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House Rules For My Teen Foster Kiddos Ages 13 and Up

Teenagers naturally want a sense of freedom. But at the same time they need structure and stability. The rules I create in my home for kids specifically 13 and older are discussed with my teens ahead of time. All rules are negotiable, and if they make an argument as to why they should be able to do something (have a later curfew) that makes sense, I'll usually oblige with conditions involved. I try to give my kids as much independence as possible, while also setting straight-forward expectations for their behavior. That's why, when they come into my home- I show them my rules and tell them to tell me what ones they agree with, and what ones they don't think are fair- then we can work together to create a stable environment that BOTH of us feel comfortable with. I have a very 'unique' rule system, in the fact that I don't require my children do anything. I simply encourage them to do things, by having a 'rewards and privilege system'. For instance, I don't simply tell my kids "Behave in school", they can misbehave if they want. But- then they won't be able to earn allowance, or wifi, or video game rights. Here are my basic rules for teenagers (this is going to be kind of long).

CURFEW
Our week night curfew is usually around 9:00 (again, negotiable under certain circumstances- school events, birthday parties, etc). Our weekend curfew is 10:30- once again negotiable. But, in order to earn 'curfew rights'- where my kids are allowed to be out late, they have to be following certain rules- which are...
-They cannot be late from the previous night's curfew. If they arrive late one night, the next night they are not allowed out of the house.
-They must answer my calls or texts in a timely manner. Phone died? Better use a friend's phone to get a hold of me and let me know. Going somewhere there won't be service? Better tell me ahead of time. If they respond to me, I'll respond to them and continue to let them have their freedom.
-They need to let me know where they'll be. If I find out they are NOT where they said they'd be, they cannot go out for one week. Honesty is extremely important in keeping the curfew open.
-They cannot be failing any classes. If they are failing a class in school, they need to stay home and work on extra-credit work, homework, and studying until their grade is up. Once they are no longer failing, they can have curfew again.

CELLPHONES AND GOOD GRADES
Each of my kids are given a cellphone when they come into my home. They can earn prepaid 'minutes' for their phone each month by getting good grades in school. Each month they receive...
500 minutes for each A in a class.
250 minutes for each B in a class.
100 minutes for each C in a class.
0 minutes for each D in a class.
and -250 minutes for each F in a class (they have 250 minutes taken off of their total for each F).

WIFI (INTERNET) RULES
We have wifi available 24/7. In order to have wifi rights they just need to follow a few simple wifi rules.
-They can use social media, but need to allow me to follow them on sites like Facebook, Twitter, and Youtube. They also cannot publish their actual location on ANY website.
-They can have their own blogs, which I do not follow (I believe in giving them privacy), but cannot publish inappropriate pictures of themselves, drug paraphernalia, or their actual location or last name,
-They are welcome to participate on any gaming sites (Runescape, neopets, etc). No real rules, except once again no published location and I try to ask them not to use their real name (or at least not their last name).
-They can use teen chat rooms, which is very controversial, but I believe it can help them create healthy relationships with peers. With that being said ALL webcam conversations need to happen in an open part of the house (like a living room) where I can overhear. Additionally, they cannot use their real location or real FIRST or last name.

ALLOWANCE AND CHORES
Each week my kids can earn an allowance. They can choose what (if any) chores they want to do, and are paid accordingly. They can do a variety of chores and also propose an extra chore if they think of something they can do that they feel they should be paid for. Prices for chores are also negotiable (for instance if we are washing dishes after a large holiday meal, they may feel it's more fair to get paid more. I'd agree). Our going rate for different chores is:
Washing Dishes: $2.00 a day
Vacuuming: $1.00 a room, per day.
Sweep/Mop: $1.00 a room, per day.
Dust: $1.00 a room, per day
Make Dinner: $2.00 a day
Feed Pets: $2.00 a day
Change Litterbox: $1.00 a day
Wash/Dry Laundry: $2.00 a day
Fold Laundry: $2.00 a day
Shovel Snow: $5.00 a day (only viable if there is snow to be shoveled)

SLEEPOVERS AND FRIEND-VISITS
My kids are always welcome to have friends over. Friends can come over on school nights, but must be home at their house by curfew. We don't do 'sleepovers' on school nights. If my kids are grounded, they are still allowed to have friends over- but MUST get homework done with their friends. My kids have sleepover rights for weekends and any days where there is not school the next day. These rights can be earned by:
-Being respectful to your peers and friends: If my kids are not kind to their friends while their friends are here, I won't allow them to continue to have friends over. This includes not stealing from friends, not cursing at them, and paying them back if they buy you food or something while in public. At school my kids cannot be bullying other children and any instances of bullying will prevent them from having sleepover rights with other friends.
-Being a good host: This means a lot of things, but basically I just want my kids to treat their guests with respect. Don't ignore them. Offer them food and drinks. Invite them to participate in activities. Don't be rude.
-Helping keep the house clean: If my kids are going to have a friend spend the night, their room needs to be clean. And they also need to clean up after their 'party' or 'sleepover' is finished (washing dishes from meals with their friends, cleaning up messes, etc).
-Being home by curfew with friends: If they are spending the night at my house with friends, they are still expected to be home by the previously agreed curfew.
-Following all other house rules: Friends are expected to follow house rules as well. If they don't, they aren't welcome over.

VIDEO GAME, TV, AND ELECTRONIC RIGHTS
We have video games, computer, tablets, and TVs available. My kids can pick up any of these devices any time they want to. In order to earn the right to watch whatever show they want, play a video game, or use a computer or tablet they need to complete these basic tasks:
-Brush your teeth- pretty self explanatory.
-Finish homework, and yep- I do check.
-Have no detentions or suspensions at school (detentions and suspensions have all rights for electronics taken away).

SCHOOL SUSPENSION CONSEQUENCES
If my child is suspended from school almost all rights are taken away from them on the days they are suspended. They do not have electronics, curfew is taken away, allowance cannot be earned that day, and the wifi will be locked. Phone minutes for the coming month will also be deducted -100 minutes for each day they are suspended.

SEX
Sex is a tough subject for most parents, but I think it's even harder for foster parents. Obviously we do not want our teenager having a child- but it's also so awkward to set clear guidelines and rules for sex. We don't know if their birth parents have talked to them. Often times we aren't even sure if they've had past negative experiences with sex. With that being said, I do feel it's important to be open to the topic of 'sex' as a teen foster parent. When kids come into my home, if they are at the age of thirteen or older, we do openly talk about sex, and I encourage them to come to me with questions and advice. I will happily give it. I also openly accept that sex is a natural part of many teens lives. I don't encourage my teens to have sex, but do let them know that it's okay if they have sex. With that being said, I always ask them to let me know. I WILL NOT get mad. But I do require them to follow safe sex practices. That means I supply them with condoms, and will usually encourage the girls to go on birth control. I get them checked up regularly (the girls visit gynecologists) and they are tested for STDs. I also talk to them very closely about how important it is to only give your body to people who truly deserve it, and I do ask that they date someone for at least a month before having sex with them. I can't always prevent my kids from having sex, but I can protect them from pregnancy and STD's by educating and encouraging them to play it safe. Many people may not feel this is 'right' and many people may feel that by allowing sex- I am encouraging it. I feel very the contrary. I feel like by allowing sex- I'm allowing my kids to have safe, open, non-judgemental communication with me about their relationships. Most of my friends were sexually active by the age of 15. Most of also did not have parents that supported this behavior- causing us to turn to more 'irrational' sexual habits (often times using inappropriate birth control methods or believing untrue stigmas about sexual intercourse). I don't encourage sex. I don't applaud it. I just realize that it happens, and instead of getting mad about it- I do my best to keep my kids safe if they choose to participate in it.

DATING AND RELATIONSHIPS
My teens are openly welcome to date. In fact I encourage healthy relationships with my teenagers and a significant other (I'm open to all kinds of relationships including homosexual, bisexual, and straight matches). We do have a few major rules with this one.
-If they are going to go on a 'date' outside of my home, I must meet the person first. I just want to know who they'll be with, where they're going, and give strict rules on what time they need to be home by.
-If they are dating someone, I expect my child to introduce themselves to their significant other's parents. I want the other parents to ALSO be aware of the relationship, and be able to communicate with me the rules they'd like their child to follow while dating my child.
-If they are going to have their significant other over to visit they are allowed to be in their room, but the door must be open. Yep- I'm a creeper parent. If they've been dating for many months, and have been open with me about their interest for more intimacy, I will understand and will allow them to have 'closed door time'. With that being said, I will require safe-sex practices and an equal respect for one another. Photos of ANY sexual nature are NOT allowed by either party. It is child pornography, it is illegal. I realize my 'closed door time' policy is controversial. Many would even say it's "wrong", but once again- rather than my kids participating in unhealthy activities (like unsafe sex) in order to hide it from me, isn't doing anyone any good. If they've proven they are mature enough and follow my rules, I'm going to allow a respectful- and yes, intimate relationship.
-If they are dating someone older than 18, or they are 18 and dating someone younger than them, sex isn't allowed, period. It's statutory rape, and it could ruin that person's life if legal issues came up.
-If they are going to have a 'sleepover' with their significant other, they must have been dating at least three months. After the three month mark, if they respect one another, I am open to sleepovers. With that being said, they need to sleep in an 'open area' part of the house like a living room. And I expect the other parents' approval as well.
-All 'out and about' dates outside of the home, follow the same rules for curfew. I must know where they'll be. They must answer their phone. And they must be home by curfew.

DRUGS AND ALCOHOL
Drugs and alcohol are one of the HARDEST things for me to deal with. Kids want to rebel, naturally. Trust me- I was there once. And I know how it goes. So I do play this role very controversially. I am avidly against hardcore drugs and do not allow anything similar to cocaine, heroine, LSD, shrooms- or any other psychological or 'hardcore' drugs in my house. Period. I also hate cigarettes and do not allow them (if they're going to smoke- I better not find out). With that being said, I believe the two most common unhealthy 'hobbies' for teens are drinking and smoking marijuana. I don't want my kids to do either, BUT if they are curious and if they are determined to participate in activities like that I want them to be somewhere safe and supervised. So I will allow my kids to have a bit of a taste of adulthood IF they express interest and determination to do it anyways. They can have a glass of wine with dinner, or a beer on new years eve. On vacations they can have a margarita. I want them to 'experiment' with these substances in a place where they are safe and I am there to teach them how to do it responsibly. My biggest concern is my child drinking in an unsafe environment or drinking and driving. If they are drinking in my presence (even though I myself don't drink), at least I can make sure they are okay. The same goes for marijuana. If my child is going to smoke marijuana and experiment with the drugs, I do not want them going to some shady neighborhood and dealing with some awful drug dealer. I also don't want them getting high in a place that isn't safe. I'd rather have them in a controlled environment where I can be there to make sure they are participating in the activity maturely. I don't approve of drinking or smoking marijuana- let me make that VERY clear. I myself don't do either of them. But if my child is participating in those activities anyways, and makes it clear that it's something they want to do, I would MUCH rather have them do it at a place where I know they'll be okay. And that's why I sacrifice my own rules and virtues, to ensure that they are in a controlled environment and I'm there in case they need me.

RULE CHANGES WHEN A KID TURNS 18
Once my child turns 18, I consider them an adult. Our rules then do change. They aren't paid for chores any more, and instead are encouraged to get a job to help pay for gas and any 'extra' items they want while living with me. They have full wifi-rights without rules. They are expected to pay their own phone bills. They have no curfews- as long as they do not come home under the influence of any drug or alcohol. I will help them pay for school (and pay off school loans) as I'm able, if they get good grades. I don't ever expect a foster child to leave my home, just because they've been 'kicked out of the system'. My home is open to them as long as they are sober, working hard in school (including college) or working, and helping out around the house when able. As long as my child is acting mature, I will let them stay until they can get on their feet. They are also welcome home at any time- and are always invited to holiday events.

4 comments:

  1. Thanks for this it has been very useful

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  2. Thank you! I used this to help me come up with my own rules.

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  3. Thank you! I used this to help me come up with my own rules.

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  4. I have found a lot of rules for younger kids, but this is the first I've seen for teens. Thanks for the guidelines!

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