Before You Let Your Teen Go to a Party
Teen parties are a major source of worry for parents, but they can be a really fun part of your teen’s social development. Relaxing and socializing are an important part of what makes life good. We want our teens to fit in and have fun, but we also want them to be safe and responsible. The problem is that not all teenage parties are created equal. While some teen parties are really a group of friends playing a marathon of board games or just hanging out, other high school parities involve alcohol and/or drugs. Making it more difficult is that, nowadays, teen parties often start late at night, move from house to house, or can quickly grow too large because social networking sites make it easy to spread the news of a party. Out of fear, some parents would prefer to keep their teens at home, but teens need to experience the world in order to learn how to deal with it. It’s not a bad idea to let your teen go to parties, but since you can’t trust the rest of the world to look out for your teen’s best interests, you should also take these steps before your teen heads off to that party:
1. Speak to the Parents
Although it may feel embarrassing to your teen, it is absolutely essential that you call the party host’s parents beforehand. It can be a friendly conversation – perhaps you can open the discussion by offering to provide food – but you need to find out a few pieces of information:
- Will at least two adults be at home during the entire party, and do they plan to monitor the teens’ behavior during the party?
- What are the parents’ stance on drugs and alcohol, and will it be allowed at the party?
Their answers will let you know whether you feel comfortable with your teen attending or not. There could be trouble if the parents say they will be at the party but locked in their upstairs bedroom the entire time, or if they are allowing alcohol as long as the kids stay the night and don’t drive. Parents who are doing their best to be responsible will only feel supported by your concern. If the other parent’s ideas about what is appropriate for kids differ noticeably from yours, simply thank them for talking with you and say goodbye. You don’t need to argue with them about parenting.
2. Establish Rules
Sit down with your teen and develop a set of rules for party-going that makes you feel comfortable and still allows your teen the freedom of socializing. Examples of party rules might include:
- Be home by midnight (or a reasonable curfew time depending on your child’s age and maturity).
- At least one parent must be on party premises at all times.
- Must provide the phone number and address of the party, and call if the party location changes.
- Do not leave the party for any reason (separate locations can lead to drug use or sexual assaults).
- Do not use drugs or drink alcohol.
- Must agree on safe transportation plan to and from the party, as well as a plan if they need to leave the party for whatever reason.
It is okay to admit to your teen that you know you can’t control what they do when they leave the house, but that you expect them to act responsibly. If you create a respectful environment to discuss these issues and show a willingness to listen and consider your teen’s point of view, there is a better chance that your teen will follow the rules you establish. Be honest that you truly want them to have a good time but you also want them to be safe.
3. Explain the Consequences Ahead of Time
Once you have established rules for party-going, lay out the consequences for breaking the rules. Be specific. For example, if they disregard curfew, you will reduce their curfew, or if they leave the party without permission, you will take away certain privileges.
4. Agree on a Safe Transportation Plan
Before your teen heads off to any party, discuss the plans for transportation. The best idea is for you, or another trusted parent, to drive your teen and their friends. If for some reason that doesn’t work and you agree on some other plan, remind your teen that it is NEVER acceptable to ride home with a driver who has been drinking or using other drugs.
Acknowledge that your teen can’t control what happens at a party, so if for some reason things get out of hand, they need to be able to call you for a ride or an excuse to leave. You need to promise (and follow through on that promise) to pick them up, regardless of the inconvenience, without embarrassing or yelling at them.
5. Have a Backup Plan
Talk to your teen about possible scenarios they might encounter and possible ways to handle those situations to keep them safe without embarrassing themselves. For a discussion about handling the peer pressure they may face, you can talk about our previous blog with your teen: Helping Teens Be Prepared to Say No.
6. Follow Up After the Party
If you’ve secured some other form of safe transportation from the party, then stay up until your teen arrives home. Tell your teen ahead of time that you’ll be waiting up since that will decrease the likelihood that your teen will try to break curfew or come home drunk or high.
If your teen is going to be spending the night at a friend’s house after the party, talk to the friend’s parent (in addition to the party host’s parents) ahead of time and ensure that the parents of the sleepover house plan to wait up for the teens to come home. Additionally, ask your teen to text you when they arrive at their friend’s house.
The next day, ask about the party. You should not try to find out all the details, but it is a good idea to get a general idea about how the party went. You might ask who went to the party and what they did at the party in a friendly, conversational tone.
Your teen can enjoy parties and still be safe, so don’t feel that you need to keep them at home. If you decide the best idea is to host a party yourself so that you can monitor your teen, please beware of the risks. If a high school student comes to a party at your house and is served alcohol, then you are civilly liable and can be sued for actions that result from that (perhaps he leaves your home and gets into an accident or he destroys neighborhood property). You can also be criminally charged for serving a minor alcohol and face jail time. You are also teaching your child that some laws don’t always have to be followed, which is a slippery slope. Finally, please be aware that if another teen brings alcohol to your home and you are not aware that they brought it, you are still responsible according to the law.