It is a festive time of year for teens. Prom season is coming to an end, graduation celebrations are around the corner, and summer is almost here (at least “unofficially”). With seasonal excitement in the air, don’t be surprised if your son or daughter asks to host a party.
As a parent, the thought of having a house party creates a tremendous amount of anxiety: I worry about underage drinking, gate-crashers and house-wreckers. As a professional, however, I understand that teen gatherings are an important part of adolescent social life and a developmentally appropriate way to improve communication skills and bond with friends.
Having a party should be a family decision. If you are allowing your high schooler to invite a large number of his or her friends into your home, be prepared to embrace the process and, most important, to communicate expectations.
Start by having a conversation. A well-planned party can ensure enjoyment (and safety) is had by all. Establish the guest list, and limit the number of partygoers to about 10 kids per adult. Always have more supervision than you need, and let your teen know that you will ask other parents to be present should the guest list grow beyond a manageable number.
This discussion should also include party guidelines and behavioral expectations. Clearly defined boundaries set the tone for a problem-free evening; establish rules related to alcohol and tobacco, and also explain how you will handle difficult situations, such as calling parents if someone behaves badly. Identify off-limit areas and which restrooms are acceptable for kids to use.
Next, let your teenager know that you are emailing the parents of each of his or her guests, to confirm their child’s invite and to further ensure the evening will be a happy event for all. When my son was invited to a party recently, I received a thoughtful note from the hosting mother, who outlined expectations in a respectful way, comforting myself and my wife that our son and his friends would be safe.
In this email, the considerate parent asked kids to Uber safely, to show one another mutual respect, and to say hello on entering and goodbye on leaving. When I phoned to express my appreciation, the mother commented that kids are more likely to respect your home if they know who you are. She’s right! And the party was a success.
Last, I encourage all families to host an alcohol-free event. Some adults believe that allowing liquor in their home is a way to keep our children out of harm’s ways – impaired teens are never safe from potential trouble! And as the adult hosts, mom and dad are legally liable should anything go wrong (including what happens after the party).
Planning a party with your child can actually be fun as you share ideas and create the menu. Be present at the big event, but don’t hover over your child’s guests. Keep lines of communication open, keep all partygoers safe and relax – the festivities will fly by, and be sure to enjoy this exhilarating season of change and excitement with your teen!
Prior to going into private practice as a psychotherapist and learning-disabilities specialist, Russell Hyken, Ph.D., Ed.S., M.A., LPC, NCC, worked for more than 15 years as an English teacher, school counselor and school administrator.