Prep for Parenting Your Modern Family

Posted on October 17th, 2015, 0 Comments

Modern Family: Season 7, Episode 3, The Closet Case


Plotline: Dylan Moves Into the Basement with Haley

Here’s how it happened.
Haley (to Phil): umm, we have a favor to ask you. You know how Dylan has his own t-shirt business?
Phil: Oh, I should’ve seen this coming. Yes, I will model for you, but I’m gonna need to own the negatives.
Haley: Okay, great. Also, we were kind of hoping that Dylan could stay in the basement with me for a little while.
Phil: Oh.
Haley: He’s trying to save up to build inventory, and rent is killing him.
Dylan: It feels like they’re asking for money, like, every six weeks.
Phil: I don’t know, guys. Moving in together, that’s a big step.
Haley: It’s just for a little while. Please?
Phil (chuckling): I guess if your mom’s okay with it, I’m okay with it.
Haley: Oh, and could you ask her for us?
Phil: I’ll give it a shot, but it’ll be the second thing I’ve talked her into this morning, and it’ll be a lot trickier now that she’s fully awake.

Later there’s this exchange between the down-with-everything dad and Claire.
Phil: Listen, I was talking to Haley and Dylan.
Claire: Ugh.
Phil: They want to know if he can stay in the basement for a few weeks.
Claire: Oh, Phil, I think that’s a bad idea.
Phil: They’re adults, and Dylan really has been getting his act together.
Claire: This doesn’t bother you?
Phil: They’re doing what they’re doing. I say we be evolved about it.
Claire: Fine. If you’re really okay with our precious daughter shacking up with her ne’er-do-well boyfriend, so be it.
Phil: I just don’t want them sneaking around like we had to. The scariest moment of my life was that pants-less conversation I had with your dad through the Dutch door.

And still later there’s this when Phil – while looking for his missing phone charger – inadvertently walks in on Haley and Dylan.
Phil: Oh, you’re both in the bed together.
Haley: Dad, it’s fine.
Phil: Uh, anyway, just, uh, looking for my charger.
Haley: Oh. Sorry, Dad, it’s not here.
Phil: Guess I’ll just get used to not having any power.

First, let’s be clear about one thing: Phil does have power over what happens in his home. In fact, what takes place under our roof is one of the few areas we parents still have control over – even when our children are no longer little kids.

But should Phil and Claire allow Haley to sleep with Dylan in their home? Would you allow it if this were your kid? What if that kid was still a teen?

Take a look at the research on US teens’ sexual activity, and you’ll see that adolescence is a time of rapid change. Fewer than 2% of twelve-year-olds have had sex and only 16% have had sex by the time they reach 15. But by the time they reach their 17th birthday, nearly half have had sex and nearly 71% will have had sex by the time they’re 19.

So most of our kids (daughters and sons alike) will be sexually active by the time they are Haley’s age. Many will have been at it for quite a while. Still, being aware that your child is sexually active is very different than feeling comfortable knowing that at this very moment your child is having sex in the next room.

Truth be told, many parents would prefer that their kids (of any age) wait until they are in a deeply committed, adult relationship to have going-all-the-way kind of sex. And most parents feel that teen sex is something to be discouraged – if not forbidden. Many would never even consider letting their teen’s boyfriend or girlfriend sleepover. They reason that if they make it easy for their teen to have sex in the family home, they’re sending a message that they condone it – that they think it’s a good choice and a choice that the teen is ready to make. They believe that their “not-under-my roof” stance is the best way to make sure their teen adopts their values.

Other parents take a “don’t ask, don’t tell approach.” They aren’t comfortable being the hotelier to their children’s sex lives but, for various reasons, they allow their kids to bend the rules. These parents’ messages (usually sent indirectly) often sound a lot like the message Phil explicitly spells out by the end of tonight’s episode.
Phil: Haley, Dylan, this little living arrangement of yours, it’s not working out and it’s about to change.
Haley: Dad, why are you freaking out?
Phil: Because I’m your father and I can’t have the two of you sleeping together in the same room like it’s no big deal. So, from now on, you’re gonna show me the respect I deserve and sneak around behind my back.
Dylan: Do what, now? I don’t understand.
Phil: Starting tonight, you’re sleeping in Alex’s room, and if there’s any monkey business, it better happen after I’m asleep

Still other parents take a much more accepting attitude about sex and what’s allowed under the family roof. Some make this decision after thinking long and hard about questions like: What kind of message are we sending our kids if we know (or strongly suspect) they’re having sex but don’t want it to happen in our house? Are we telling them that sex is okay as long as they sneak around and lie about it? How is this different than knowing they’re having sex but not making sure they have the means for protection against STDs and unwanted pregnancy? Realizing that saying “no” is no guarantee that it won’t happen, these parents decide that a more accepting approach opens the way for more parental guidance.

Whatever your decision about sleepovers or who sleeps where when your teen or young adult brings a boyfriend or girlfriend home for the night, you’ll want to be clear about why you made the decision and be genuinely comfortable with it. To get there it might help to consider these criteria:
– Is my decision consistent with my values and priorities?
– Is it appropriate for my child’s age and maturity? (For example, your rules for your high school teen might be very different than those for your college-age kid coming home for a weekend with their steady boyfriend or girlfriend.)
– Is it based on sufficient discussion with my child? (While you and your parenting partner will make the final decision, considering your teen or young adult’s input will show respect for their ideas and help get their buy-in.)

Connecting Lines:
Tape Modern Family and use it to connect with your kids – whether they’re teens or young adults. You might be surprised how much you’ll laugh together while watching and learn from each other in the conversations that follow – particularly if you keep your sense of humor as you talk.

Below are a few conversation starters to use with your teen for this episode:
– If you had to describe Haley and Dylan’s relationship in 5 words, what would you say? (You might follow-up with: Do you think their relationship is meaningful? Caring? Freely chosen? Responsible?)
– Do you think Haley and Dylan are ready to sleep together? How would Haley know if she is ready? Are there different considerations for girls and guys?
– Do you think that Haley might have been hoping her parents would say “no” when she asked if Dylan could move in? Do you think that kids might sometimes feel pressure from friends (or a boyfriend or girlfriend) to do something and look to their parents to be the ones who say “no”?

Sources and Resources: Not Under My Roof by Amy Shalet, PhD; Sex and Sensibility: The Thinking Parent’s Guide to Talking Sense About Sex by Deborah Roffman

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