As teenagers get older, their social lives become very much the focal points in their lives. With the typical emerging sense of independence, they will likely start going to parties in high school. Most of us adults can remember ourselves what it was like to feel a growing sense of independence and desire to spend more time with our friends and less time with our families.
It is certainly normal for teenagers to want to do this. It does not come without serious concerns, however. Exposure to drugs and alcohol, the potential for driving under the influence, possible unsafe sexual encounters, poor impulse control and bad decision making are all issues to be worried about. And, yes, even “good kids” make really bad decisions at this age.
While it is perfectly normal for teens to want to hang out with their friends and attend parties, not all parties are created equally. It can be really difficult to navigate this with your teens. And social media seems to just complicate matters even further. When I was in high school, information about parties was spread around at school, usually by word of mouth and occasionally on a flyer. My parents always knew who was hosting the party, and could usually assess the situation based on who it was.
Nowadays, I find that information about parties are being spread around on social media. This really hinders a parent’s ability to assess the situation. Our teens want to go to parties that their friends are going to, but we don’t really know whose party it is. Often, they don’t even disclose the location of the party until the same day. Where I live, kids are even renting out venues for parties. This is very different from the good old house party that I used to attend in high school.
Here are some guidelines that might be useful for you in determining how to navigate parties and curfews with your teen:
- Don’t just say yes or no until you have gathered important information to help you make decisions. Always saying yes without discerning the situation could be considered too permissive, but always saying no could really hinder your teens development.
- Ask a lot of questions. Whose party is this? What is the occasion? What type of party is it? Will there be security or parents home? Will there be drugs and alcohol? Is it open to the public or just people from your school? How many people will be there? Which of your friends are going?
- Do not hesitate to discuss details with other parents whom you trust. I have frequently done this, so that several parents are on the same page about whether or not their teens can go, and what time their curfew will be. This helps teens feel more like their peers.
- Has your teen demonstrated good decision making? Do you have confidence that your teen would do the right thing if the party was not as it should be or if things started getting a bit out of control? If not, you will need to be far more scrutinizing about which parties to allow your teen to attend.
- Consider your teen’s age and maturity level as a factor. If your teen is 18 and almost about to go off to college, you might want to loosen the reins a bit, as soon he will be making all of his own decisions about where to go and what to do.
- Follow all legal guidelines. Many states have curfews for drivers or all people under the age of 18. If your teen is driving, they must be home by the legal curfew and must not use drugs or alcohol. If they violate this, take the privilege away.
- Curfews can be specific to who, what, when and where the party is. It does not always have to be the same.
- Consider who is driving as a factor. If your teen is driving, you might ask them to come home earlier than if someone else is driving. Is it another teen? An Uber driver? Someone’s parent? This all matters.
- How honest and open is your teen with you about what goes on at these parties? I would hesitate to trust any teen that says there is never drugs or alcohol present. I would much rather hear a teen say that it is frequently present, but that they know not to do it and they tend to make good decisions. I’m even okay with the teen who admits that they drink a little at a party if they’re not driving, but who doesn’t get drunk or sick.
- Consider how well your teen communicates with you about where they are or what is going on. Would they leave the party and then let you know where they were going if things weren’t going well?
All in all, you do really need to consider who your child is, what your intuition tells you and what their past behavior dictates. Make sure your teen knows your expectations and what the consequences will be if they are violated. Remind yourself that these are all just growing pains that you will all manage to get through.