Amusement Park Solos
If you have a young teenager at home, you may have already been approached about being permitted to hang with friends and ride the rides — parent-less — at an amusement park. There are certainly lots of options around here for an adrenaline-pumped group of teens to scare themselves silly and gorge themselves on junky treats.
How do you decide if this is ok? Take into consideration your teen’s maturity level and problem solving skills. Although rides are checked and monitored to ensure their safety, most accidents occur because of rider error: standing when they should be sitting, jumping off a ride before it’s fully stopped, or sneaking on to a ride they’re too short for, for example. Have confidence in your child’s ability to recognize safe and appropriate behaviour. Discuss the importance of following the ride operator’s instructions, and not getting too carried away by the silly behaviour of friends.
Give your son or daughter a little pop quiz: what would you do if you got separated from your friends? What would you do if you lost your money on a ride? (Been there. And it wasn’t even my money I lost! Ouch.) Where would you go if you got hurt or sick? Who would you go to if you had a question or a problem? Get a good idea of your child’s problem solving abilities, and offer suggestions so he or she is prepared with a bit of a plan should something go wrong. If your child has a cell phone, make sure you use it to check in and keep in touch. This can be really handy if you miss each other at the pick-up spot. (Been there, too.)
If your automatic reaction to the request is “No way!”, take a deep breath. Have a candid conversation about your concerns, and give your teen a chance to address them. Saying no without even listening what s/he has to say practically guarantees, at best, a lot of door slamming, and at worst, lying to you and sneaking out to go anyway. Perhaps the two of you can come to a mutually-acceptable compromise, such as you also go to the park that day, taking any younger siblings on rides too boring for cool kids like your teen, and you check in together at different times during the day.
This can be a great experience in independence and responsibility for kids! As with everything, honest communication and planning ahead are the keys.