Kids seem to cost more the older they get – so the teen years can be daunting. But they are a key time to teach responsibility in real terms, while weaning them off your financial umbilical cord! Here’s how.
1. Mobile phones
If you haven’t got one already, a mobile phone helps with teenagers’ safety and your peace of mind. Pay-as-you-go can run out of credit when it’s an emergency – but costs are controllable. With a contract, however, you can monitor their calls. Do set a cap on bills, and if your teen has a job you might only contribute a fixed amount.
From a safety aspect this can be a minefield. Register the phone for a child so they can’t access adult material online. Ask the phone operator to enforce the filter that’s available so they’re not exposed to harmful internet stuff. Switch off Bluetooth, as you don’t want their information stored. And ask for parental controls to be enforced and chat rooms to be blocked.
Finally, drill them on not giving their number or details to strangers. ChildNet has a comprehensive guide if you’re worried.
2. Driving lessons
If you can afford to, get them driving lessons but as a birthday present. This makes your teenager aware of the cost – as opposed to it being a right! Insure them on your (lowest value) car, and set boundaries.
Fuel is very expensive now, so you might ask them to pay an amount towards each mile they drive. Make it clear that alcohol or too many people in the car will result in an unambiguous vehicle ban for a month!
3. Public transport
While you don’t want them out at all hours, using (and paying for!) public transport is a real life skill. It’s good for responsibility as well as understanding timetables. It also avoids you being a human taxi for seven years! Show them how to use what’s in your area.
Teen holidays are a nightmare. They say they don’t want to come, but they do. You don’t want to leave them in your home now it’s finally free of sticky fingers. And they’ll mope wherever you go!
Camping is good for the budget. They can pitch up in a tent with a friend or two, and you can be nearby without making it boooooring!!
Activity holidays also work out well. Look online for companies that run holidays for teens and parents, where teenagers travel with their peers without being out of your domain. If they (or you!) adamantly don’t want to holiday as a family, try something like PGL. They run activity holidays up to the age of 17 and keep things in hand.
Often rather disappointingly we are asked for “just money” when it comes to Christmas and birthdays. But don’t let this be a negative. Give them the amount you feel is both appropriate and affordable – regardless of what they’re saving for. Teenager wants are notoriously expensive.
Secondly, this doesn’t mean you can’t still have fun choosing stocking fillers. Books (perhaps on subjects you’d like to broach!), toiletries for maturing bodies, and foody treats will still go down well.
Remember, doing things as a family with teens doesn’t have to cost any more than when they were small. Find free things to do that you all enjoy – bike riding, ice skating, going for a walk, watching a film or TV programme. Despite being ungrateful and moody at times, our teenagers still want the same attention and time that they did aged eight!