Guest Post: Back to School! Creating Safe Behaviors with Your Teen…Over Dinner

By Donna Fitzgerald

The start of the school year is the perfect time to sit down and have a conversation with your teen about safety. This new season typically means that more teenagers will be driving during rush hour, teens will be back with all of their friends after what was likely a summer consisting of family vacations, and back-to-school parties will be popping up most weekends. So how can you help establish safe behaviors with your teens?

Establishing Back to School Safety

Have an open conversation. Starting conversations about safe behaviors early on is incredibly important for building a strong foundation for communication. Always show them that you care first and foremost, and make it clear that you’re always willing to talk about what’s going on in their world.

Set reasonable expectations. Instead of telling your teen he or she has to make certain grades, let it be clear that you simply expect them to do their best. You expect them to spend a certain amount of time studying, and you expect them to make good choices in all aspects of their life.

Set ground rules. Give them clear and concise rules and regulations for them to adhere to. If you expect them home at a certain time so they aren’t driving after dark and they don’t stick to it, follow through with a consequence. Make sure they’re aware of the severity of getting into a car accident, and what it could mean if they experience one.

Know where they are at all times. With fall sports starting up, your teen may have tons of different after-school activities to keep up with. Stay up-to-date on their schedule so you always know where they are or where they should be.

Spend quality time with them. It’s easy to get wrapped up in letting your teen spend all of their free time with friends, so schedule a day each week where you do something fun together as a family. It’s also a great idea to eat dinner together each night. This is a great way to establish a strong relationship that remains open for communication.

A Few of Our Favorite Spots

When you’re helping establish safe behaviors for your teen, you might want to switch up the venue a little bit. Talking things out over dinner is a great way to keep it casual as opposed to gathering around in your living room for what might feel like an intervention to your teen.

The Chit Chat Diner in West Orange is a great spot for good conversation and delicious food. It’s an upscale take on the classic American diner, and it’s a favorite among all ages.

If your teen is all about delicious pizza, take them to Razza Pizza Artiglianale in Jersey City. With a wood burning oven, the freshest seasonal ingredients and classy vibe, this is the perfect place for a conversation that will help your teen feel comfortable and understood.

Then there’s The Red Store for our South Jersey readers (Cape May) which offers coastal-American food with an Argentine twist that will make your mouth water. The atmosphere is fantastic—charming yet relaxed. Patio seating is available as well—a great spot for fresh air and casual conversation.

Creating that sense of comfort with your teen is so important when you’re hoping to have a serious conversation with them. The atmosphere of the space can help dictate how the conversation goes, so make your teen as comfortable as possible before diving in to a conversation about their safety. When you can successfully have that open conversation with them, establishing safe behaviors will come naturally!

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