Ask the expert Have you a query? Is my daughter too young for teenage kicks?
QThere is a teenage disco in our local area and my 13-year-old daughter is very keen to go. Though it seems to be well organised and just targeted at first years, I feel a bit reluctant to let her go.
I might be a bit old-fashioned and just think 13 is too young. I also worry about what goes on at these discos with the way the girls dress in an over-sexualised way and all that might go on with the boys. My daughter is a sensible girl who hasn’t given me much trouble. She would accept it if I said “No” but she says she would feel really left out. She says nearly her whole class are going as well as her close friends and this seems to be the case when I check. I’m not sure what to do. As I am parenting alone and she is my eldest, I haven’t had to deal with these issues before.
APushing for independence is the mark of the teenage years and the best response as a parent is neither saying an immediate “Yes” nor an immediate “No” to each of your teenager’s requests. Instead, the key is to negotiate independence gradually with your teenager and to use each request for more responsibility as an opportunity to reflect about and think through the issues with them and to prepare them to take a next step in living their own lives.
As a result, it is important to take your daughter’s request to go to the disco seriously and to consider all the issues with her before deciding.
Think through issues and check in with other parents
Dealing with your eldest entering the teenage years is unknown territory as a parent, and it is particularly hard if you are parenting alone or without support.
You might find it useful to talk through the issues with a close friend or with other parents you trust in a similar situation.
For example, it would be reasonable to make contact with one or more of your daughter’s friends’ parents to discuss the pros and cons of the disco and to share concerns about the issues.
This way you can put things in perspective and reduce your own anxiety.
Certainly, making contact with other parents could help ensure your daughter’s safety as it allows you to check who your daughter might be going with and to share the supervision of the teenagers when travelling to and from the disco.
Listen to your daughters perspective
Don’t pre-judge your daughter’s motives going to the disco or start by giving her lots of warnings about the dangers. Take time to listen and to understand what it means for her to go to the disco.
For some girls, socialising with boys is a big feature of going to a first disco but others may simply be interested in the ritual of dressing up, showing off their new clothes, trying out their dance moves and having fun with their friends.
The more you understand what it means to her, the more you will be able to decide if she is ready to go, what preparation she might need and also to present alternative options if you need to.