Maudlin and Associates ™
Karen Maudlin
Psy.D., CPCC
Kenneth Davison
Cindy Takiguchi
Manette Galván Turner
Robert Gregory
Daniel Doebler
Trevor Simpson

I'm a single mom of a 12-year-old girl. I feel uncomfortable letting my preteen go with her friends to the park where I cannot see them, or walk some distance away to get ice cream, but this is what kids do in my area! I don't want to be telling my daughter "no" all the time, so I let her carry my cell phone for safety reasons. What are the right boundaries to set for her age?

A. Every parent of a young teen asks this question. And it's that much more difficult for you since you're a single parent.

Unfortunately, no generalization fits all situations or locations. That's why it's important to talk to other parents about your community's safety issues and to listen to your instincts on what is or isn't safe. But here are some general principles to help you determine your unique set of guidelines for your daughter:

Develop a written list of dos and don'ts about where she can go and what she can do. Be sure to review it annually. Each year you should add an additional measure of freedom and responsibility.

Have kids travel in groups. A lone kid of any age is vulnerable to a predator. No one can forget the recent case in Florida when Carlie Brucia was abducted and later murdered after she walked home from school through an empty parking lot.

Stroll around your neighborhood with your child and talk through the safety issues. Secluded areas are to be avoided. Populated and lighted areas (at all points in travel) are always to be used.

Have your teen develop a short list of her safety rules (without your input) and see how savvy she is on these issues.

Together attend a Safe Kids Home and Safe Kids Out program that has tailored suggestions for your community. Read Respecting the Gift by Gavin de Becker, a securities expert who has written this terrific book on how to protect our kids. And teach your daughter to listen to her own body signals regarding safety and danger.

Try finding another working parent, perhaps the mother of one of your daughter's friends, with a different schedule than yours, and swap "girl dates" to cover some of the after-school time at a friend's house. Perhaps her daughter could come over to your house on a Saturday. This increases the supervised time without increasing expenses.

Finally, consider enrolling your daughter in some after-school activities that provide some enriching built-in structure.