Teenage Independence

Every teenager argues with their parents , don’t they? About what age they are allowed to see certain films, play on age rated console games, drink, party, stay out all night. Every family is different. Each sets their own boundaries. What is acceptable for some is certainly not acceptable for others.

A child’s maturity levels also affect those decisions. As parents , we need to decide what we think we should allow our own children to do and when, within reasonable limits. There are laws in this country banning under age children from drinking in public or buying alcohol but we as parents can still buy it and allow our children to drink it.  There are laws prohibiting under age children seeing films at the cinema but we can download them at home and allow them to watch. So, we do have some leeway and we need to use that discretion wisely.

But, how do we manage all of this with our special needs teenagers? How hard is it to ‘let go’ and allow them to learn by their own mistakes like we all did as teenagers? I know I was allowed an unusual amount of freedom. I stayed out all night at parties, went drinking and sneaked into adult rated films. I did many things under aged. We were even sent to school on the tube from the age of eight, unheard of these days to even allow a child to walk to a local school, let alone travel on the underground alone.

I am battling with what to allow, when to allow it or even when to try and push the boys into things. They have all just started recently to travel independently on the bus but only to arranged events at their destination such as running club for Thomas. They don’t yet go out unsupported and wander around town on their own. Thomas was desperate for the independence of travelling alone, Benjamin was more hesitant and fearful so we took it more slowly with him. I don’t want to push them into independence in this manner.

Our middle son is on the edges of mainstream life. He made friends with a mainstream group on holiday. How fantastic is that? But, it brings with it, a different set of worries. He has been invited to an event , way out of London. He can’t go. He is younger than all of them by a year or so and has only ever been out once independently on his own to meet a friend. It is a year or two too early. He is angry with me. Of course he wants to go and of course, I can’t let him. He is too immature to travel alone across London and futher out, to go drinking with a group of older mainstream teenagers. But he wants to. He really wants to be ‘normal’ and have ‘normal’ friends. How can I tell him his autism still affects him and his judgement?

Teenage arguments, desires and boundaries all need to be addressed. Add autism to the mix and it’s hard, really hard to negotiate.

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