Parties – Helping Your Child be Responsible and Safe
With the middle school years comes the itch students get to spend more time with their friends in larger groups. At some point you may start hearing that your child is attending a party that isn’t the typical birthday party that you were used to in elementary school. Suddenly you may not be aware of whose house the party is being held at, if the child’s parents will be home or what exactly will be occurring at this “party.” It is important to maintain a sense of understanding even as your child becomes older and more independent.
We oftentimes hear reports of groups of teens hanging out at the Depot or in downtown Tiburon late at night and unsupervised. Middle school students, while physically looking like adults, are emotionally still young, especially when assessing risk. At this age we highly recommend communicating with your child about family expectations and providing supervised and structured age appropriate activities.
It is unfortunate that even sponsored events where there should be adequate supervision and security can go awry. When making decisions about either hosting a party or allowing your child to attend a party, it may be helpful to refer to this set of guidelines provided by the Greenwich Advisory Council on Youth and Drugs, Inc. and elaborated on by the middle school counselors.
Some tips when your adolescent is giving a party:
1. Plan in advance. Check party plans with your child; know the guest list. If you agree to who is invited, you can curb the “open party” situation.
2. Set a time limit. Parties need a definite starting and ending time.
3. Agree to rules ahead of time. If something comes up, it’s much easier if you have been clear with your child about rules and consequences.
i. No drugs or alcohol
ii. No smoking
iii. No leaving the party and then returning
iv. No “gate crashers” allowed. “Guest list only”
v. Lights will be left on
vi. Some rooms in the house are off limits
vii. Parents will be supervising
viii. Guests who don’t abide by the rules will be sent home
4. Know your responsibilities. The responsible adult at a party is visible and aware. Know what is legal and illegal. You are legally responsible for anything that may happen to a minor who has been served drugs or alcohol in your home. Remember: new laws have been passed holding parents more legally responsible than ever.
5. Invite another parent or couple over. Other adults are company for you during a long evening and if trouble arises, they may be able to help you problem solve.
When your teen is going to a party, it is a good idea to:
1. Call the house. Before giving consent that your child be allowed to attend a party, make sure there are basic rules such as supervision and clear time limits. If your teenager complains that you don’t trust him or her, explain that the issue is not one of trust, but rather an issue of parents agreeing to certain ground rules.
2. Check the party plans beforehand with your adolescent. Know where your child is going and with whom. When taking your child to a party, introduce yourself to the host parents. If the party is at a rec-center or community center, be sure that there is adequate supervision and security and that your child is the appropriate age to attend the party.
3. Make it easy for your teenager to leave a party. You might have an understanding that there will be no punishment or restriction for a call letting you know that things at a party are getting out of hand and they need your help. Be available to pick your child up and make sure that they do not take a ride with someone who has been drinking. Sometimes it is even helpful to come up with a word or phrase that your child can use to let you know that they would like to get out of an uncomfortable situation without embarrassment.
4. Be up to greet your child when he or she comes home from a party to check for drug or alcohol use, or just to talk and debrief.