Supporting Your Teenagers : Balancing Freedom with Responsibility

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Just because you're willing to make some adjustments to your family's schedule to support your teenager's growing independence doesn't mean that you have to—or should—rearrange your family's schedule to accommodate everything your teenager wants to do. If you've shown respect for your teen's scheduling needs, your teen should show a reciprocal respect for the rest of the family's schedule. You should have an understanding with your teenager that any of his activities which will impact the family's schedule must be communicated and incorporated into your family's planner with as much notice as possible. If a scheduling conflict is apparent, it should be resolved well in advance of the conflicting activities. Because sometimes teenagers don't think broadly enough to realize that their plans affect others, you may want to specify which activities require advance notice. Here are some examples:
  • Not eating a meal at home

  • Having guests for a meal

  • Wanting to use a family car

  • Having friends spend the night

  • Doing anything that will preclude the teen from completing assigned chores on time

  • Needing to use anything that belongs to the family collectively (computer, television, workbench, tools, oven, and the like)

You should decide how much advance notice you need to keep your schedule from being derailed and make sure your teen understands the reasoning behind that requirement.

Learning to Drive

Driving is one of the privileges that accrues in the middle-teen years. It is a major contributor to both your teen's growing independence and responsibility. These days, having a student driver in the house takes a lot more scheduling than it did in the past. In addition to a driver's education course that involves classroom and in-car training with a certified driving instructor, most states also require the student's parents to ride in the front passenger seat alongside the student driver for a specified amount of time, usually around 50 hours.

To see your student successfully through the process to licensed driver without any scheduling crises, you should plan ahead and set aside time in your planner to accomplish each of the following steps:

Find out your state's driver's license requirements. This first step is a good task to assign to your teenager. He'll already have some idea from school, and he probably can get any additional information he needs from the Internet. Try to get this information well in advance of the time your teen can actually begin the process so that you can plan ahead.

Coordinate your calendar with your teen's if she needs to appear in person to get a temporary permit so you're both available when the registrar is open. Also, double-check that your teenager has all her paperwork in order (birth certificate or whatever else is required) so that you won't have to make a second trip. If your student has to take a written exam before getting her permit, make sure you've planned that time into your schedule.

Phone your insurance agent before you allow your teen behind the wheel to make sure your policy covers his driving.

Register your student for driver's education class. Make sure you understand when the class meets and when your student must be available for in-car instruction.

You can save some time in your own schedule if your student can take driver's education at the school she attends so that you don't have to drive with her to and from class.

Create a log to keep track of the hours you spend in the passenger seat while your student drives. Make sure your log is set up to track time spent on highway driving, night driving, parking/maneuverability practice, foul-weather driving, or any other conditions that have specific time requirements.

Have your teen coordinate with you and make an appointment for her driving test.


If your teenager has any physical condition that may require special licensing or testing for her to be able to drive, make sure you find out the requirements and schedule the extra steps. Give yourself enough lead time so that your teenager doesn't get left behind by her friends.

Call back your insurance agent after your teen gets his license to double-check that your new driver is covered and to find out whether you can get a reduced rate by submitting proof of driver's education or good grades.

Celebrate this milestone with your family!


When the number of drivers in your family exceeds the number of motor vehicles in your family, you have the potential for conflicts over the use of the car. If you analyze the situation, though, you'll find that you need only a slight shift in the way you're used to thinking to accommodate the extra driver without a problem.

The excuse that the person who took the car didn't realize someone else needed it will never be valid if you're keeping your family's planner up-to-date. Anyone who's licensed to drive is certainly capable of looking at the family's planner and determining whether another person's activities require a car at any given time. The new driver should be accustomed to figuring out whether someone would be available to drive her to an activity. The same assessment of the family's calendar will reveal whether a car will be free at a certain time.

You also might want to get every driver in the habit of indicating on the family's planner if a particular vehicle will be needed for an activity. For example, if someone has agreed to drive four kids to a soccer game, he should indicate in the planner next to the entry for the soccer game that he'll need the van, not the car.

As with all scheduling conflicts, work out car conflicts well in advance. Walking, biking, carpooling, and public transportation may all prove to be workable solutions.

Accepting the Duties of Citizenship

Your teenagers may think they're adults, but they can usually still use some guidance to assure that they take care of some of their responsibilities that may not be obvious to them. As your teenagers seek employment and reach their late teens, they have several obligations that you may need to remind them to put on their schedules, including

  • Registering to vote when they turn 18

  • Registering for the draft when they turn 18, if they're boys

  • Filing income tax returns when their gross income exceeds the Internal Revenue Service's threshold amount or when they're due an income tax refund

Other activities you may want to help your young adults learn to schedule and implement on their own include banking, investing, securing insurance coverage, and handling medical appointments. Your teenager will quickly develop an appreciation for how complicated adult schedules really are. That realization will help provide her with the motivation to find a good way to keep track of everything.

To do list

  • Review time-management principles with your teenager

  • Reinforce your family's system for avoiding scheduling conflicts

  • Help your teenager select a stylish individual planning tool

  • Show your teenager how to use the features of her planner that most match her preferred and dominant learning modalities

  • Encourage your teenager to switch planning tools if a different planner will work better for him

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