Party on, Wayne. Party on, Gar—
Hold it right there.
Before anyone does any partying, parents need our remaining tips. With movies, TV, music, and more often emphasizing alcohol and drug-fueled excess as the central theme of every big get together, it’s understandable for parents to be nervous when their teen mentions a party next weekend.
We’ve already covered gathering info on the party, communicating with other parents, and sitting your teen down for a serious talk before the party even begins. But what else can you do to protect your child while still allowing her to go out and have a good time?
#4 Safety Must Be the Number One Priority
While a teen’s primary objective for a party is fun, yours must always be safety.
First, remember you have the ultimate say in whether you allow your teen to go to any particular party. If something doesn’t feel right, it probably isn’t. While this will very likely be an unpopular decision with your teen, as a parent you sometimes have to make hard choices when looking out for your child’s well-being.
Once you permit your teen to go, one of the most important safety precautions you need to observe is ensuring safe transportation to and from the party. Find out how your kid intends to get there.
Walk? Get a ride? Drive herself? Each entails potential dangers against which you should prepare.
For instance, we all want to save gas and should do our best to go green. If the party isn’t too far away, your teen might be thinking, “Sweet, I can just walk there” (or bike, skateboard, etc.). And though this health-conscious, environmentally friendly decision automatically seems like the best choice, there are certain safety considerations to bear in mind:
- Is the neighborhood/general area safe to walk around at night?
- Will your teen’s route be well lit?
- Does she have to travel alongside busy streets or roads that have little to no shoulder?
- Will she be traveling alone or with friends?
Depending on the answers to these questions, driving might be the better option after all. Even if walking is deemed safe enough, still remind your teen to travel in groups, stay in well-lit areas, and be careful of hazardous roadways.
Driving, of course, poses its own dangers, especially if alcohol is even remotely involved. Motor vehicle accidents are the leading cause of death among teenagers and one third of all these driving fatalities are alcohol-related.1 In surveys reported by the Center for Disease Control and Prevention, one in ten teens in high school drinks and drives.2
Regardless if your teen is the driver or a passenger in a carpool, you absolutely must make sure she understands to never get into a car with a driver who’s been drinking. Even if your teen’s friend has told her he will be the designated driver and abstain from booze during the party, it’s vital she sees him keep that promise and find a new safe ride if he doesn’t.
Too often teenagers will get in a car with an impaired driver or try to drive themselves after drinking in order to get home and not get in trouble for staying out too late. Since your child’s safety is your first and foremost concern, tell her that she can—in any condition, at any time of night—always call or text you for help.
No matter whether your teen spotted her supposed DD taking shots or is herself intoxicated and unable to drive, assure her that you care more about her well-being than getting her in trouble. You never want her to put herself even greater danger because she feared reaching out to you.
One approach to this that will help encourage your teen to contact you when needed is to implement a “No Questions Asked” rule. If she calls saying she has drank and cannot drive, your reaction might be to yell, get angry, or ask how she let herself fall into this mess.
But remember, her safety is your top priority. If you want her to call for your help, you need to create an environment where she won’t be afraid to ask for it.
When you pick her up from the party, don’t drill her with questions or begin (heatedly) lecturing. Instead, tell her you are happy and thankful she reached out. Remind her that doing so was the smart, right decision, even though it was probably hard to do. If you don’t think you’ll be able to speak without losing your cool, just stay quiet. Sit back. Listen.
Following up with your teen on the night’s events and the choices she made, however, is crucial. Find out what happened and go over what she should have done differently during the party. Give out suitable consequences but take that she did the right thing by calling rather than try to lie and sneak around into consideration.
Just not tonight. Tonight is about getting her home safely.
#5 See Your Teen Home
In a newsflash that will surprise no one, parties tend to go late into the night. That said, for those of you that hit the pillow face first before 9:30, this next tip might be a bit of a challenge. But if you’re a Night Owl, or can at least pretend to be one for an evening, try it out.
Stay up and see your teen come home. Depending on when you set curfew, it might be tough, but this tip will accomplish two worthwhile goals.
1). For your own peace of mind, you can go to bed knowing that your child is safe and sound for the night. Letting him go to a party is a potentially stressful experience, but you now can rest easy.
2). Staying up allows you to see whether he followed through on his curfew and, especially if you were suspicious, examine his physical condition. Verify with your own eyes whether he drank or did drugs.
Be casual while you observe. The last thing you want to do is seem like you’re purely inspecting your teen to get him in trouble or act like you distrust him. Teens hate that. Talk to him as you normally would (it’s not an interrogation). Tell him you’re glad he is home and ask if he had fun.
As you do, check for some basic signs of alcohol and drug use:
- Is your teen stumbling through the door?
- Does his breath or clothes smell like smoke or booze?
- Are his eyes red, dilated, or unable to focus?
- Can he follow the conversation?
- Is he slurring his words or speaking abnormally loud?
If your teen has indeed been drinking or taking drugs, again, as in Tip #4, you may get angry and want to yell.
But is shouting at a drunken teenager really going to convince him to make better choices in the future? Will he even comprehend what you’re saying?
It is essential that you have a serious conversation with your teen and determine appropriate punishments. Both, however, will be more effective in the morning when your teen is sober and coherent.
Parties can be a lot of things.
Fun. Scary. Exciting. Stressful. Stress-relieving. Casual. Wild. Memorable. And that’s for both the teenage party-goers and the parents waiting at home.
But so long as you talk early and often with your teen, communicate with other parents, and always place your child’s safety as your top priority, you can make sure the party is memorable for all the right reasons.
* * *
By Tyler Wroblewski
Click here for Part 1 of our first three tips for when your teen goes to a party!
You might be apprehensive to allow your teen to go to a party if you don’t have a strong, trusting relationship or don’t know if she is aware of the risks posed by drugs and alcohol. If either of these statements is true, it can be difficult to figure out where to even start to reverse them.
Luckily, Omni Youth Programs is here to help. Our Active Parenting of Teens, Teens in Action, Families in Action, and Families Matter programs focus on giving families the tools and strategies to communicate effectively, end power struggles, and build trust together, all while illuminating the dangers of alcohol, drugs, and other risky behaviors. For more information check out our Program Details page or visit omniyouth.net to schedule a training.
Safety First: From Matt Crampton at https://www.flickr.com/photos/mattcrampton/3249191779
Walking Shoes: From https://pixabay.com/p-454543/?no_redirect
Walking at Night: From https://pixabay.com/p-925850/?no_redirect
Teen Driving: From State Farm at https://www.flickr.com/photos/statefarm/7838240744
Teen Girl Texting: From https://pixabay.com/en/smartphone-woman-girl-iphone-569076/
Questions: From https://pixabay.com/p-1014060/?no_redirect
Stressed Driver: From Raysonho @ Open Grid Scheduler / Grid Engine (Own work) [CC0], via Wikimedia Commons
Sneaking In: From Marcel Oosterwijk at https://www.flickr.com/photos/wackelijmrooster/3177929150
Inspector Cartoon: From https://pixabay.com/en/detective-searching-man-search-1424831/
Yelling Man: From Paul Cross at https://www.flickr.com/photos/paulcross/5819125499
Sunset Talk: From https://pixabay.com/p-1082129/?no_redirect
- Stim, Attorney By Rich. “Teen Drunk Driving & Underage DUIs: The Sobering Facts.” Drivinglaws.org. http://dui.drivinglaws.org/resources/dui-and-dwi/dui-basics/the-sobering-facts-underage-duis.htm. N.p., n.d.
- “Teen Drinking and Driving.” Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. http://www.cdc.gov/vitalsigns/teendrinkinganddriving/. 2012.