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Building Fences a Family Project

Tuesday, June 04, 2013
By John Goetz, M.Ed. L.P.C.

As Alice Cooper stated so eloquently, School's out for summer. Teenagers across our state are busy not making plans beyond sleeping late and staying up late. To be fair, many teens will be engaged in summer jobs, church work camps, mission trips, sports, and a wide variety of positive activities. The reality is that summer break still provides a generous amount of down time in which to socialize or just sleep in. I'm jealous.

As parents part of our job is planning and thinking ahead. We establish expectations and boundaries with our children. I would like to suggest that we take an hour one evening before summer really starts just to sizzle, to sit down with our teen/teens and set up some summer expectations or, as I like to refer to them, fences.

I'm not talking about 6 ft. chain link fences topped with razor wire. Rather, I am suggesting a decorative split rail fence our teens help us build. Our teens, working with us, then have an intimate knowledge of the family's boundaries.

Fencing choices might include expectations for a summer job, such as: lawn care, babysitting, car detailing, fast food, grocery stores, restaurant staff, little league, or volunteer work. Household chores such as dishes, cleaning bathrooms, and doing laundry provide real life experience. Curfews (by the way, the City of Edmond maintains a 12:00 am curfew), and discussion of how many nights a week teenagers can go out are all excellent opportunities to set expectations and boundaries.

The ability to meet reasonable expectations and to maintain appropriate boundaries are excellent markers of maturity and growth. Parents and teens who can build these types of fences together will find they can add gates and modify the fence as this maturity develops and is demonstrated. Unfortunately, there may also be times the gates need to be closed and gaps in the fences need to be repaired. At times, parents, you may have to do this unilaterally. Simple, well made fences will weather the spring storms. The day when your teens are able to sit down with you and take responsibility for their actions is the day you will know they are becoming an adult.

(John Goetz is a Licensed Professional Counselor at Edmond Family Counseling 341-3554)
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