One of the greatest things my parents did for me when I was a teenager was creating a safe place for my friends to hang out. Our home was the hub of my circle. There was a core group of 4 of us, but it often expanded out to double digits. That’s asking a lot of parents to open up their home like that to a big group of rowdy teens, but they always did graciously and without expectation. Our house was the teen hangout. I loved it.
When we were in middle school, my dad allowed us to turn his nice barn into an adolescent hangout and even kept his opinion to himself when we “expanded” the premises in a not-so-eye pleasing way. Eventually, we invaded the house too. My mom kept everyone fed. She was beloved by my friends, and my dad was and still is a legend in their eyes. Them allowing this during those years of my life is something I’m forever grateful for. It was very important to me.
Is your house the place all the kids like to hang out? Should it be? The answer is yes and here’s why.
Being the Presence.
The biggest benefit in this is the opportunity to build strong relationships with your child’s friends. My dad became a second father to my friends. He knew everything we were involved in. Sometimes I’m sure he wished he didn’t. But he never shied away from teaching not only me but all of us, when it was sorely called for.
What’s the Alternative?
Where else are your kids going to be if they aren’t hanging at your house? As a dad, you know what you’re bringing to the table and the environment you’re going to create. If my friends and I had been left to just wander around, we would have found trouble. Things were no different then as they are now. Drugs were around in abundance. Sex. Booze. Crime. It’s all out there, and some kids will be drawn in. Ask your middle or high school kids about it. They know. When we provide a safe place for our kids to be, it goes a long way in curtailing the influence all those things will have on them. Of course, just because they leave your home it doesn’t mean they will become a drug dealer! The message here is the more involved we are, the better. Minors wind up in illegal activities often from sheer boredom. Stay engaged.
How Do We Create a Welcoming Home?
The key is to create space that draws them in. It’s not enough to just tell kids they are going to be at your house. A large effort needs to be made to make it the kind of place that serves their interests. A place they want to be. For teen boys, that often starts with a big four letter word – FOOD. But more than that, we should create open spaces where kids feel welcome. Suggestions are spaces to play sports outside, such as a basketball goal, volleyball net, or whatever suits your home. Inside should be a tech-friendly space that’s updated with the things they are into. Safe firepits outside to hang around are awesome. The key is to create space that draws them in. They should never feel uncomfortable. In our house, we had clear behavior rules but otherwise, we were free to talk and be ourselves. We never felt hovered over. It was a great place my friends chose to come to.
Huddle Up Question
Huddle up with your kids tonight and ask, “What can we do to make our house a place where your friends would want to hang out?”