Thinking about teenagers and parties is enough to make any parent at least a little nervous. Whether your teen is hosting a party or attending a party, there are steps that you can take to ensure a safe and fun experience for all.
When hosting a party, keep it invitation only. Even with that, sometimes word gets out at school or through social media and kids come uninvited. If this happens, a party can quickly get out of control, so be on alert and prepared to turn away “party crashers.”
Provide a variety of food and drinks and greet all guests at the door. If your teen’s friends bring items, be sure that all liquids are sealed as liquor can be disguised in any container. You also can say you have plenty of refreshments, but you’ll put it aside in case you need extra. Also, leave all backpacks, purses and coats in one area within your line of sight. This way no one is tempted to pull out an illicit substance they brought along.
Establishing from the beginning that guests are to stay at the party once they arrive will keep teens from coming and going as they please, and potentially partaking in drugs, alcohol or smoking offsite. It also can prevent nuisance calls from neighbors.
Be sure to take liquor, beer and wine out of any areas in the designated “party zone.” If guests will be using a bathroom where medications are stored, put them in a secure place during the party. Even over-the-counter medications, like cough syrup, have the potential to be abused.
Finally, remember that your presence is important at a party, so don’t be pressured into staying out of sight. Consider inviting another parent or couple over to keep you company. It’s a great way to get to know other parents and helps provide extra supervision.
What about when your teen comes home and says that the party of the year is being thrown elsewhere? As a parent, the first thing you should do is call the host parent and make sure that they not only will be there, but also that they are going to be an active presence. Your teen may complain, but don’t be dissuaded. This is critical to ensuring safety.
Next, know your child’s plans for the entire night; set up a time for coming home, and wait up, or ask your son or daughter to wake you upon arriving. If a sleepover is planned, confirm it with the parent of the home where the sleepover will occur.
It’s a good idea to discuss potential problem situations in advance, such as drinking, drug use or fights. Let your son or daughter know that, if needed, you will pick them up no questions asked. Your teen’s safety is your No. 1 priority, and it is essential that they understand this.
Going Out of Town
Sometimes parties are planned without parental knowledge. You’ve likely heard the scenario — parents leave town, teenagers throw a party and the living room furniture is never the same. If for some reason your child is not able to stay with a trusted adult when you leave town, make it clear that having friends over is out of the question.
It’s always a good idea to call parents of your teen’s close friends and let them know that you will be away. And put your neighbors on alert, as well, giving them a number where you can be reached.
Having a social life is a major part of being a teenager, and parties play a role in that. While some of these steps may feel uncomfortable, each goes a long way in providing safety for your teen and their friends. And remember, anyone can be arrested and criminally charged for providing a place for minors to consume alcohol, whether they are aware of it or not.
Patti Skelton-McGougan is executive director of Youth Eastside Services.