Think back to your favorite teen hangout space, back in the day. What made that place the ultimate teen hangout? What was it that drew the teens of your time to that particular location as if it were a magnet?
Was it the food? Comfortable, beat-up furniture? The fact that music could be played very loud and no one complained? Are these the things that made one house the “it” spot for all the teens in your crowd?
Or was it your friend’s parents that turned your friend’s house into the local teen hangout space? Did they make you feel welcome because they were super-relaxed? Did they care about you, get involved with your life as your honorary parents?
Maybe the opposite was true. Maybe your friend’s parents were totally oblivious to you and anyone else their teenager brought home. As long as the goings on were locked away behind their child’s bedroom door while they watched the evening news or read the paper, they could have cared less what any of you were doing. That may well have been the attraction: escaping notice can be attractive to teens who prize their privacy. Not least when doing things they shouldn’t do.
Which is why you’re thinking about this now. Your teenager is beginning to spend a lot of time out of the home with friends and frankly, this makes you nervous. You’d like to know where he’s going and what he’s doing and that’s your right as his parent. But you don’t want to pry and chase after your own child for information. You don’t want to have to play the heavy, and be stern and righteous.
That is why you wish you could turn your home into the local teen hangout space, because that is how you would always have some clue about your teenager’s friends. You’d also know the kind of things they’re into, and of course, where they are, which is to say, safe at home. (Let’s face it, like real estate, with teens only three things matter: location, location, location.) If you could turn your home into the perfect teen hangout, you’d know all of these things while being a part of your teen’s life and that of his friends’. All you have to do is create a welcoming hub for your teen and his or her friends under your very own roof.
Sound daunting? No doubt. Perhaps you’re thinking you can’t be that relaxed parent or the parent who could care less. That is definitely the most difficult part of making your home a place that beckons to teens as a teen hangout space.
But you can do this thing bit by bit. Just dig in and make a start with one of these ten tips. Then follow it with another tip, and then another. Soon, your home will be a true teen magnet, noisy and filled with angst and fun by turns. It’s exactly how you thought it would be. How it was at your friend’s house back in the day—you know—the home that was the local teen hangout?
Tag, you’re it. Which was your goal to begin with.
Teen Hangout Tips and Tricks
- Poof You’re a Restaurant. You know how you always say to your kids, “What am I, a restaurant?” In short, the answer to this is yes. Teens are always hungry, always looking for food and drink. Mostly, they like junk food. You can try to make sure there are healthy alternatives along with the unhealthy nosh. But make sure the food is stuff they like. To paraphrase, let them eat chips, or at least microwave popcorn and soda. Because broccoli probably won’t cut it.
- Invest in Quality Earplugs. Teens and music, teens and music. Go together like a horse and, well never mind. But if you want to be the local teen hangout, do not expect your home to be calm and tranquil. Especially if your home is small and you have paper thin walls. What you need to do is buy some really great earplugs. More than one pair, actually, because they’re the kind of thing that goes missing. You will want a spare pair. They’re going to play awful music awfully loud and you will want to protect your hearing and your musical sanity. ‘Nuff said.
- Give Your Child a Decorating Budget. Talk to your child about redoing his room to make it more grown-up, more comfortable for teens. Especially if the room’s decor is still stuck in an Early Bob the Builder or Dora the Explorer time warp. Tell your child what you can afford to contribute to the effort and speak together about how you might make the room more inviting to friends. Perhaps the two of you can check out some garage sales or your teen can do a bit of dumpster diving with friends and bring them into the project. Paint is inexpensive and can bring a lot of personality to a space. Let your child go a little crazy here, even if it’s not to your taste. He’s the one who will have to live with the results. All you have to do is close the door to not see it anymore. (See how easy that was?)
- Something to Do. You know how when your kids were little they were always telling you there was nothing to do and you’d suggest things and nothing you suggested was ever anything they wanted to do? Teens are really the opposite of that. They build up all this energy and then they are really happy to have a way to let it out. So let them nosh and listen to music, and then make sure you have something for them to do. Like a foosball table, ping pong, air hockey, a trampoline, or a pool table, for instance. Choose one or figure out something along those lines and the teens will flock to your home. It’s good healthy fun and they’ll be glad to have at it.
- The Great Out of Doors. Not everyone has a yard or porch roomy enough to provide a change of pace for teens sick of being cooped up in an indoor teen hangout space. But if you do have a bit of space, and you don’t need much, think about how you can create a private outdoor space that is just for your teenager and his or her friends. Even a few feet of space, used creatively, can serve for this purpose. You can mark off the designated teen space with outdoor cushions or furniture, or even with plants or potted trees. If you build it, they will come, said the movie. The main thing is providing an option.
- Grill Crazy. Let your teenager be the grill master. Teenagers love the informality of a barbecue. Even a small grill along with some charcoal and hamburger patties will make teens very happy people. Burning things is fun! (You may want to make sure you’ve got some aloe vera gel handy in your first aid kit, just in case.)
- Let the Games Begin. On a rainy day, teens may just pull out the chess board or checkers and test their skills. Make sure you have a good selection of the kinds of games that never grow old. And if all else fails, video games with great graphics are awesome. Kids and technology. Always a crowd pleaser.
- Movie Buffs. Everyone likes movies, even teens! Make sure you stock some classics and some new ones, too. Of course, if you have Netflix, you solve that problem. Teens will enjoy watching a series of movies in succession, such as for instance, a Marvel serial. Just add popcorn.
- Silence is Golden. Duct Tape is Silver. Make a pact with yourself: you will never ever raise your voice even a smidgen bit loud when your teen’s friends are staking out your place as their local teen hangout. If ever you feel angry and your volume threatens to rise, imagine you are sealing your mouth with duct tape. And keep imagining it. For hours. Or until the urge to yell goes away. Failing that, scream into a pillow while sitting in your bathroom with the shower running full blast. This usually does the trick. Caveat: don’t take the pillow into the shower.
- Go to Your Room. Feel like you don’t know how to talk to the kids, make them comfortable? Worried you’ll say the wrong thing? Disappear. Go into your room. They’ll know you’re in there and it will keep their behavior in check, just to know you’re there. You don’t have to play like you’re their best friend and if you do and it doesn’t come off natural, you’re liable to come off all Mrs. Robinson wrong instead and that will be the last you’ll ever see of your teenager’s friends. You need to be so chill. And if you can’t chillax, go into your bedroom and close the door.
Over time, all of these little tips and tricks will come to seem natural, and you too, will develop a knack for hosting and relating to your teenager’s friends in comfort. The main thing to do is dig in and begin. Soon enough, you’ll see the results of your efforts as the teens begin to flock to your home as their “it” place for hanging out.
And if it ever seems a bit too loud and rowdy, and you’re yearning for some quiet and privacy, remember that being the local teen hangout is the key to knowing where your child is, who he’s hanging out with, and what he or she is doing.
In short, by giving teens a haven, you’re buying peace of mind.
And that is a rare commodity, indeed.