Simple Check-In Rule Helps Teens Avoid Risk

This valuable article on helping teens avoid risk is a guest post by Ken Ginsburg of the Center For Parent and Teen Communication. 

By Ken Ginsburg

A Simple Check-In Rule Can Help Teens Avoid Risk

Our tweens and teens are going to have to make certain decisions and choices in the face of peer pressure. And generally, they will want to do what’s right. But they may not know how to avoid risk while still saving face with their peers.

They may benefit from an easy way out.

Parents can give them that “out” with a simple rule: The Check-In Rule.

teens avoid risk

The Check-In Rule Is Simple:

No matter how late your teens may stay out, they must check in with you when they come home.

Even if you’re sleeping, they need to awaken you to say they’ve arrived. (And there’s a good chance you may not be sleeping too soundly until your teen is home anyway!)

Parents who effectively monitor their teens by regularly checking in in this way may find that their tweens and teens avoid risk—and are less likely to check out mentally and emotionally.

Our Hope Is—That Teens Avoid Risk When They Know They’re Deeply Cared For

The check-in rule does more than allow you to see your child is home safe. It also allows you to, well—check in. You’ll be able to see that he or she is of clear mind, and not under the influence of substances. As importantly, it allows you to be emotionally present if needed. While it would be convenient if we could schedule times when our teens needed us most, it doesn’t work that way. Often, it is during their evenings out that social and emotional challenges arise. And that’s why you’ll want to be present and available when they get home.

Just 14 Little Words Can Help Teens Avoid Risk

These check-ins are not the time to ask them about details of their night. Don’t force it. Just say something like, “Glad to see you’re home. I love you. Anything you want to talk about?” They may not want to start up a conversation just then. But they’ll appreciate your presence.

How the Gentlest Bit of Monitoring Can Help Teens Avoid Risk

The Check-in Rule is a simple monitoring strategy. Young people who are monitored actually gain a sense of security by knowing there are clear boundaries beyond which they cannot stray.

“This Not About Control—This is About Safety.”

In order for monitoring not to backfire, teens must understand that the rules exist to keep them safe, not to control them. For that reason, the rules can’t be random. They must be clearly related to issues that compromise safety or moral behavior. Make it clear that the Check-in Rule is about keeping your teen safe. Knowing that you will check in on them regardless of the time of night may give them the necessary excuse to avoid peer pressure to use drugs, alcohol, and other substances. Something that can be challenging when peers are engaging in these activities.

Some Teens Avoid Risk By Letting Their Friends Know About This Rule

Tell your teens that it’s just fine to let their friends know that this rule is in place.

It allows them to say to their friends, “Sorry, but no matter how late I get home, my mother sits me down and starts talking to me. She’ll smell my breath. There’s no way I can smoke, she’ll know. I’ll never get out of the house again!” They’ve saved face and gotten themselves out of a potentially risky situation.

As much as we would hope our teens would stand up and say no confidently, this can be a tall order. Parents that effectively monitor and regularly check in may find their tweens and teens have more strength to take the stand they want to take anyway.

The Center for Parent and Teen Communication provides a helpful quiz that helps parents determine whether they’re keeping tabs on their teens effectively. You can find that quiz at the bottom of the page here.

Helping teens avoid risk is a giant step toward college and career success.

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Read just one chapter of LAUNCH every 1–3 months while your child’s in middle school and high school, and you’ll know every viable strategy for debt-free college at exactly the right time to implement it.

And if your child’s already well past middle school? That’s OK; you can run to catch up. But the process of getting your kids through college debt-free goes more smoothly the earlier you start it—especially if you’re not planning to save up any money to pay for college.

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If you’re a parent, what additional ideas do you have when it comes to helping teens avoid risk? 

Comment below, or LIKE Jeannie Burlowski Author on Facebook and comment on this post there.

Who is Jeannie Burlowski?

Jeannie is a full-time academic strategist, podcast host, and sought-after speaker for students ages 12–26 and their parents and grandparents. Her writing, speaking, and podcasting help parents set their kids up to graduate college debt-free and move directly into careers they excel at and love. Her work has been featured in publications such as The Huffington Post, USA Today, Parents Magazine, and US News and World Report, and on CBS News.

Jeannie also helps students apply to law, medical, business, and grad school at her website You can follow her on Twitter @JBurlowski.