We'd set a time when they had to be home by (depending on their age and the amount of trust they earned). Let's just say 11:30pm for this story. Well, we'd be tired and didn't want to wait until then. We wanted a bit of shut-eye.
So, we'd just turn the light on in their room and then we'd fall asleep. Sometimes we'd set the alarm for 11:30pm, but after a while you tend to get used to waking up and checking anyway. When they came home, they'd get ready for bed and turn the light out. When we woke up at 11:30pm, we'd check their light. If it was off, we were assured they were home. If it was still on, it was time to get the phone out and start making calls.
Two other points:
- Set the alarm for 11:15pm, then you can get some shut-eye and be awake when they come home. Many times they like to talk when they get home, so this is a good opportunity for a parent to get to be a part of their lives.
- Cell phones are ubiquitous now (more so than when our children were that age) so it makes it easy to contact them. But, what if their cell runs out of battery? What if they're in a cell phone dead-zone? Or what if it's too loud where they are and they don't hear you calling? The point is: make sure you have the numbers of some of their friends and even their friends parents, so you'll always have a fall-back plan if you can't get in touch with them.