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How to handle a tricky situation

Teens want to see a babysitter even less than they want to see their parents. Most think they're perfectly fine on their own -- even if they're not.

Many teens are mad at the world, and as a third (or fourth, or fifth) authority figure in a teen's life, you're an easy target for his outbursts.

Back off, but be reachable

You'll control teens best by not trying too hard to control them. If they don't want your company, settle in a few rooms away. Stay alert, even if you want them to think you're engrossed in a book or TV show.

  • When you first arrive, ask a teen if he wants to do anything. If he says no, politely tell him you're there if he needs anything. If you'll be bringing him to sports practice or an appointment, remind him of the time of your engagement, and ask him to be ready to leave at a specific time.
  • On a school night, offer to help with his homework. If he says no, let him know you're an ace at math or that Latin was your favorite class, and remind him where you'll be, should he change his mind.
  • On weekends, assuming you're allowed to go on outings, take a trip to the video store. Let him pick out the movie, as long as it's age-appropriate.
  • Should you be worried he might try to sneak out, don't make a big show of securing the fort. Do stay awake and alert at all times.
  • If you know what his favorite activities are, ask to join in. Challenge him to a few rounds of video games, or offer to make popcorn so you can both enjoy a scary movie.

The bottom line

You can only get as close as a teen will let you. Tell him you're there for him, then wait for him to come to you. If you try too hard to hang with him or control him, he's only going to push you further away.

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