TEEN TAKE: The "It House"

Whose house is the best for hanging out? For tweens and teens this can be the dilemma of the hour. What makes a house the “it house” for hanging out? I’m giving parents the 411 on what it takes to be the house favorite! Beware…I’m giving a double-sided view of how most kids feel about where they hang out.

Being the “It-House” for the Right Reasons

During my middle school and high school years, I was involved in theatre and choir. Actors and singers tend to be fun, outgoing and often loud. After concerts or theater productions we all loved to gather at someone’s house and continue singing, dancing and, well, just being our goofy selves. Our house of choice allowed us to feel comfortable enough to break out in song in the middle of a living room, and having a parent who can make yummy snacks can definitely seal the deal.

One of the tricks to being a go-to house is allowing kids to feel like they have their own space without too much parental interruption. This can be tricky. After all, kids need supervision, but they don’t want to feel like they are being hovered over all the time.

My house was a go-to house. I remember my mom always had great snacks or our favorite pizza. Everything was organized, so we could help ourselves and have a good time. If your child is hanging out with positive kids they won’t mind a parent’s supervision. My mom made it a point to know my friends and was able to have a conversation with them without sounding like she was interrogating them. Instead, she listened a lot and related to my friends in a way that made them feel like they could talk about anything without being judged. My mom reminded us often that she was a teen once too and remembers how it felt growing up. She made an appearance once in a while to ensure that we were having fun and had enough to eat, but never dominated our conversations or lingered too long.

Having fun activities to enjoy such as ping pong tables, swimming pools and the latest video games can be a fun addition toa get together. However a parent can turn these fun toys into a huge negative by being overly strict with their use.. Calling out other kids in front of everyone is a HUGE embarrassment for the one in trouble, as well as the son/daughter of the parent. If the need to discipline arises, kids always prefer discretion to avoid embarrassment by their peers. On the other hand, having too many things to do can be a negative. Swimming outside in the pool, playing air hockey upstairs and video games in the media room can be overwhelming. This separates kids and becomes nearly impossible to supervise, even for the kids. Sometimes, just swimming, eating and listening to music is enough while everyone is together having fun.

Small groups of friends gathering together can create some of the fondest memories. It doesn’t have to be something elaborate.  baking cookies or a fun craft project can do the trick. I remember my mom taking my friends and me on a quick run to get ice-cream or Starbucks just to break things up! My friends loved the treat.

Being the “It-House” for the Wrong Reasons

Most parents want to seem “cool” to their son or daughter and their friends. Giving kids their privacy and space is necessary, however giving too much space makes you a target for becoming the “It-House” for the wrong reasons. While kids test the boundaries of growing up with ideas such as sneaking out of the house and/or raiding the liquor cabinet, an absent parent enables teens to take their independence to a new and potentially dangerous level. Oftentimes, your teen’s friends will catch on quickly if there is no parental supervision, and pressure your teen to make their home the “party house”… whether this is something they are comfortable with or not. Be sure to set very specific guidelines for your kids to follow so that there no sruprises for either of you. You both will be the happier for it.