Ensuring Safe and Healthy Holiday Celebrations for Teens
The holidays are upon us, and many teens want to participate in parties or other social celebrations. It can be really hard to know how best to keep teens safe and healthy – both from COVID and from typical risky behavior – while still allowing them to enjoy time with their peers. With that in mind, here are some tips:
Establish expectations. Sit down with your teen and discuss your expectations for holiday socializing that make you feel comfortable and still allow your teen the freedom to engage with their peers. Do not be vague. If you are worried about parties where they might drink alcohol or engage in other risky behaviors, then discuss party rules. If you are concerned about the pandemic, then suggest that your teen attend an outdoor community event with friends, have just one or two vaccinated friends over to your home, or host a virtual party. Be very specific about your concerns and options that you believe are safe.
Research community events. Whether you’re worried about drinking at a party or social distancing due to the pandemic, outdoor community events are plentiful and can be safe alternatives to holiday parties. Check with your nearest visitor’s bureau. Many towns offer a holiday lighting, First Night fireworks, temporary ice skating rinks, and other outdoor activities which protect against disease and are alcohol / drug free. Offer to take your teen and their friends to these safer types of event.
Host a virtual party. If you’re concerned about the pandemic, encourage your teen to host a virtual meetup with friends. There should be some planned activities for it to be fun. For example, your teen might suggest an ugly sweater contest, a 2021 trivia game (you would need to prepare a bunch of 2021-themed questions that virtual attendees could answer in a trivia challenge), or have a dance party where they act as a DJ and play popular songs for everyone to dance to.
Host a holiday gathering at your house. It is not that difficult or expensive to throw a fun teen party and it allows you to monitor the teens so that there is no alcohol, drugs or other risky behaviors. Offer lots of snack foods. Let your teen make a music playlist to play all night and plan party games. Make sure your TV is tuned in to a holiday movie or the popular “ball drop” shows for the new year. Let your teen decorate the party room. For example, they could string your Christmas lights all over the walls and scatter balloons around the room.
Establish rules. If your teen wants to socialize outside your home, make sure you establish and discuss rules. Examples of rules might include:
- Be home by midnight (or a reasonable curfew time depending on your child’s age and maturity).
- Provide the address of their location, and call or text if the location changes.
- Do not use drugs or drink alcohol.
- If they are at a friend’s house, at least one parent must be present at all times.
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.
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. They should be reasonable consequences that you will be able to enforce.
Discuss possible scenarios. If your teen plans to go to an event outside of your home, then discuss possible scenarios they might encounter and ways they can 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.
Socializing is an important part of teen development, and there are ways for them to enjoy their time with friends and still be safe. You just need to provide leadership, guidance and boundaries to your teens. Even if you think you have already talked about making healthy choices it’s very important to repeat this message. Be specific about your concerns. Directly discuss the pandemic, alcohol, drugs, driving impaired, and sex. Ask them how they plan to keep safe and avoid actions they will regret. Surveys show that one of the top reasons teens say they choose to make responsible choices on a wide range of risky behaviors is because they don’t want to disappoint their parents. That’s why it’s important that you take the time to talk about the potential risks your teen may encounter and be very clear about the family rules before your teen attends any gathering. Reinforce your belief in their character and in their ability to act responsibly.