The holidays are upon us, and many teens want to participate in parties or other social celebrations. It can be really hard to know how best to keep teens safe and healthy, while still allowing them to enjoy time with their peers. With that in mind, here are some tips:
Establish expectations. Sit down with your teen and discuss your expectations for holiday socializing that make you feel comfortable and still allow your teen the freedom to engage with their peers. Be specific. If you are worried about parties where they might drink alcohol or engage in other risky behaviors, then discuss party rules.
Research community events. If you’re worried about drinking at a private party, community events are plentiful and can be safe alternatives. Check out https://enchantedmountains.com/events for a list of events, including the Jingle Bell Jubilee, A Boy Band Christmas at the Casino, free ice skating at the William O. Smith Rec Center, and Holiday Valley’s New Year’s Eve Celebration and Torchlight Parade.
Host a virtual party. If you’re concerned about where your teen or their friends may be, encourage your teen to host a virtual meetup with friends. There should be some planned activities for it to be fun. For example, your teen might suggest an ugly sweater contest, a 2022 trivia game, or have a dance party where they act as a DJ and play popular songs for everyone to dance to.
Host a holiday gathering at your house. It is not that difficult or expensive to throw a fun teen party, and it allows you to monitor the teens so that there are no alcohol, drugs or other risky behaviors. Offer lots of snack foods. Let your teen make a music playlist to play all night and plan party games. Make sure your TV is tuned in to a holiday movie or the “ball drop” shows for New Year’s. Let your teen decorate the party room with Christmas lights or other party deccorations.
Establish rules. If your teen wants to socialize outside your home, make sure you establish and discuss rules. Examples of rules might include:
- Be home by midnight (or a reasonable curfew time depending on your child’s age and maturity).
- Provide the address of their location, and call or text if the location changes.
- Do not use drugs or drink alcohol.
- If they are at a friend’s house, at least one parent must be present at all times.
Once you have established rules for party-going, lay out the consequences for breaking the rules. Again be specific. For example, if they disregard curfew, the curfew will be reduced, or if they leave the party without permission, other privileges will be forfeited. These should be reasonable consequences that you will be able to enforce.
Discuss possible scenarios. If your teen plans to go to an event outside of your home, then discuss possible risky scenarios they might encounter, and ways they can handle those situations to keep them safe without embarrassing themselves. For example:
Suggest an alternative activity. One way to refuse a risky behavior, but still save face with friends, is thinking of something better to do.
Blame the parents. Encourage your teen to tell friends “I can’t – my mom will kill me!”
Make an excuse. Help your teen develop an honest answer they can have waiting in their back pocket for risky situations. For example, if your teen plays sports, they could refuse drugs by saying, “No, I’ll get kicked off the team if I get caught.”
Gather support. Encourage your teen to find a friend who shares their values so they can back each other up. It’s much easier to say no, when you have friends saying no with you.
Socializing is an important part of teen development, and there are ways for them to enjoy their time with friends and still be safe. You just need to provide leadership, guidance and boundaries to your teens. Even if you think you have already talked about making healthy choices, it’s very important to repeat this message. Be specific about your concerns. Directly discuss alcohol, drugs, driving impaired, and sex. Ask them how they plan to keep safe and avoid actions they will regret. One of the top reasons teens say they choose to make responsible choices on a wide range of risky behaviors is because they don’t want to disappoint their parents. That’s why it’s important that you take the time to talk about the potential risks your teen may encounter, and be very clear about the family rules, before your teen attends any gathering. Reinforce your belief in their character and in their ability to act responsibly.
Director, Cattaraugus County Probation