her phone is dead. How can I ensure that it stays charged so I can reach her? -- Charged Mom

Dear Charged: I have to wonder why this happens so frequently. I can think of three possible reasons. The first is her phone is old and the battery can't hold a charge. This certainly happens. It's not her fault. Simply take the phone in to get a new battery, or buy her an emergency external battery she can use when she is out and about.

The second and third possible reasons need to be handled differently. She could be obsessively on her phone, thus killing the battery. Or her phone isn't really dead -- she is just ignoring you. Either way, she needs to know that it is her responsibility to keep in touch with you. If her phone goes dead (which she will notice immediately), she must borrow a phone to text or call you. It's pretty straightforward. If her battery loses charge, she should let you know how you can reach her. If she doesn't, decide on the consequences. Logical consequences are that she is grounded and must bring her friends to your house, or she loses her phone for a day.

Parents don't have to know where their teens are every single second. A little freedom goes a long way. But they should expect to have a way to reach their children as needed.


Dr. Catherine Pearlman, the founder of The Family Coach, LLC, advises parents on all matters of child rearing. To write to Dr. Pearlman, send her an email at To find out more about Dr. Catherine Pearlman and read features by other Creators Syndicate writers and cartoonists, visit the Creators Syndicate website at

Copyright 2017 Creators Syndicate Inc.


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