12 Ways to Protect Your Teen (Without Helicoptering)

Because even if our kids don't realize it (yet), they're relying on us to protect them

by Nancy Reynolds

This post: 12 Ways to Protect Your Teen (Without Helicoptering)

I wouldn’t consider myself a “helicopter parent,” but I’d be lying if I didn’t admit that my desire to protect my kids is fierce… 

As a parent of teens, I’ve never been so aware of the fact that the world is a dangerous place. I worry about my kids all the time. Even if I don’t verbalize it, every single time they walk out that door, I’m reminded how so much is out of my control, that I can only teach them so much and that, hopefully, with a ton of guidance (and a ton of prayer) they will come home to me safe and sound. 

I’m also painfully aware that I won’t be doing my kids any favors by overprotecting them. I can’t shield them from all of life’s heartaches, dangers, or challenges – there are some things they have to figure out for themselves. But what I DO know is that I hold tremendous power to protect them through my words, my parenting decisions (no matter how unpopular they might be with my kids), and the example I set for them. After all, they ARE still kids.

So, rather than leaving their safety up to chance, I’ve vowed to protect my teens the best I can. Here are 12 ways to protect your teen (without helicoptering.)

12 Ways to Protect Your Teen (Without Helicoptering)


1. Get to Know Your Teen’s Friends

There’s a quote that says, “Show me your friends and I’ll show you your future.” Our kids’ friends have tremendous influence in our kids’ lives. You don’t have to know every single kid they hang with but make it a point to get to know the ones they spend most of their time with. Have your teen invite them over for a movie night, a sleepover or out to dinner to grab a burger with the family. You’ll get a birdseye view into the tender (behind the scenes) life of your teen. 

2. Get to Know the Parents of Your Teen’s Friends

This is definitely a must if your teen spends a ton of time at a particular friend’s house OR if they’re going over there for sleepovers. Will an adult be home? Do they have a curfew in place? Do they set an alarm at night to prevent the kids from sneaking out? CALL the parent. “Hey, I know Sara is heading to your place tonight. Just want to make sure you’re okay with that and ask a couple of questions.” You’re entrusting those parents with your teen’s safety and you have a right to ask. 

3. Ask the Four W’s

ASK YOUR TEEN: Who they’re going with, when they are going, what time they’ll be home, and what they’ll be doing when they’re out. Even just knowing the basics of your teen’s plans can ease your mind, avert trouble and help hold your teen accountable for their actions. 

4. Have Full Access to Your Teen’s Social Media and Email Passwords

The internet is a very dangerous place. And our teens (especially younger ones) have no idea what might be lurking behind what seems like an innocent friend request or a “Hey, we should meet” message. They may not realize the long-term effect of a simple “sexy” picture and, without us even realizing it, they could be falling victim to bullying.

Stay attuned to what your teen is doing online. Know the apps they’re downloading. Check their accounts on occasion and talk to them often about how to stay safe online.

5. Know the Signs

Has your teen suddenly become secretive? Has their appearance changed dramatically? Are they gravitating to a group of new friends you know nothing about? Have their grades declined dramatically? There are typically tell-tale signs that our kids are struggling. If you notice anything that concerns you, don’t wait. Sure, it might be a short phase or typical teen behavior, but it may NOT.  Address it immediately. It could save your teen’s life. 

6. Establish Solid Driving Rules

When our kids hit the road, that’s when the REAL worry kicks in. Put rules and expectations in place before you hand over the keys to the car. From using seatbelts and how many passengers they’re allowed to have in the car, to putting a “no texting and driving” rule in place and making sure they avoid distractions – the more we talk to our teens about the perils of driving, the better chance we’ll have of keeping them safe on the road.

7.  Use a Safe Driving App 

Keep your teen safe on the road by using an app like Life 360. (There are other great ones, too.) The app can be used as a tool to track your teen’s location (which can give a worried parent a ton of peace of mind), detect unsafe driving behaviors including if your teen uses their phone while driving, if they speed, or even if they brake hard – especially great if you have new drivers.

8. Put Rules and Boundaries in Place

Make a list of the rules and boundaries that are most important to you as a parent to not only keep your teen safe but also bring you peace of mind and share them with your teen. Write them down and put them on the fridge, if you have to… just make sure they know. Then, talk together about the consequences of breaking your rules. We can’t expect our kids to make “good decisions” every time they walk out the door if they don’t fully understand our expectations or the consequences when they break our rules.

9. Keep the Lines of Communication Open About Sex, Drugs, Alcohol and Everything Else

One of the best ways to protect your teen is by making sure they know NO TOPIC is off limits with you. Even if they’re slightly (okay, majorly) embarrassed when you bring up the subject of sex, drugs, pornography, sexting, or ANYTHING else. Say it anyway.

Research shows that parents have far more influence over their teen’s behavior and decisions than they realize. Your teen needs to hear it from you. Not their friends. Not the Internet. YOU.

10. Have a “Call Me No Matter What” Policy

Your teen needs to know that no matter what they can call you. Got in a tight spot with friends? Feeling pressured to drink, do drugs, have sex, or do something dangerous? Got into a car accident? Got caught doing something illegal? It doesn’t matter what the circumstances are, your teen needs to know that regardless of what went down, they can count on you to be there for them. (You can even create a secret text “code word” so your teen can let you know if/when they’re in an uncomfortable situation and they need you to pick them up or give them an out.) 

11. Put Your Connection with Your Teen as Your Highest Priority

It doesn’t matter how many rules or boundaries you put in place, if your teen doesn’t have a strong, respectful connection with you, your lecturing and “words of wisdom” will fall on deaf ears. Spend time with your teen. Listen to what’s in their heart. Help them solve their problems. Eat dinner together. Laugh and get silly with them. Show up for their activities. Be their biggest cheerleader. If you want your teen to come to you with the big stuff, you have to be there for the little stuff AND they have to know you’ll always have their back. 

12. Be the Role Model They Need

Your teen is watching everything you do. Don’t text and drive. Don’t get drunk in front of them. Don’t drink and drive. Put your phone down. Keep your emotions in check. BE KIND. Above all, be someone they can look up to. 

If you enjoyed reading, “12 Ways to Protect Your Teen (Without Helicoptering),” you might want to check out these other posts!

50 Potentially Life-Saving Safety Tips Every Teenager Should Know

Cyberbullying is on the Rise: 5 Tips to Keep Your Teen Safe Online

The 7 Best Apps to Keep Teen Drivers Safe on the Road

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