Teen parties always comes up – it's a parent's nightmare. They always imagine the worst things happening and the reality is sometimes that's what happens.
I actually think we get ready for teenage parties when our kids are much younger. We talk to them about how you behave when you're at somebody else's house; we talk to them about the things that make us proud as a family; we talk to them about when people ask us to do things we're not comfortable with how we say no to this.
As they start to get of age when they're going to the parties in middle school and things like this, we have to show that we're people of action. So you want to know, "Where's the party? Who's in charge?” Yes, I'm going to be that parent that's going to call that parent and through that uncomfortable moment – “I'm Mrs. such-and-such, I'm the parent of Jamie and Jamie's coming to the party. And I just want to touch base with you about what the party is going to be like."
Most parents on the receiving end are happy to hear this. They're happy to say, "Oh, yeah, we're going to be here, we're going to serve food." And as they get a little older, "Are you going to serve alcohol?" "No, there's not going to be any alcohol, in fact we told the kids if we smell any alcohol on someone's breath we're going to send them home and we're not going to allow them in. And if we experience this with too many kids, we're going to cancel the party." "Okay, great."
Other times you call the family and say, "You know, I know that my son is coming over to a party at your house." And they go, "What? There's a party at our house? I didn't know that. We're going out of town this weekend." In which case they might shut the party down.
There's also times when you're going to find out there's a party going on and the parents aren't there or they are and they're not paying attention. And this is sometimes where we have to say to our kids – and it depends on their age and their level of responsibility – is, "No, you can't go to the party."
And they will tell you that the 20 kids that are going under the caveat of, "Everybody's going.” Trust me there are a lot of other parents like you that are saying no.
Then, as they get older, this is the tricky part for parents, especially junior and senior year, you might let them go to some of those parties if they're upfront with you and they say, "Mom, I know you're going to be uncomfortable, but they're going to serve alcohol there." "Okay, that does make me uncomfortable. What are you going to do about it?" "I'm not going to drink." "You promise?" "I promise I'm not going to drink." "So, if you go to this party and you come home and I sniff your breath I'm not going to smell alcohol?" "Right." "Okay, we'll give it a chance. We'll take a risk with you. Let's see what happens." And now our kids have a chance to prove themselves.
They get to go to these parties, they get to experience them, they get to go home and stay within the realm of the family. If they come home and they smell like alcohol, then it's a different conversation. You have to figure out what you're going to do for the next party.
But it's a lot of negotiation back and forth, and what kids do a really good job of in adolescents is isolate us from other parents. And that's where we have to get over our self consciousness to call these families and to have the questions and have the conversations. Because sometimes you're going to hear the phone and on the other end is sounds someone just like you, shares the same values, it's great. Other times red flags are going to go up and then you have to sit down with your teenager and say, "Here's what I experience. Let's figure out a strategy if you want to go, otherwise you might not be able to go to this party.”