We’ve all heard the horror stories of teen parties getting out of hand. Police get called, houses are destroyed, and virginities are lost. But it doesn’t have to be this way. Actually, throwing a party with your teen can be a fun, rewarding, and bonding experience if you follow a few simple guidelines…
At the end of the day, teen drinking in our society has been normalized throughout the years. Heck, even you, the parent, probably had a few drinks as a teen. The real problem is avoiding addiction. You don’t want to be enrolling your child in an alcohol recovery program in a few months, so make sure you keep a close eye on them!
In preparation for your teen’s party, it’s important to figure out how massive or minuscule the get-together will be.
Make the Guest List in Advance
Possibly the most important information to have before the party is the number of attendees. It can be good to have your teen be in charge of sending out the invitations on their own, but let them know the maximum number of guests. If your house can only hold 20 people, set a firm cutoff at 20 invites.
What If More People Show Up?
Teen parties can get out of hand when too many guests arrive. Try being respectful to uninvited teens by saying, “The house is full and we can’t support guests that we didn’t plan for. If you want to come by another time, let us know beforehand and we can try to work it out.” I’d suggest having a parent or chaperone monitor the door and serve as a gatekeeper that can turn away any unwanted guests without things getting awkward.
Stick to Your Budget
Once you have an idea of how many teens will be attending the party, don’t forget to budget. It’s a good idea to negotiate your budget with your teen, so your teen can pitch in financially if they have greater expectations than you can afford. If your teen has no money, we suggest an outdoor activity like hiking or a day at the beach that is free of charge. When it comes to budgeting meals, BBQ is always a great choice. Hamburgers and hotdogs are cheap and a crowd-pleaser.
Limit Your Party to 4 Hours
After throwing a handful of teen parties, we’ve learned that four hours is the magic number for everyone to have a good time without feeling like the party was too short. To get the party to end in four hours, it’s helpful to use two end times: One end time as a soft reminder that it’s time to head out, and another hard end time when guests begin to overstay their welcome.
Pick A Start Time
It’s important for younger teens to get to sleep earlier, so teens in middle school might want to wrap up their parties by 10pm, with a start time at 6pm. Teens ages 15-16 might want to stay up until midnight, starting at 8pm. And teens older than 16 could to stay up until 2am at the latest, so they might start at 10pm. If you’re hosting during the day, try to pick a time that doesn’t conflict with school or sports schedules.
Preparing A Location
Decide on a booking a location or hosting a house party. You’ll want to find something your teen approves of that is affordable for your budget.
Control the Cost and Crowd of a Venue
It can be expensive. These parties might cost $20 per head, and you don’t have to pay for that. You can offer to pay for your teen alone, but ask the guests to bring their own funds. It’s important to work with the location staff at a restaurant, pool, or club to help you enforce the rules without it coming from a parent. You don’t want a food fight to break out because you don’t have control of the situation.
Party-Proof Your House
If you plan on turning your home into a party zone, consider which areas of the house are off-limits and which are open for partygoers. It’s possible that something can break or be stolen, so we recommend that you stow your valuables in the off-limits zone. As a pro-tip, have a sound system ready with an available auxiliary (aux) cord so your teen and their guests can freely plug in their phones to play music.
Keep Everyone Safe
As the adult of the house, you are responsible for the safety of everyone at the party.
Call for Back-up
Consider asking a trusted, young adult chaperone to keep everything cool. It’s nice to have a 20-something relative or neighbor help keep an eye on the party because it keeps the unwanted vibe of parental interference at bay while keeping a constant vigil. As a suggestion, try enlisting someone of the opposite gender so everyone at the party has a guardian nearby that they feel comfortable talking to in case something goes awry.
Clarify the Ground Rules
To avoid an uncomfortable situation, let your teen know the penalty for drugs or alcohol that you don’t approve of. For example, let them know that those who use drugs or alcohol have to leave the party, or you can always call the police if you meet serious resistance. If you allow drinking to take place, it would be safe to monitor the alcohol content by providing drinks with a low ABV and making sure that no one smuggles outside drinks or drugs into the party.
Get Everyone Home Safe
It’s a good idea to arrange for parents to drive the teens to and from the party, or to have a ride service available. To make sure everyone is safe, try monitoring the teens as they leave the party to make sure they go home in the right vehicles. Plus, you can always check in with other parents to let them know when their teen is on their way home.
Host from a Comfortable Distance
Remember that this is your teen’s party and no one wants to feel the presence of an adult hovering over them. Let them have fun! To supervise from a distance, we suggest to always stay one room away. Close, but not too close. Maybe use a younger and trusted chaperone to get a closer look. If you feel like you’re hovering, explain to the teens that you’re on your way out of the room and you respect their space.
Share the Responsibility
It can be a great learning experience to motivate your teen to do the planning and hosting chores. Try to get them to make sure all the guests are comfortable and have enough to eat and drink. Encourage them to welcome everyone and see them out in a respectable way. Get them on board for set up and clean up. Plus, you don’t have many opportunities to party with your teen before they go off to college, so make it count and drive those lessons home through experience.
Andy Earle is a researcher who studies parent-teen communication and adolescent risk behaviors. He is the co-founder of talkingtoteens.com and host of the Talking to Teens podcast, a free weekly talk show for parents of teenagers.