With the prospect of unemployment and falling home values on many parents' minds, sending teens on a ski trip with friends, or funding mall excursions and meals out are just not in the budget anymore. Parents may find it's a better investment--both for their homes and for their teens' development--to create a haven at home where teenagers can socialize for free.
"We decided to turn our basement into a place where my son Ian and his friends could spend time together," said Ann Mackinnon, a Minneapolis mother of a 15-year-old. "It's cheaper then sending him out somewhere, plus it gives me the peace of mind of knowing where he is, what he's doing and who he's with."
Turning your basement, game room or family room into a teen haven doesn't have to cost a bundle. Here are some helpful hints:
* Make it game time--Video games are a big part of social life for many teens, but don't overlook the value of board games and table games as well. Besides Wii and PlayStation, stock your teen haven with teen-friendly board games. Consider adding a table hockey or foosball game if space and budget allow.
* Master the munchies--Teen boys are notoriously big eaters, so be sure to have plenty of teen-friendly (and hopefully healthful) snacks on hand if you're hosting your son's friends. You could even add a small refrigerator in your teen haven to keep beverages and snacks cold and within easy reach for both genders.
* Set the mood--Atmosphere has a big impact on mood, especially if you're an already-moody teenager. Be sure to provide plenty of comfortable seating where teens can lounge with their friends while they chat, watch TV or surf the Internet. Consider setting the mood for the room by adding punch with teen-friendly decor like a wallpaper mural of your child's favorite sport.
* Make yourself scarce--Just because your teen is hanging around at home with his friends, don't think it means you're automatically invited. Teen havens only work if parents respect the child's space and make their presences barely felt.