How To Party Proof Your Teenagers

One of the great differences that emerge between parents and teenagers during adolescence is their attitudes about parties. Teenagers can’t wait to start attending more “grown up” style parties, while parents would happily delay such events until their child reaches the age of 25!

Both points of view are entirely understandable.

Adolescence is all about  growing up and achieving independence apart from the defining influence of parents. Being able to kick your heels up and enjoy celebrating and spending time with peers away from parents is a natural and attractive desire.

For parents of teenagers the fears associated with teenage parties are just as real.  The prevalence of binge drinking, and recreational drug use, combined with real and present dangers of date rape, drink spiking, alcohol fueled violence, and the teenage car accidents, provide genuine and valid reasons for parents to be concerned.

This post seeks to provide some basic points for parents to discuss with their teenage children to help mitigate against some of the dangers.  These conversations happen best when you use current events or stories to springboard off,  or asking questions of your teen about their attitudes and that of their friends to related issues.

Know Where The Party Is

The most important safety tip for parties is to KNOW WHERE IT IS. This applies to both teenagers and their parents.

Make sure your teenager knows where the party is going to be.  It is advisable to find out if the party will have adult supervision or security.  For younger teenagers it is recommended parents ring whoever is hosting the party to find out exactly what level of supervision there will be. Encourage older teens to find out for themselves if the party is in a secure location and who will be at the party.

Get your teenager to put the address of the party into their phone.  Also have them make sure  a friend has the address of the party in their phone. This way if for whatever reason they get disorientated or confused and need help they can let someone know where they are.

Set Limits Before The Party

Discuss with your teenager before they start going to parties that they need to make choices about how they will act before they get into situations where they will be required to decide.  Explain that making wise choices when intoxicated, high, or aroused is not easy to do and very risky. A better strategy is to decide what they do and do not want to do ahead of time and develop simple strategies or rules that will help them avoid difficult situations.

Help your teen develop, and even get them to practice, ways of avoiding or declining being placed in awkward situations.  Assist them in developing clear polite ways to decline offers of alcohol, drugs, or sexual advances. Encourage teens to develop phrases such as:

  • No thanks, that’s not my thing.
  • Not tonight thanks, I’m having a quiet night.
  • I don’t want to tonight.

Along these lines teenagers also need to know that when it comes to physical boundaries “no'” always means “no”.  Make sure your teenager is empowered to say no to unwanted advances and on the flip-side understands that if their partner says “no” they stop straight away.

Watch What You Drink

One of the biggest dangers for teenagers at parties is drink spiking (when something i.e. alcohol or a drug is added to person’s drink without their knowledge). Be certain to warn teenagers of the dangers of drink spiking including – alcohol, drugs, rohypnol (date rape drug), etc.

Teach your teenagers basic rules of drinking at a party:

  • Don’t drink a beverage you didn’t open yourself
  • If you put a drink down you don’t pick it up again
  • Never drink something you didn’t watch being made
  • If it tastes or smells strange throw it away

Likewise make sure teenagers know “subtle” ways to avoid drinking more than they want to. Instruct teenagers on basic strategies such as:

  • Always keeping a soft drink in their hand
  • Intentionally “misplacing” or “losing” a drink
  • Subtly or discretely spilling drinks or tipping them into the bushes

Be Car Smart

There a two basic commandments that all parents must keep on stressing to teenagers:

  1. Never get in a car with someone who has been drinking or is affected by drugs.
  2. Never get behind the wheel of a vehicle if you have been drinking or using drugs.

These commandments become more important as teens get older. Once your teenager is able to start driving themselves to parties it is vital they hear this message. Similarly teaching older teenagers about designated drivers not drinking and looking out for friends is worthwhile.
These messages are supported by assuring your teenager that there is an amnesty arrangement.  Let them know they can ring you for a lift, or to tell you they are sleeping over without fear of punishment if they or their lift has been drinking or using drugs.

Be Aware of What is Going On

One of the hardest things to teach teenagers is to be “street smarts”. Encourage teenagers to pay attention to what is happening around them and how to spot and avoid trouble. Learning to be aware of their surroundings, being able to identify risky situations, and to be conscious of how they are feeling are valuable skills to develop early.

Some tips to give your teenager:

  • Always arrange with a friend to watch out for one another
  • Never go off by yourself or with someone you have just met
  • Never leave a party without the friend you came with
  • Have a plan for leaving early if people crash the party or things get out of hand
  • Know what the signs are of being intoxicated and setting limits on consumption
  • Tell your friend or send a message if you are feeling dizzy, disorientated, uncoordinated, or suffering nausea

Get Help Straight Away

When things go wrong teenagers are often more concerned about avoiding punishment than they are about getting help for themselves or others.  Being upfront and frank with teenagers about the dangers of alcohol poisoning, drug overdose, or internal injuries caused by falls will help teenagers gain some perspective.

Stressing that getting help early can make a big difference. This is particularly true if they themselves are feeling unwell.  Encourage teens to tell their friend or make a phone call straight away, as some drugs can have debilitating effects in minutes.

Many teens think that if an ambulance is called for drug or alcohol related incidents they will notify the police. This is not true. Ambulance officers or paramedics only contact police if they are at risk from violence, or if there is a death.

Be a Friend

Teach teenagers not to leave a friend alone at a party. This is especially important if their friend is unwell. A good friend gets help and stays with their friend in trouble.

Don’t Be afraid To Call Home

As mentioned earlier agreeing to an amnesty can be a powerful safety net for your teenagers as they start attending parties. While it is good to discuss with your teenagers your expectations and concerns about their behaviour, it is very valuable to make clear to your teen that if something goes wrong or they get into a situation where they need help they can contact you without fear of a lecture or punishment.

Stress to your teenager that their safety and well being is more important to you than their compliance to rules.

An amnesty does not mean that the events will not change your decisions or permission granting in the future, it just means that fear of punishment is removed as an obstacle to choosing to get help on a specific occasion.  In most cases if things get out of hand enough that a teen needs to call you they will have learnt a valuable lesson without any punitive discipline required to reinforce learnings.

Of course none of this is of any use unless you actually have the conversation with your teenager. Have you have the conversations yet?

Image by David Domingo

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