It’s a scary proposition to allow them to grow up, especially when they only think they are all grown up. Kids seem to be hitting the party scene earlier and earlier, and all those parent worries that used to haunt them when kids turned sixteen are now a concern at the ripe old age of twelve. So why is it that we aren’t locking them up in a closet until their adulthood has firmly set in? Because without experiencing the world they will never learn to deal with it. Letting your teenager attend parties is just another step in negotiating the world they have to live in.
Well before you start having your first full blown known ‘em down drag out fight about it, you and your teen should talk about parties. The first thing, as their parent, is that you need to have a basic set of rules that will help you to feel comfortable. You will never really feel comfortable, even if you trust your child because you don’t, and shouldn’t, trust the rest of the world to care of their best interests.
Your rules should outline fairness, while keeping in mind that your kid is going to have to endure these rules. Try to make yourself feel better, keep them safe, and refrain from turning them into social outcasts. If you declare their party curfew 9:00pm, they’re not exactly going to find acceptance from their friends every time they have to leave the party an hour after it starts. However, being completely indiscriminate just so they’ll be popular isn’t in their best interests either. Make it age appropriate, family appropriate, and teenager appropriate, and everyone will be able to negotiate these paths a lot easier.
Keep in mind, honestly, what kind of kid you have. Did they come to you when they found out their best friend was having sex and it bothered them? Do they joke everything off as just “part of growing up?” Are they responsible enough to left in charge of someone else’s two year old or would you feel they had to have a baby sitter while they are baby sitting? They’ll never tell you everything. But some kids will open up enough to let you know what type of daily crisis they are dealing with while others are a complete mystery because they want to be. Setting up rules should mean taking their personality into consideration.
A basic outline of party going rules might reflect something like this:
- Home by midnight
- Must be at least one parent on premises
- Party thrower parent phone number and address must be provided
- Before the age of 17 parents must drive, even if that means you every time because you’re the only parent with that rule.
- After the age of 17, cell number and name of driver
Of course, you’ll be able to implement your own set of rules as you see fit. Most experts recommend keeping rules and issues an entirely separate matter. Rules are codes of conduct of which you will know the outcome. Issues are the judgment calls that you may or may not know the outcome. Issues include the things we all worry about such as drugs, drinking, sex, violence, and other behaviors which keep us pinned to our chair until 12:01 am sick with worry, and flood us with relief when the door opens and our child walks in. It comes with the territory of allowing your teenager to attend parties.
Issues can be very difficult for kids. Their friends may or may not partake of issues for one reason or another, and it can be very difficult for kids to determine for themselves what the right thing to do may be. Perhaps they didn’t drink that night, but their three best friends are so wobbly that they can not make it home. There’s no one to call who won’t tell.
One parent has designated herself the driver of kids too drunk to go home. She has known the parents of her daughter’s friends long enough to have discussed this decision with them. She explained that she felt the kids needed someone to call if things got out of control, and they wouldn’t have to worry about parents and being grounded. All three parents agreed on the stipulation that the kids were entitled two calls per year without the mother telling another parent. The kids only ever called once. They said that without the pressure of parental influence, they didn’t feel like drinking made them cooler or better and in fact, they didn’t like the way they felt they had to lie to their parents. The one time they called, all three kids told their parents.
This may not work for all kids. The mother who designed this idea just wanted to keep this little group of friends safe. Having someone to call can do that. Not telling parents is sketchy. It depends on the kids.
Other parents have told their kids to call home if there’s trouble. Most do, when they feel that there is no one else to turn to. But those who are fearful, who resent their parents, who are continuously battling with their parents, and who feel misunderstood don’t call home. They will go to great lengths to hide things, including drinking, drug use, and sexual assault.
This is just one reason why it is important to keep kids talking during their teen years. We, as adults, need to understand that it’s not the same world we grew up in. At twelve, I was going to the roller rink for my first date that wasn’t even a date. At twelve, kids are finding themselves pressured to sleep with other kids, regardless of gender, and teachers and other adults have blurred the lines between a twelve year old that appears grown up and an actual grown up.
Kids who go to parties and stay within the rules are more likely to only break them when something serious is going on. Kids who feel they can talk with their parents are more likely to be honest, to a point, about what happens at parties. Allowing them to go allows them to develop coping skills that they need out there in the world. Kids who are sheltered usually go through a terrible culture shock in college or early adulthood and wind up in serious trouble within months. Allowing your teenager to attend parties can permit them to learn the skills while developing a more trusting and patient relationship with you.