Do you remember being a teenager? I do and remember thinking that I was an adult and should be treated as one. I also remember the feelings of euphoria when I was unchaperoned and could act in ways my parents wouldn't necessarily approve, thinking they wouldn’t find out…
Well, teen behavior hasn't changed much over the years- especially at parties!
For the most part, our teenagers are great kids that are growing into young adults and we as parents are very proud of them. Some of the wonderful traits teenagers harness are their energy, physical strength, enthusiasm, curiosity and invincibility. Most are smart, thoughtful, and responsible people who like to feel like adults and want to be treated as such.
Before we send our teens to a party, even though they may look and act like young adults, they are still our children. We need to make sure they return home in one piece!
Parties inherently come with risks that we have to address with our teenagers. For the first time in your child's life, your teenager will notice that most parties will not have proper adult supervision, making it easy for them to get into trouble without thinking about what they are doing or being caught.
Some teenagers go to parties and like instigating troublesome situations. These situations can arise during parties where teens will be offered or pressured into partaking in activities including drugs and/or alcohol. With this, comes the greater chance teens will engage in risky behaviors like driving under the influence, harming other people, others property and engaging in sexual activities with little consequential thought.
This is why it is important to teach our teens how to stay safe when they go to parties!
They need to learn how to make good decisions in times of great pressure and know if they get themselves into trouble, it’s safe to call home.
Here are some tips to keep your teens safe at parties!
1. Communication, communication, communication! This is the most important safety measure to employ. Before a party or other social event, talk with your teen about the risks and how they can avoid them.
Make sure the conversation is engaging for them. This is not a time to lecture. Having a two-way conversation is important because your teen needs to test their problem solving tools so they are better equipped to handle certain tricky situations. Thinking clearly is a whole lot easier when the teen is in a calm, safe environment than when under stress.
Role play with your teen so their responses to certain situations becomes natural. Validate their ideas by providing them with valuable feedback. This will not only help them deal with the social pressures they may encounter, it will strengthen the level of trust between you and your teen.
Before ending your conversation, make sure they understand and trust that you are only a phone call away and you will be there if they need you- no matter what the situation.
Be sure your teen has a clear understanding of your rules and the consequences for not following them but also gently reinforce that there is no situation that they are faced with that you will not be available to them for help.
2. Be the soccer mom - even at the party! If your teen is too young to drive, drop them off and pick them up. If your teen is embarrassed by your presence (like so many are), you can lay low while getting an idea of what kind of party they are attending. Being the “chauffer” will also lower the risk that they get into a car with someone who has been drinking.
3. Feed them! Before you let them go, make sure they eat a carb loaded dinner. Having a good dinner that will “stick to their bones” will help the absorption of alcohol better than if their stomach is empty. Also, if beer is served, they won’t be able to drink as much as there isn't enough room in their belly!
4. Discourage risky behaviors. Party or no party, discourage your teen from drinking or experimenting with drugs or other addictive substances, including cigarettes. Talk to them about the risks associated with intoxication at parties including legal trouble for themselves and the hosting parents.
For more information about the consequences of underage drinking go to Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health. www.camy.org/resources/fact-sheets/consequences-of-underage-drinking-surgeon-general
5. Teach your teen about responsible drinking. Even though we would prefer our teens to avoid alcohol, the realities are that they are most likely going to try it at some point. It is important to teach them about the dangers of drinking too much and remind them to avoid risky behaviors like drinking and driving, being a passenger in a car with a drunk driver and walking as a pedestrian or riding their bike while under the influence. Always remind them that you are a phone call away and will pick them up in any situation.
For more information about facts pertaining to the consequences of drinking and driving, go to the National Council on Alcoholism and Drug Dependance, Inc. www.ncadd.org/about-addiction/driving-while-impaired-alcohol-and-drugs
6. Check in with the parents hosting the party. I encourage you to set this as a standing household rule! Let your teen know, you need to check in with the parents who are hosting the party before you let them go and if they are not OK with that, they can’t go.
Questions to ask the hosting parent:
Is the party on social media outlets? If so, this could become a free for all with hundreds of teens attending…not such a good idea in my book!
What is their alcohol policy?
Who is invited? The last thing you want is your teen going to a party with known bullies, trouble makers and those you are confident will put them in a potentially bad situation. When you talk to the host of the party, (in an ideal situation) ask who’s been invited and talk to you teen about the invite list to make sure they are comfortable.
Remember, if you don't talk to the parents then you don't have an idea of where your teen is going; they could be walking into a potentially dangerous situation. No one wants their teenager to get hurt, especially when it can be avoided!
7. Encourage your teen to stay with their friends in a group. Safety is best in numbers! Your teen and their close friends can protected each other as long as they stick together. You may want to have a group talk with their friends’ parents and the teens themselves, to ensure they all know how to protect each other. Be sure to give all the teens each others parents emergency contact information should an emergency arise.
8. Teach your teen about the dangers of leaving their drink unattended. The last thing you or your teen want is a spiked drink. Let your teen know, if they forget their drink somewhere, dump it and get a new one. If they start to feel strange while drinking their beverage, encourage them to seek help immediately from an adult chaperone, or by calling you or 911. Let them know that turning to another teen at the party, who could also be intoxicated is not going to guarantee their safety.
TIP: Having a relaxed, calm conversation with your child is always more productive than a tense authoritative one.
I realize that this article can leave you feeling jarred and worried about sending you teenager off to a party, however, this was not my intention…trust me. I have two kids who too will be teens soon and I am not excited about this phase of their independence either! But knowing all the facts will better prepare you for the moment your teen is invited to a party or social event. You will now be able to sit down with your teenager and have a good and solid conversation.
Anyone remember CBS’s tagline “The more you know…?”
If you are looking for more information on how to talk to your teenager about staying safe at parties, here are some useful resources:
Parent Map shares some very real stories about the consequences of underage drinking at parties and why it is so important to talk to your teens. www.parentmap.com/article/teens-and-alcohol-why-parents-need-to-have-the-talk-and-what-to-say
Health Alliance on Alcohol has an informative article that breaks down the kind of conversation parents need to have with their children at different ages. www.healthallianceonalcohol.com/tips/different-stages
My name is Jessica Mungekar; Founder and CEO of Jessie's Party Stop. Jessie's party Stop was created with parents like you in mind- party planning moms, dads and families who just want a great party for their kids! We are South Jersey's Guide to Kids Parties and our number one goal is to make your party planning experience fun and easy! Our party blog offers ideas on themed and holiday parties, etiquette and other great hosting ideas and tips. We love offering parents in South New Jersey a place where they can plan their child’s party from start to finish, giving them as many answers as possible to their questions so they don't have to hunt all over the internet to figure out their child's party!
So, what do I do besides running Jessie’s Party Stop?
I am a mom of 2 beautiful young children and wife of an amazing husband who is my rock! I enjoy cycling for charity, and tending our garden. I hold a Bachelors in Fine Arts from the Pacific NW Collage of Art in Portland OR and am a Licensed Social Worker, with a Masters Degree from Temple University.
To find out more about where the idea for Jessie's Party Stop came from check out my About Me page on jessiespartystop.com.