Q&A: My Teen Frequently Spends Nights at a Friend's House

Teen parenting expert Rosalind Wiseman on whether letting your child regularly stay at another kid's house is safe and when to set a curfew.

Q. Once or twice a week my 16-year-old crashes at his friend's house after their band practice. I don't want to force him to come home so I usually allow it, but I also don't want him to feel like he can just live at this kid's house. What should I do?

A. While in theory there's nothing wrong with your son wanting to stay over at his friend's house, my alarm bells are going off because he's doing it so often. No matter what, your son needs a regular curfew. And you should ask him whether he's avoiding your home, and why, and be prepared to listen to what he tells you. Also check for signs of drug or alcohol use, like small or dilated pupils or breath that is a little too minty fresh. I don't want to freak you out or make wild assumptions about your son, but I think there are two likely explanations for his behavior. Either he's escaping your home because someone is making him feel unsafe, or he wants to drink or get high without having to deal with you.

Originally published in the August 2007 issue of Family Circle magazine.